Archive for October, 2007


Double Axel’s Are Truly Rare

October 30, 2007

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the double axel.  This is probably pretty obvious if you’ve read many of my recent posts.  It is also obvious to the coaches that have signed up for updates from Skating Coach Quiz.

A large number of those coaches recently took a survey about the double axel.  The purpose of the survey was to determine how rare it is for a coach to teach a clean, consistent double axel.  I made the claim that “Most figure skating coaches never coach a skater to a consistent clean double axel.”

The survey results did not prove my claim, but they did provide food for thought.  60% of the responding coaches said they’ve never successfully taught a double axel to a female skater.  Of course, many of those will successfully teach a double axel at some time in the future.  But 60% is still a very sobering number!

71% of responding coaches worked with at least one female skater on double axel.  But only 40% have been successful teaching it.  These results confirm how rare it is to teach a double axel!  Some of the other survey results also suggest that most of the coaches that have successfully taught a double axel have been coaching for more than 20 years.

The other results of the survey were also very interesting.  The results can be viewed by signing up for updates from Skating Coach Quiz.  Those results include data on coaches’ experience levels and competitive success at the National level.


I’ve commented in this space before why so few ladies skaters get a double axel.  It largely comes down to physical ability.  Video analysis coaches with computer programs such as Dartfish have measured double axels with as little as 0.45 seconds of flight time.


Using projectile motion calculations, we can estimate the vertical jump from this flight time to be about 9.8 inches (see Flight Time versus Jump Height Table).  Actually the number is slightly greater due to ankle extension but 10 inches is a reasonable estimate of minimum height.  This assumes exceptional rotational speeds and jump control.


According to Audrey Weisiger and Chris Conte of Grassroots to Champions, the good minimum number for double axel flight time is 0.5 seconds which corresponds to a little over 12 inches of height.


Ultimately, that’s the challenge.  Most female skaters simply can’t jump that high off one leg.  Add to that the need for a proper axis and rotational control, and it’s clear why it’s so difficult.


I’m putting together a study of vertical jump height versus age for skaters.  The study will measure and correlate vertical jump height using multiple measurement methods, off one leg as well as both.  Ultimately, I’d like to correlate those measurements with on ice jump height as well.


I don’t really know what to expect.  What percentage of female skaters that skate for at least 3 years or more have the physical ability to do a double axel?  10%?  5%?  Even less?  It should be very interesting.





Regionals Is Upon Us…

October 9, 2007

Good luck to all coaches and skaters around the country as they make final preparations for Regionals.  (I know, some events have already happened.)

I coach in the Upper Great Lakes Region and the festivities get underway this week.  It’s obvious, as most of the Regional-bound skaters at our rink are more stressed and more emotional than usual.  Which brings up an important point.

It seems in the days leading up to a major event, the psychological aspects of coaching become the most important.  Those coaches that can help their skaters be confident and remain loose give their skaters a big advantage.  But mental training isn’t something you do a few days before a major event.  And it isn’t just a few words of encouragement right before your skater takes the ice.

Skaters that consistently compete well fall into two categories.  In the first are those lucky skaters that just love to compete.  They thrive on the attention.  They naturally react with better posture and a more awareness.  They jump higher and skate faster.  These skaters are a joy to put on at competitions because you’re likely to get a better performance than their very best practice run through.

In the second category are those skaters that simply feel prepared, even though they’re not natural performers.  Feeling prepared is obviously different for every skater.  And that’s a major challenge for us coaches.  The stress our skaters feel as a major competition approaches suggests that they are not mentally prepared.  Even though they may have flawless technique and the stamina to easily get through their programs, they may not really believe they can do it or they worry about potential distractions and failures.

Mindset plays an important role.  If a skater prepares mentally for all the things that can go wrong and has the mental toughness or discipline to refocus immediately when something does go wrong, they are truly prepared.  Even more prepared are those skaters that can control their mind and body so that nothing does go wrong.

And of course, there are those skaters that really aren’t prepared physically.  They may be trying elements that are too difficult or they know they’ll be outclassed by their competition.  But even these skaters can pull off amazing performances with the right mindset.  At the very least, they are realistic about their situation and understand that stressing out has no value.

So, it always surprises me how little help we give our skaters in the areas of mental training.  But I guess it makes sense when you consider that most coaches have no formal training in this area.

Still, it can be liberating for a skater to take full responsibility for how they skate, as long as they have accepted the consequences.  But most of the time, skaters and coaches are unwilling to really address the consequences.  They are        lurking there, but generally remain unnamed.  The consequences aren’t just whether they make final round or advance to the next event.  The real consequences for our young skaters are usually related to how they think others will think of them, from their parents and friends and families, to their coaches and fellow skaters.  Their personal self-worth is on the line.

There are some great resources out there regarding this important side of skating.  Whether you’re trying to create a champion or just a happy, well-adjusted kid, and energy you spend on this will be worth the effort.