Air Balance vs. Ground Balance (Sheila Thelen)

Figure skating specialist coach Sheila Thelen offers insights about training with a stationary off-ice harness. Sheila has the skater demonstrate rotation in d-position, starfish position, and some “fast axels.” Notice the level of mastery this skater demonstrates regarding axis and rotation, after about 3 years of training. Even while swinging, the skater maintains axis and rotation and is easily able to switch between positions.

Sheila makes the important point that “finding that axis” is probably the most important aspect of using the off-ice harness. In other words, it’s how a skater gets to the rotational position rather than simply getting good at rotating in that position for long periods of time. She also discusses the idea of “air balance vs. ground balance” which is a way of acknowledging that a backspin on the ice feels different to most skaters than their jump air position as they’re flying through the air. The off-ice harness is an excellent tool for learning and feeling air balance.

Another valuable lesson in this video is how much slower the rotation is when not in the proper d-position. During the “fast axel” repetitions the speed changes are very obvious. This helps skaters recognize how much rotational speed they can lose by not being the optimal rotational position.


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