Olympic Coaching Tips In Figure Skating: Development Process Reminders (Audrey Weisiger)

Audrey Weisiger discusses basic but important concepts for the development of all skaters.  Audrey’s main point in this video is that skaters need to develop proficiency with important basic skills before working on more advanced “tricks.”  Although this seems like common sense, there is tremendous pressure on coaches and skaters to jump ahead and work on skills they really aren’t yet ready for.  Audrey makes the point that the big tricks will be much easier to learn (learn faster) if the basic skills are developed first.

Audrey addresses the big picture idea of how our society as a whole prizes fast and early development.  So it’s natural that many coaches and particularly skating parents want skaters working on difficult elements that they are not yet ready for.  The fact that a skaters is “working on” an axel gives the illusion of fast/early development, even if it’s not true.  In other words, that skater may end up “working on” the axel for a very long time, whereas their time may have been better spent mastering basic skills so they could spend much less time learning the axel.

Audrey notes that figure skating is a “long term skill acquisition sport” that takes time and structured processes to learn well.  And learning the basics well leads to faster advanced skill development, ultimately leading to faster overall development.  Audrey tells a story about how Michael Weiss got all his triples in one summer because he had a solid foundation to build on.  Not only that, but his skill development was lasting as he continues to do triples well into hid mid-thirties.

Near the end of the video, Audrey offers important practical advice for coaches who may be feeling pressure from skating parents to attempt elements a skater may be unprepared for.  Audrey suggests having written markers to evaluate skaters.  (Once a coach develops a reputation for producing champion skaters, these kinds of written materials become unnecessary because the skating parents fully trust the coach to know what’s best.  It’s much more challenging for young or unproven coaches.)

As Audrey notes, parents want a coach’s advice.  But telling them the skater just isn’t ready yet isn’t an answer they can easily accept and understand.  So by providing a written blueprint or plan, it’s possible to make the parent an ally in the development process.  In the video, Audrey mentioned that she would give me a few examples of this from earlier in her career so I could share them with you but she was unable to find any.  Below the video, I’ve created a few example ideas to work from for your reference.

It is much easier today to know when a skater is ready to move on to a more difficult double or triple jump thanks in large part to the technology that is available to everyone.  All coaches (and skaters and skating parents for that matter) can measure air times off video.

At the end of the video, Audrey makes one final and important point.  She likes to take video of her skaters and then ask them if they think they look like what a good skater looks like.  The look and lines of good skating are relatively easy to spot once one knows what to look for.  Development of the skater’s look can also dramatically improve their ability to do elements such as jumps.

Good ideas and practical advice for a difficult issue facing many coaches (and skaters and parents).


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