Beginner Backspin Tips (Sheila Thelen)

Figure skating specialist coach Sheila Thelen teaches a class of beginner skaters to improve their upright backspins. This video is part 2 of a Champion Cords class Sheila gave at a seminar, but the focus here is strictly the backspin itself. Sheila begins by explaining and showing the skaters where to balance on the blade in a backspin. She points to it, and notes the spin spot is about a centimeter back from the bottom toe pick.

She then has the class do what she calls “The Backspin Game” which is a way to get skaters to repeatedly practice the backspin entry and spin itself without long pauses or rests. The entry used is typically a back pivot, and the goal is to count total rotations by simply adding the rotations of each attempt to the previous sum. In this case, Sheila has the class use a goal of 20 total rotations which is obviously challenging for some of these skaters and not very challenging for others. Sheila says, “The trick is to get it going right away, right back into that backspin” once the spin stops or the skater falls or steps out of it.

While the class is working on the exercise, Sheila skates around and offers more tips. One tip is to keep the ankles tight and feet close together. She also reminds many to stay on their toes (rather than allowing the balance point on the blade drift back) and to “get right back into it.” Another tip is to spin on a locked skating leg (“don’t be squatty”). She also tells one skater to “fight harder for your balance.” Too many skaters step out as soon as the spin becomes uncomfortable to them, and Sheila instead encourages them to fight to hold on. Many skaters even benefit from trying to hold the position until the rotation completely stops. As Sheila notes, “The whole point is we just got to keep working on it.”

Finally, Sheila takes a moment to explain the need to master the backspin. It’s such an important part of the sport, and it helps motivate beginner skaters to work on the backspin if they understand how important it is, especially to jumping. She says, “It doesn’t count if the foot’s not crossed.”


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