Improving Figure Skating: Learn To Skate – Part 5 (Chris Conte)

Chris Conte continues with Part 5 of his discussion of suggested improvements to basic skills instruction.  You can see the previous parts of this series here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4).  In this video, Chris discusses hockey lunges, including why they are valuable to teach at the lowest skating levels and exactly how to teach them.

Notice that Chris is focusing on helping skaters learn to generate edge pressure.  This concept is extremely difficult to get low level skaters to understand, and it’s virtually impossible to get them to create any edge pressure when skating on one foot.  The solution as Chris points out is to let them skate on two feet and learn to create edge pressure by focusing on body and hip position.

In this video, Chris also points out two other issues he sees in the traditional structured training of figure skaters.  The first is asking skaters to reach into the circle with their inside foot on back crossovers.  As Chris notes, this forces the skater to initially make contact with their inside edge rather than their outside edge.  At the lowest levels, this often creates reliance on two foot skating without any edge pressure.

[Editors note: At a higher skating level, reaching into the circle and setting the blade on the ice on an inside edge creates the illusion of a longer and smoother undercut on back crossovers.  Russian pair teams have been using this concept for decades.  However, it is largely an illusion and is not intended to generate significant power.  At the lower levels, skaters are simply not capable of setting the foot on the inside edge and switching to a full power stroke once the skate switches to the outside edge during the undercut.  Many coaches use the idea of reaching with the inside foot to encourage the skater to push more with the outside foot, but this doesn’t generally work to create more edge pressure without other drills to help the skater develop the right skills.]

Note that the flat crossovers that Chris dislikes only appear in the Pre-Preliminary Forward Perimeter Stroking moves in the field test.  But many coaches still teach warm-up patterns that have their skaters skating shallow crossovers around the end of the rink.  Obviously skaters have no way to generate edge pressure with this kind of pattern.  Hence, Chris’s concern.  (It would be better to have the skater skate a couple of deep crossovers on each corner of the rink with straight line stroking on the end or a pushback as Chris suggests for proper crossover development at the lower speeds and skill levels.)

The second issue Chris discusses with traditional structured teaching is the lack of skids and stops.  Most top coaches agree this is a major oversight.  And choreographers like Chris are particularly affected by the lack of this skill with most skaters.  Chris demonstrates a great drill for learning to push properly with the outside foot on crossovers.

You can tell in this video Chris is passionate about these ideas.  Again as in earlier videos in this series, Chris is not blaming anyone or criticizing the testing structure most skaters must pass through.  He’s simply saying that these are critical missing pieces that coaches must address outside the formal testing structure at this time.  This series of videos is to help coaches and low level skaters get the most out of their time on the ice and make the fastest progress possible.


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