Improving Figure Skating: Learn To Skate – Part 6 (Chris Conte)

Chris Conte continues with Part 6 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, Part 4, and Part 5).  In this video, Chris teaches back hockey lunges, encourages alternate arm positions, and shows how to use lunges to create proper “crossunders” (crossovers) and cross strokes.

At the beginning of the video, Chris offers a summary of his pet peeves as they relate to teaching basic skating.  When you see how accurately Chris imitates a typical low level skater, it provides support for his ideas on curriculum change.

Notice Chris’s focus on creating edge pressure with a relaxed body and relaxed arms.  This is one of the primary characteristics of good skating and Chris believes it’s possible to start building this skill right from the beginning.  With a relaxed body that is properly aligned, it’s possible to have virtually any arm placement and still generate edge pressure and power.

When teaching back hockey lunges, Chris allows skaters to place their hands on their knee.  He wants the shoulders square (or neutral).  He briefly mentions that it’s hard to get the foot flexed behind.  This comment in passing is an understatement as the ability to keep the blade on the ice behind the skater is very difficult, but worth mastering.

Finally Chris shows how to use hockey lunges to create forward crossovers (he calls it crossunders) and cross strokes.  He notes, “Without the ability to lean the lower body and have the pressure and power [in hockey lunges], I’ll never have power in the stroking.  It doesn’t matter how much knee bending I do. I can push straight down into the floor and I’m not going to produce power away from the edge.”  This is an important concept that every skater and coach should understand thoroughly.  And Chris is right.  He says, “That’s just physics.”

[Editor’s note:  Note that Chris is not suggesting skaters should not bend their knees.  Most skating coaches put a very high emphasis on bending the knees as much as possible.  And rightly so.  Without knee bend, even having lower body lean will not create power.  And it is possible to create some power in basic stroking without any lower body lean by bending the knees strongly because it is possible to create a “push angle” when one knee is bent deeply and the other is straight or nearly straight.  This is the basis for traditional teaching methods.  However, as Chris notes, learning proper lower body lean and knee bend at the same time greatly speeds the learning process for generating power, especially on one foot.]

As stated in the summaries for the earlier videos in this series, Chris is not blaming anyone regarding 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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