Figure Skating Backward Cross Strokes (Karen Olson)

Karen Olson explains and demonstrates how she teaches backward cross strokes.  This video is a continuation of her video on forward cross strokes.  Backward cross strokes are an important skating skill but they’re often performed incorrectly, especially at the lower skating levels.  These are part of the US Figure Skating Juvenile Moves in the Field Test.  And Karen notes right at the beginning, “These are hard to teach.  My advice is:  Start very slowly.”

To start, Karen shows a very simple “pigeon walk” or “duck walk” moving backwards.  It’s simply a series of “step behinds” with very little foot or body movement.  Notice how close she want the step to the other skate!  Karen wants the shoulders to remain still while the hips twist against the shoulders.  Karen mentions the common errors of stepping too far behind and placing the toe pick down first rather than the rocker of the blade.  These errors cause an undesirable weight shift that makes power generation very difficult.  Karen tells her skaters, “They’re backward cross STROKES.  They must stroke as they cross, not step and cross.”

Part of the challenge of getting skaters to initially do backward cross strokes is the fear of standing up straight or even leaning back slightly while going backwards.  Add to that the need to bend the ankles and step from one bent leg to another bent leg and you have the recipe for a somewhat scary maneuver.  Karen continues with more detail about the actual cross stroke including the extension and where to place the free foot prior to the push or stroke.  She discusses the turn-out of the free leg and proper hip position.  She shows a helpful drill that she also covered for forward cross strokes that involves three cross strokes and then a circle (repeated).

Some coaches actually teach backward cross strokes with a rocking motion or a swinging free leg.  This is not technically correct and will dramatically reduce the skater’s power generation over time.  Karen notes that spending the time on this important skill at this low level is important for the skater’s future development.


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