IJS Footwork Tips – Part 1 (Karen Olson)

Coach Karen Olson begins a series of videos talking about how to approach IJS footwork sequences (choreographed sequences or step sequences) in order to prepare skaters for higher levels and to maximize points in competition.

NOTE: The rules of the International Judging System (IJS) are constantly changing. This video was recorded in 2018 so the specific IJS rules mentioned in this video may be different at the time you are viewing it. But the coaching strategies and development concepts discussed by Karen remain the same. That is the emphasis of this video series.

Karen begins by emphasizing the need to have the right number of clean turns, with correct entrance and exit edges. Intended turns and steps are irrelevant as the technical panel will call what they actually see. So at the Juvenile and Intermediate levels, Karen recommends focusing on the turns more than features. It can be a good strategy to space out or separate the turns to emphasize the correct entrance and exit edges, and use the turns the skater can do well.

After using a choreographer to develop a program or footwork sequence, Karen goes back and does a detailed breakdown of the number of turns and steps, directions, and which foot. It’s important to eliminate duplicate turns, and to help skaters understand the “pattern” of each turn, especially while also trying to perform choreography with the arms and upper body. Karen has her skaters draw out their footwork on a piece of paper, to make sure they understand it. After that, the next step is working on small sections of the sequence, fitting turns and steps together so they follow the patterns and start having flow.

For skaters new to IJS Karen recommends, “Start with the turns. Understand that that’s the most important part. The rotating in one direction and rotating in the other direction, and third of the pattern, third of the pattern is a feature for later. But if you don’t get the turns first, you can’t go up in the levels. So it doesn’t matter.”

She also says, “Full body is the last thing to try to get. It’s hard to get called as a feature. It’s hard to do. And when you’re doing all that it makes it harder to do the turns.” The rotating both directions is an easier feature to get called, but is mostly appropriate for longer programs as Juvenile and Intermediate levels may simply not have enough time to easily get that feature.

Karen again emphasizes the focus on turns, with the goal of getting a positive GOE. She also notes that a simple but well-done sequence will enhance a skater’s component score (choreography, skating skills, interpretation), so just chasing IJS levels is usually a bad idea.


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