Rotation Direction Insights (Sheila Thelen)

Figure skating specialist coach and inventor Sheila Thelen continues her demonstration of off-ice jump training using an electric spinner and stationary off-ice harness system. This is a continuation of the previous videos here and here and here. In this video, Sheila challenges the high level demonstrator to rotate in the opposite direction. To help her, Sheila even reduces the electric spinner speed by half. Not surprisingly, this skater with amazing air position skills when rotating counter-clockwise (CCW, to the left) struggles significantly with rotating clockwise (CW, to the right). Obviously an important obstacle here is practice time as this skater focuses on air position training in her natural direction. Notice how long it takes this skater to return to a non-dizzy state after rotating in the “wrong” direction.

This brings up some insights and observations that Sheila has made over the years that may be helpful to coaches trying to help beginner skaters decide on a spin and jump rotation direction. Sheila claims 99% of world-class figure skaters rotate CCW, and although this may be an exaggeration, the number of elite CW rotaters is less than the percentage of left-handed individuals in the general population. Some of this is due to how skating is trained in various locations, and Sheila openly discusses the common Russian approach of forcing all skaters to rotate CCW.

And although controversial, Sheila claims, “CCW is how the brain rotates.” Further, she notes that many skaters who rotate CW are dyslexic, and there is some evidence that left-handed people are more prone to dyslexia.  Sheila notes that a skater’s rotation direction is generally set by the time they are learning loop and flip jumps, so it’s important to figure this out early in the development process. If she had her way, Sheila would teach almost all skaters (including most left-handed skaters) to rotate CCW, with only rare instances where CW is necessary. The bottom line is: if you’re not sure which way to rotate, chose CCW. CW should only be used by those with a strong natural tendency to turn in that direction.


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