USFS Junior Rocker Patterns (Karen Olson)

Moves in the field and skating skills expert Karen Olson begins a discussion of rockers, and especially how she teaches rockers leading up to and including the USFS Junior Rocker moves in the field tests (Forward and Backward Outside Rockers, Forward and Backward Inside Rockers). As Karen notes, the connecting steps in the USFS Junior Rocker patterns are the same as the steps in the Novice Counters patterns, so skaters should already be comfortable with them.

Karen encourages coaches to teach the basics of rockers well before the Junior test. This preparation includes drills up to and including learning to do forward outside rockers, backward outside rockers, forward inside rockers, and backward inside rockers in isolation. Very early on, Karen teaches her skaters two foot slaloms and rocker and counter turns on two feet, both forward and backward. Lower level skaters can do these two-foot drills to develop important skills in terms of shoulder twist and release as well as proper knee action. Later in the video she also shows a simple two foot exercise to get used to turning the feet in and out without moving the rest of the body. After that, she teaches the basic rocker and uses a repeating sequence of forward rocker-backward power pull-backward power pull-forward rocker.

Free leg position is very important for proper rocker execution and Karen takes the time to explain and demonstrate the free leg and free hip positions she teaches. On a forward outside rocker the free leg and hip are turned in strongly on the entrance and then turned out to an open position on the exit. Karen comments on one very common misunderstanding related to timing. The full movements and timing of the rocker take some time. Karen explains it as, “You don’t have to get there immediately. There is this sort of “make space and put yourself back together” kind of feeling.”

The most common error for a rocker is the exit edge, where skaters actually do a three turn and then a change of edge. The key to fixing this is a focus on alignment and keeping the hips pulled underneath, with the hips and free foot correctly open or closed after the turn itself. Karen helps her skaters get the correct feeling by assisting them and putting them in the correct position and on the correct edge. She also likes using a hula hoop to develop this understanding. She also suggests doing rockers followed by a three turn as a way to help skaters develop the correct exit edge.

The forward outside edge coming out of the back outside rocker is probably the most challenging for most skaters. Common causes are being up on a straight leg after the turn (rather the settling back down to a bent knee) or not getting enough shoulder rotation on the entrance. A very helpful tip is to ask skaters to turn the skating foot “further” on the turn itself to make it easier to get to the forward outside edge. And although rockers tend to cross the axis at a diagonal for the moves pattern itself, Karen recommends learning the pattern by making the rockers cross the diagonal at a right angle.

Summary of free hip/free foot position on entry/exit:
forward outside rocker: closed/open
backward outside rocker: open/closed
forward inside rocker: open/closed
backward inside rocker: closed/open

To end the video, Karen talks about alignment. Letting the hips drift behind is a killer for rockers so proper alignment is important. Karen makes a point of telling coaches to help skaters at much lower levels if they suffer from anterior pelvic tilt. If you correct that problem early on, there is no reason you should have alignment problems with rockers. She says, “Always address alignment first. Alignment, alignment, alignment.”


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