What is Proper Alignment? (Nick Perna)

International coach Nick Perna discusses and demonstrates proper skating alignment, including a way for coaches and skaters to test for it. Historically, proper alignment was taught in detail on test figures or school figures, meaning that each new generation of coaches had a thorough understanding of proper alignment. After figures were eliminated from competition, the details of alignment and the rigors of demanding proper alignment from skaters were relaxed such that many coaches and skaters today don’t really understand what proper alignment is.

As Nick explains, proper alignment happens when the skater is “over” the skating hip. This means the skating hip is “tucked in” or “tucked under” while the free hip is lifted. Many skaters struggle by not recognizing errors in alignment associated with popping the skating hip out or dropping the free hip. So Nick uses a teaching aid to explain and demonstrate proper alignment.

Nick uses a section of his pole harness, but he notes that anything straight and light will work, such as a broom stick or hockey stick. He places one end of the pole on the outside of the skate and tucks the other end of the pole into the “notch” or “groove” in the front of the shoulder created by the front deltoid muscle. Proper alignment then has the skater’s skating hip pressed in and away from the pole. The skating hip should not touch the pole (there should be space).

Nick then demonstrates various gliding positions with proper alignment. He starts by gliding backward in an h-position and then a d-position. He tells coaches to hold the pole for the skaters rather than having the skaters try to hold it themselves. Many skaters will be surprised just how much they have to pull their skating hip under to reach proper alignment. He says, “I tell my students you actually have to feel like you can’t lift the free side (free hip) any higher.”

Next, Nick shows how to use the pole to demonstrate proper alignment for a jump landing position. This is very eye-opening for many skaters and coaches as alignment errors are incredibly common on landing positions. Nick notes that this method of working on alignment also works for turns and steps and crossovers.

Finally, Nick demonstrates proper alignment on an inside edge, using the same placement of the pole. The body position is essentially the same, with the skating hip tucked in and the free hip raised. Proper alignment is critical for nearly everything in skating, including footwork and skating skills as well as jump and spin entries and exits.


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