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Recreational Figure Skating FAQ - Adult Skaters

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Archive-name: sports/skating/ice/rec-skate/adults
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Last-modified: Feb 27 2007
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                        Recreational Figure Skating FAQ

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3. Adult Skaters

  3.1 Adult beginner skaters

   The news group sees quite a few postings
   from adults who have just discovered skating as a recreational activity.
   Don't let age, weight or perceived lack of athletic ability deter you from
   the fun and accomplishment to be gained. There are several common factors
   that affect adult beginners in particular, including fear of falling, work
   demands, and the dreaded *skater mother from hell*.

    3.1.1 The skater mother from Hell and other horrors

   Wherever you skate, there will be a mother who doesn't skate herself but has
   a young girl enrolled at the rink. She may consider you to be taking up
   space on the ice. Any space is too much. Or you may outweigh little Suzy by
   a factor of three, and she fears that if there is a collision Suzy may get
   squashed and have her Olympic ambitions prematurely terminated. Despite the
   fact that the session is open to all ages and you've paid full admission,
   she complains and starts rumors.

   To  combat this problem, join the skating club and make a point to get
   acquainted  with  the  coaches, adult skaters and parents at the rink.
   Volunteer for duties at competitions. Having a group of people who know who
   you are, and that you're serious about skating will prevent your being
   railroaded by "kids first" rules. Often the answer is to skate with the
   intermediate juniors (12 year olds), even if they are much better skaters.

   You may also want to become something of an "adult skating activist". But
   please remember that all of the people who run the club are volunteers,
   giving of themselves and their time just like you. They do not want to be
   confronted with an "in your face" adult skater, and you would not want to be

    3.1.2 Talent vs. determination

   Everyone observes that some skaters seem to have a flair for the sport and
   progress faster. How far does determination and practice take you? The
   answer is "a long way"! Physical talent may be required to be a high level
   competitor, but anyone with a strong desire to improve can learn at least
   some of the jumps and master all of the basic skills. A lot depends on how
   regularly you can find time for lessons/practice and your willingness to try
   and persevere in pursuit of your goals.

  3.2 Amount of practice needed to make progress

   The final problem is not having the time to skate. In the beginning phases,
   it is critical that you skate often enough so that you aren't "starting
   over" every session. For most people, this means a minimum of twice a week,
   though three times with lessons wouldn't be bad. Once a basic skill is
   mastered, then it can be retained even if you only skate occasionally. This
   doesn't  mean  you  have  to  skate  yourself  to  death,  a 30-minute
   warm-up/lesson/practice session every other day would be worth far more than
   a 3-hour session weekly.

   Progress always comes in fits and starts. You'll generally know when you've
   picked up a new trick or mastered a skill, but it's difficult to assess your
   overall progress. If you're still skating, enjoying yourself and being
   challenged, count that as progress.

  3.3 Adult-Onset Skating Syndrome (AOSS)

   So you're 30-something or 40-something and have never skated, or skated a
   bit as a kid. But the sight of the skaters on TV gets something going in the
   pit of your stomach so you get some skates and take a few lessons. Next
   thing you know you're hooked! Some of the symptoms of this disease are:

   1) You start dreaming about sit-spins and double jumps.

   2) You find yourself practicing spread-eagles while waiting for the bus.

   3) The major factor in choosing an apartment/vacation destination is a
   nearby rink. Corollary: You know the day/hour of every skating session
   within 50 miles.

   4)  You  start  planning your work and family life around your skating
   sessions. Corollary: Your dog fetches your skates on command.

   5) You put off buying clothes to pay for more coaching. Corollary: The
   clothes you DO buy are made of Lycra and sequins.

   6) You break in your skates by wearing them at work and slip on the way to
   the printer, suffering a black eye.

   7) You forget to take work clothes to the rink and end up spending your work
   day in your skating costume. None of your colleagues seems surprised.

   8) You hype your Alpha test so much at work that your co-workers think it's
   a qualifying event for Nationals.

   If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself, you are suffering from AOSS
   my friend! Subscribe to At least you
   will have the compassion of others who are dealing with this problem, and
   you may find the solution for centering that darned scratch spin!

  3.4 Lessons

   With some exceptions, group lessons are mostly concerned with getting you
   from the "learn to skate" stage, though basic stroking and edges and then
   finish up with figures and edges (or dance), without getting into the more
   advanced jumps or spins. Even if you already know how to skate, this can be
   quite worthwhile, depending on the amount of individual attention from the
   instructor  and the degree of improvement you feel from a disciplined,
   progressive review of the basic skills.

   As far as group lessons vs. private instruction that's a difficult call -
   each has some advantages. The group lesson provides peers and a programmed
   sequence of lessons. If you hang in, you'll learn, if not master, a lot of
   skills and be able to compare your progress with your peers. If you do have
   difficulty however, you're more likely to become discouraged.

   Private lessons offer more flexibility, but lacking the fixed pace of the
   group lessons, it's possible to get stuck on something that you don't like
   or see the point of, but the instructor seems to feel is important before
   proceeding. This occurs more often if the lessons are infrequent or if you
   really haven't developed good 2-way communications with the instructor. If
   this is a problem, try getting some off-ice quality time to discuss your
   progress and goals - offer to buy coffee or ask if there's a "a time when we
   can sit down and talk for a few minutes".

   Moving from private lessons to group lessons, or re-starting group lessons
   after dropping out can be difficult. You can't slough off the easy stuff or
   you'll  just  hit  a  brick wall where you had trouble before. If this
   situation, concentrate on doing that easy stuff as nicely as you can, using
   your hard earned "advanced" skills.

   You can also supplement group lessons with private instruction or use the
   group lessons to provide more "structured" practice time for what you're
   also learning in the private lessons. It's hard to predict how well this
   will work out for any given person, all you can do is plunk down your money
   and  try it. Again, talk to your instructor - many will recommend more
   frequent lessons with them, but few will really object to the group lessons.

   Plenty of practice time is a wonderful thing, but too much unsupervised
   practice between lessons isn't a good idea. Not that you'll injure yourself,
   but you can end up doing things the "hard way" and forming habit/balance
   patterns that can interfere with your longer term progress. Invest in a
   little private instruction in addition to your group lessons. This will
   prevent bad habits from becoming ingrained and make your practice time more
   worthwhile and cost-effective.

  3.5 the pay-off!

     A man must love a thing very much if he not only
     practices it without any hope of fame and money,
     but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.
     -- (apparently written by G. K. Chesterton)

      (posted by Judy Tyrer)

   Let's look at the process of learning to skate. First of all, if skating
   were easy, it wouldn't take 10+ years to learn the sport. So get over the
   notion  that  you  will get results, any kind of results, quickly. You
   absolutely must fall in love with the process of skating. And the process of
   skating involves a lot of self examination. You will learn to face your
   fears. You will learn perseverance like you've never experienced it. And you
   will have the greatest highs in the world when after months and months and
   months of working at something without any indication of improvement you
   have an "AHA!" moment and suddenly find yourself gracefully and seemingly
   effortlessly doing that which only a month ago seemed impossible.

   Skating involves complete control over every single muscle in your body.
   Learn to focus NOT on getting the trick, but one gaining a greater sense of
   awareness of your body and increased control of it. The ice rink is the
   skater's laboratory. It is where we go to experiment. What happens if I turn
   my  head this way? What happens if I lean a little more that way? What
   happens if I drop my shoulder another 1/2 inch? If you go to each skating
   session with the goal of learning more about how your body affects your
   skating, you will never leave frustrated. You may learn 1001 and things that
   do not help you with this trick. But you will have learned some interesting

   Have fun and keep working at it. Because if you work at it long enough and
   have patience, the skating gods will visit you with a lovely "Aha!" and all
   the pain and suffering will instantly be forgotten.

      (adapted from "What I get from skating", by Janet Swan-Hill)

   Peace --- the intense feeling of inner stillness that comes from fully
   concentrating all of the body and mind on something

   Excitement --- the rush of excitement before, during, and after performance.
   Also the excitement of FINALLY having something go right after you've been
   working at it a long time

   Solitude --- the privacy of concentration, especially during patch or while
   working on dance footwork, but also on any other aspect of skating.

   Companionship & camaraderie ---
   - the special connection you have to other adults working to succeed at
   something purely for the pleasure of it
   - the special comradeship of watching each other's progress, sweating out
   test results, etc. with other skaters .... no matter what their age, gender,
   or level
   - the "teamness" of working on a precision team, the process and results of
   working  hard as a group, compromising, analyzing, helping each other,
   figuring things out, sharing the success and the blame among you, "pulling
   off" a move that seemed impossible just four weeks earlier
   - encountering and getting to know a group of people I would never otherwise
   have encountered

   Exercise --- Of all the types of exercise I have ever done, only this and
   skiing didn't feel like exercise.

   Body awareness --- becoming aware of where the bits and pieces are and what
   happens when you move them (and how to keep from moving them if you don't
   want to)

   Sanity  ---  I can't really think about anything but skating while I'm
   skating, so it provides a wonderful breather in the middle of the day

   Perspective --- skating puts my work into perspective. work puts skating
   into perspective.

   Flying --- the wonderful frictionless sensation of flying (not just during
   jumps ..... maybe MAINLY not in jumps)

   Goals --- a never-ending supply of goals to work toward: a growing list of
   goals reached. they don't even have to be big things:

   Facing up to fear --- working at something that scares you until finally one
   day you realize that you are doing the move without even thinking about it.
   Also doing something that scares you even though it's still scary, and
   realizing that you CAN do it and you WILL.

   An appreciation of what goes into skating:

   - a greater appreciation of the skaters themselves and what they do
   - an astonished and continuing appreciation of the thousands of volunteers
   who  make  the  organized  sport  of  figure skating possible: judges,
   accountants,  ice  monitors,  organizing  committees,  costume  crews,
   fundraisers, music crews, registration people, the mothers who braid hair
   and patch up each other's children, the "rink moms" who play tapes during
   sessions, and many, many more.

   An opportunity to serve and be useful --- knowing how badly you are needed,
   because  skating IS run by volunteers, most of whom also have jobs and
   families that make volunteering difficult.

   A (moderately) harmless obsession-cum-addiction.

  3.6 Skating programs for adults

   Some time ago the US Figure Skating acknowledged the special needs from its
   ever increasing adult membership and created an Adult Skating Committee; US
   Figure Skating adult skaters also have an independent test track comprising
   freestyle and MITF tests as well as separate Sectional and National Figure
   Skating Championships for adults.

   Skate Canada is also implementing a recreational and competition program for
   adults: AdultSkate.

    3.6.1 US Figure Skating adult testing track

   The adult testing track comprised four freestyle testing levels and, from
   September 2002, corresponding MITF levels.The levels are: Adult Pre-bronze,
   Bronze, Silver and Gold As in the regular track, the MITF test must be
   passed before taking the corresponding freestyle test.

   The freestyle tests consist in a program done to music (except for the
   Pre-bronze  test).  The required elements for each level are listed in
   Appendix A2.2.

    3.6.2 Skating competitions for adults

   In addition to competitions with "adult" categories, competitions (national
   or international) open only to adults are held in USA, Canada, Estonia,
   Great Britain, Germany and France. Since 2005, the ISU is also sponsoring an
   international adult competition; the 2005 and 2006 editions took place in
   Oberstdorf, in the German Alps.

   International adult competitions often use the US Figure Skating test level
   and age categories. The categories for freestyle are shown below.

   Category divisions by level

      Level              Element restrictions             Program length
     Bronze             No Axel, no jump spins.            1 min 40 sec
     Silver                 No double jumps                2 min 10 sec
      Gold    No triple jumps and no double flip and Lutz 2 min 40 sec.
    Masters *               No restrictions               3 min. 40 sec

   * Skaters who have tested to a higher level than the adult Gold equivalent
   on a standard track must compete in the "Masters" level

   Category divisions by age

         Young adults    I      II      III     IV         V
           18 - 20    21 - 28 29 - 35 36 - 45 46 - 55 56 and above

   Back to the Table of Contents

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