20 Jun 2004 04:10:12
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Recreational Figure Skating FAQ - Adult Skaters

Archive-name: sports/skating/ice/rec-skate/adults
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Last-modified: May 10 2004
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3. Adult Skaters

3.1 Adult beginner skaters

The news group rec.sport.skating.ice.recreational 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

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 either.

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

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

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 rec.sport.skating.ice.recreational.
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

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

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)

(from 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 things.

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

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
- 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 USFSA acknowledged the special needs from its ever
increasing adult membership and created an Adult Skating Committee,
which publishes the newsletter Adult Insights. Their address is:

Adult Insights
12017 N. 84th Street
Scottsdale AZ 85260
Fax: (602) 596-3992

USFSA 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.

Other skating organizations are also starting to follow the USFSA
lead: For example, Skate Canada has started developing programs geared
towards adult skating too.

3.6.1 USFSA 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 open
only to adults are held in USA, Canada, Great Britain, Germany and
France. International adult competitions (such as the "Mountain Cup",
which takes place every year around May in the French Alps) often use
the USFSA 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 restrictions 2 min 40 sec.
Masters * No restrictions 2 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
18 - 24 25 - 34 35 - 44 45 - 54 55 and above