Athlete Centered Skating

The Athlete Centered Skating Assessment blog series is composed several blogs that discuss our assessment process and features of the assessments.  These blogs are an important part of the ACSkating assessment process and, accordingly, are required reading for parents prior to the actual assessment process.  Each blog provides several questions at the end for you to answer.

The questions are meant to be answered after reading the preceding content.  Once we have received all your answers we will initiate the assessment process with your child.  Below we explain how the Athlete Centered Skating assessments will be integrated with our athletes’ training as an ongoing and evolving part of our curriculum.

You can print out the ACSkating Assessments (or open the PDF) out to follow along.  If you need a copy, please email us at: and ask for a copy.

The Process

Following is the Athlete Centered Skating Assessment process:

Step 1: Parents must read through the entire Athlete Centered Skating Assessment blog series.  After you answer the questions after each blog, we move on to step two.  Remember, if you would like your athlete to take part in our assessments, you musttake part in the process as a parent as well.

Step 2: We pass out the Athlete Questionnaire to the athlete and cover page.  The athlete has one week to fill out their scores on the questionnaire and parents to fill out the cover page (e.g. current schedule).  In some cases, the coaches will assist or ask parents to assist the athlete.  However, it is vital that the athlete directs the process.  We will skip the athlete questionnaire step with our youngest students.  However, you can start discussing parts of it (as we do in our lessons).

Step 3: Coaches make their assessments and scores.  We will do this before we receive the athlete’s completed questionnaire.

Step 4: We meet with the athlete to discuss differences in our scores and determine an importance score for the behavior.  The score will be mutually agreed upon by athlete and coaches. This will ultimately determine a priority score for the target skill or behavior.

Step 5: We will follow up with parents with any questions.

Then we repeat the process every few months!

As of now there is one Assessment to be adapted to all our age groups and commitments.  We will “X” out parts that are not appropriate for particular cases.  So, you can expect more detailed work if your child is older and committed to the competitive figure skating track and less detailed assessments if your child is younger or our work is more supplementary in nature.

This is an ongoing and evolving process that will only find success with your feedback and assistance!

Assessment Sections

The Athlete Centered Skating Assessments have 5 important sections:

Cover Sheet

Psychological Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Skill Assessment

Athlete Questionnaire

Comments/ Proactive Feedback

Cover sheet

The cover sheet contains basic information about the athlete including age, level, and their current skating and supplementary schedule.  A comment section is provided at the bottom to summarize the whole assessment.

Psychological Characteristics

We created an algorithm to assess key psychological characteristics athletes must develop that integrates an athlete score, coach score, and importance score that determines a final priority score for the behavior.  The athlete score is determined by the athlete’s own beliefs, and the coach selects the coach score for the athlete.  The importance score will be determined by the coaches and athlete mutually.  The final output is the priority score, which will personalize and guide learning.  Below we outline each psychological characteristic and several specific behaviors we will measure.  The assessments are meant to be highly specific for each athlete and, accordingly, the behaviors included may be unique in each case.

The algorithm:

{(5 – As) + (10 – Cs)} X Is = Ps

The highest possible priority a behavior can earn is a 100.

See below for a discussion of the categories.  You can keep the actual assessment handy to follow along.


Commitment should uniquely correspond to an athlete’s short- and long-term goals and, accordingly, we need to assess commitment at micro (daily training habits) to macro (overall training schedule and adherence) levels.

Arrives at training sessions/ classes early and prepared (mental, physical, equipment)

The athlete arrives in advance to be fully prepared to train when practice actually starts.  This includes having equipment ready, being mentally and physically prepared, bathroom etc.  Timeliness is an extremely important part of showing commitment to one’s work because it shows you value your time – every minute of it.  Sport is an ideal platform to develop this quality in individuals.  It also appears to be a rare quality, thus making it even more valuable to develop to set one’s self apart from others.

Participates in the type and number of training sessions suitable to competitive level and personal goals (daily, weekly, yearly)

The athlete participates in the training schedule set by the coaching staff and in accordance with the athlete’s goals.  This includes all types of training sessions and adherence throughout the year.  This display of commitment shows that the athlete remains dedicated to the necessary training to achieve the goals they’ve set.

Participates in supplemental activities (outside their usual training plan) to make improvements

The athlete seeks and participates in other activities outside their usual training plan.  This includes other sports, watching competitions in person or on TV, watching videos of themselves/ other skaters etc. A well-rounded commitment that includes other activities develops a well-rounded athlete and balances their activities.

Evaluative Judgement

Evaluative judgement refers to “the capability to make decisions about the quality of work of self and others (Tai, Ajjawi et al. 2017).”  Learners use evaluative judgement to assess their work in the absence of a teacher-like figure.  An individual high in evaluative judgement understands what ‘quality’ performance is and what they need to do to achieve or surpass it.  They work more effectively and efficiently.  Evaluative judgement is an essential characteristic that needs to be developed in children over time.  We believe children are never too young to start nurturing evaluative judgement and even feel it is easier to develop this learning characteristic before children have established their conception of learning.  Below we outline four key behaviors of evaluative judgement included in Athlete Centered Skating assessments.

Carefully watches model performances (demonstrations & video) and listens to explanations

Level 1: watches the full demonstration

Level 2: answers questions

Level 3: asks questions and engages discussion about the demonstration

The athlete pays attention when the coach gives explanations or asks them to watch a demonstration (either by the coach, another skater, or a video).  In level 2, the athlete can answer questions the coach asks regarding the model performance.  For level 3, the athlete asks their own questions unprompted by the coach.  Listening to explanations from the coach and watching model performances is the first step for an athlete to develop a conception of standards.  They need to learn and understand standards of the sport, different judges, coaches and so on to compare their own level of performance to.  Eventually, athletes should develop their own unique conception of standards which means they understand the different ways quality can be achieved.

Chooses and applies effective self-feedback during practice

Level 1: with coach’s guidance

Level 2: during self-practice

The athlete assesses their performance (e.g. a skill rehearsed on practice) and chooses an effective solution to improve performance. This includes which mistake, if there are several, to address first.  In level 1, the athlete demonstrates this quality with guidance from the coach and in level 2, the athlete demonstrates it when they self-practice.

Provides effective feedback to others during group class opportunities

The athlete demonstrates they can provide effective feedback to other athletes during group class activities when given opportunities.  This type of engagement is often called peer assessment (or peer engagement).  Putting the learner in the position of a teacher renders another perspective for athletes to develop their understanding of quality.  We want to see our skaters develop accurate, yet positive and fair, peer assessing qualities.


Level 1: Realistically evaluates their training and performance

Level 2: Realistically estimates future performances

Level 3: Makes adjustments based on evaluations/ estimations

The athlete has an accurate conception of their current quality of practice and level of performance (not over- or under-estimating).  In level 2, the athlete can predict their future performance accurately based on their current level of performance (e.g. makes accurate judgments about upcoming competitions).  In level 3, the athlete demonstrates they continually make adjustments based on their evaluations.  Interestingly, the way we practice can negatively influence our assessments of performance – especially in the future.  Therefore, the way athletes practice (Quality Practice) is closely tied to accurately predicting one’s future performance (e.g. at a competition).

Proactive Coping

Approaches major events with optimism; appraises stress as a challenge rather than a threat (competitions; injuries)

According to research, the most successful athletes over the long-term had a slow and non-linear progression and they encountered many obstacles along the way.  For stressful events to have a positive influence on development, the athlete must perceive those stressful events as a challenge (and not as a threat).  The athlete must develop skills that help them cope with these events, and even prepare for them proactively by seeking resources (e.g. support network) and developing skills (e.g. how to respond to a poor competitive performance).

Approaches within training setbacks with optimism; appraises stress as a challenge rather than a threat

Level 1: Persists during training, even when things “aren’t working well”

Level 2: Ability to overcome or rebound from mistakes, failures, and corrective feedback

Whereas the first category examines proactive coping at a macro (major event) level, this category looks at proactive coping at a micro level: within daily practice.  How does the athlete respond to mistakes, crowded sessions etc.  In Level 1 we look at whether the athlete persists or not.  It is possible, and common, for athletes to persist because they perceive the stress as a threat and this transforms persistence into a negative quality.  Therefore, in level 2, not only does the athlete persist, they also psychologically rebound from the practice situation and perceive it as a challenge rather than a threat to their well-being.

Value of mistakes

Level 1: Understands that mistakes are part of the learning process

Level 2: Understands their own mistakes are important for learning

Level 3: Transforms mistakes and other negative events into learning experiences

Mistakes can be a very valuable learning tool and research shows that the learners who make more mistakes on practice learn the most too – they even retain what they have learned better.  Practice should never be confused with a setting one must perform well in by doing the same thing over and over again but rather a setting to explore, experiment, and ultimately make many, many mistakes to learn something new. In level 1, the athlete understands why mistakes are an important learning tool.  In level 2, the athlete applies this understanding to their own training and in level 3 responds to mistakes in a proactive learning-oriented way.

Quality Practice

Quality practice is an extremely important characteristic especially given the many misunderstandings about ‘what’ constitutes a quality practice.  Our curriculum promotes practice as a setting to explore, to experiment, to make change and, to achieve this, we must promote these qualities to athletes and parents.  The conditions that influence the greatest learning are not necessarily those that influence the greatest performance.

Practice Variability/ Novelty

Level 1: Is receptive to novel/ variable challenging conditions set by the coach develop a broader mastery of their skills.

Level 2: Creates variable/ novel conditions in self-practice.

Level 3: Improves skills in self-developed and challenging conditions.

Athletes need to explore and experiment with their skills in different ways to nurture learning.  Part of experimentation is to practice skills in variable, even novel, ways.  This means practicing skills in different orders, from different set-ups and speeds and other circumstances.  Though this form of practice variability is more challenging to the learner (than doing things the same exact way every time), it allows them to perceive their skills from different perspectives; to pick out details they might not have noticed from one single perspective.  This deepens their learning and broadens their conceptions of the skills thus making them more adaptable and stable in future performances – especially unknown circumstances such as competitions.  In Level 1, the athlete embraces variable/ novel practice conditions as a learning tool when the coach sets them.  In level 2, the athlete applies variable/ novel conditions to their self-practice time and in level 3, the athlete demonstrates they can improve their skills under such conditions.

Works effectively from start to finish of lessons

The athlete remains engaged and trains effectively from the start to finish of lessons.  Not only do they work hard, but they also know what to work on to make the full practice effective.  In other words, if they are really tired, they would still be working hard if they persisted with a difficult jump but not necessarily effective. In this case, effective training might mean doing something that requires less energy but is equally important such as basic skills work or visualization.

Maintains quality throughout practice

Level 1: Works hard from start to finish of self-practice time

Level 2: Focuses on the areas/ skills that need the most work

The athlete remains engaged to work effectively from the start to finish of practice time (see above for more detail).  In level 2, the athlete focuses their time and effort on skills that need the most work for improvement.

Focus and Distraction Control

Remains focused under distraction.

The athlete remains focused even in the face of distractions ranging from other athletes fooling around on practice to the quality of another skater’s performance at a competition.

Practices and has prepared a pre-performance routine.

The athlete has a pre-competition ‘routine’ they use to prepare their mind and body for the event.  This could include an active warm-up routine with jumping and dynamic stretches, a motor imagery session to go over cue words, image their programs/ skills (even with headphones).  A pre-competition routine also includes when to do hair/ make-up, eat etc.

Uses warm-up and in-between session time to prepare body and set goals and intentions for the practice to come.

This has to do with the athlete being “ready to go” when they step on the ice.  They have a plan already and know exactly what they want to do – they just hope there’s enough time to fit it in!  A less focused athlete might step on the ice with no plan or goal and they have to “wing it” as they practice.

Motor Imagery/ External Focus

Sets time aside to use motor imagery/ visualization to rehearse skills/ prepare for new experiences (e.g. competitions).

Level 1: Applies motor imagery within practice.

Level 2: Applies motor imagery in dedicated visualization sessions.

One major differentiator between highly successful athletes (e.g. World and Olympic competitors) and less successful athletes is the use of motor imagery/ visualization.  There are different types and ways athletes can use imagery.  They can use it to stabilize emotions and focus; to ‘get in the zone’; to rehearse corrections and competitive routines as if they are watching themselves on TV or “feeling” the movements themselves.  This category refers specifically to the use of some form of imagery as a practice tool used to improve their motor skills.

Applies external focus of attention to corrections.

We are passionate believers of external focus of attention and teach this form of imagery to all our athletes (read about the benefits in our motor imagery blog series).  Over time, specific external foci may need to be altered or changed for different reasons (the image gets ‘stale’).  The athlete adopts external focus on attention when appropriate.  In Level 2, the athlete recognizes and commits to using the most effective external focus available and cycles through them when necessary.


Awareness of adaptive and maladaptive influences on performance (maybe reword to go beyond awareness but also behavior?)

The athlete recognizes adaptive and maladaptive influences on their performance.  These include the behaviors of other individuals around them and particular habits of the athlete.

Takes time to reflect upon what they know and don’t know

The athlete thinks about what the coaches are trying to teach them, what they really know and don’t know. This is an important behavior because the athlete will actually learn ‘better’ if they can accurately gauge what they really have learned.  They can then communicate this to the coach, for example, reevaluate goals, or explore new perspectives to deepen their learning.

Planning and Self-organization

Ability to balance lifestyle commitments

The athlete achieves a comfortable balance of their lifestyle commitments.  To be a high performing athlete in figure skating certainly requires many, many hours of dedicated training and passion.  However, research indicates that, while passion is often perceived as a positive trait (termed ‘harmonious’ in research literature), it can also be a detrimental trait (termed ‘obsessive passion’).  In a positive, harmonious light, the athlete is in full control; they can decide when/ when not to engage their passion. On the other hand, those with an obsessive passion allow the sport to control them and they engage even at the cost of psychological health and well-being.

Goal Setting

Ability to set short-term goals

The athlete sets short-term goals (for the day and week, for example).  These are the task/ process goals – the specific areas they need to target to improve their skills and physical abilities.  For example, if the athlete is working to improve the outside edge on their lutz jump, the athlete would set appropriate practice goals for the week to facilitate this improvement including setting time aside to work on it, which exercises they should engage in to make the improvements, and how they can measure or monitor improvement.  The goals should be appropriate to their skill level and commitment.

Ability to set medium- and long-term goals

The athlete sets medium- (to land a new jump, achieve a level 4 spin) and long-term (to participate in a competition next season; to achieve a specific level in the next few years) goals. We separated these from short-term goals because these goals are more concrete outcome-based goals and we believe both types of goal-setting involve different skill sets.  The goals should be appropriate to their skill level and commitment.

Actively Seeks Social Support

Knows when and how to seek support of others

The athlete understands the value of social support (coaches, family, peers, teachers…) and knows when to reach out for support.  The athlete openly discusses struggles and challenges with other athletes (when appropriate).  This ‘openness’ normalizes feelings such as nervousness before a competition.

Initiates peer training opportunities when appropriate

Training with your buddies can be an intrinsically-rewarding and effective training tool.  We want to see our athletes invite a few buddies to do some off-ice stretching, visualization, or jump technique; or to play some fun process-oriented games on the ice to improve their skills.  We teach our athletes how they can play these games and compete against each other while using personal improvement as the factor to score points.  This way the training is still focused on self-improvement but allows for competitive interaction and can be used between skaters of different abilities and levels.

Below is an example from our Psychological Characteristics outline we developed in our brainstorming process. It shows the characteristic, how we will incorporate it within our curriculum (coach system), and the actions we can take to encourage the behavior in our athletes (coach behaviors).


Psychological Characteristic Coach System Coach Behavior
Carefully watches model performances (coach demonstration, video, other skaters) and listens to explanations

Level 1: watches the full demonstration and explanation

Level 2: answers questions asked by the coach (e.g. “Do you understand?”)

Level 3: asks questions and engages discussion about the demonstration (e.g. “I don’t understand…”)

-Create activities that center on explaining the task and criteria used for evaluation and should draw learners’ attention to vital details of the model performance


-Encourage athletes to evaluate their own and peer performances so they learn from both ends of the teaching-learning spectrum.
-Explain how important it is to watch and emulate but not directly copy
-Convey that we want them to think of questions and make comments without us asking for them in the future.


Physical Abilities

Physical abilities are the most common category of assessment in sports.  Many sports programs, both historically and more recently, have been criticized for focusing assessment solely on physical abilities in children especially given that a huge influence on physical abilities is growth and maturation.  Children who are developmentally more mature will appear to be more physically ‘gifted’ than children who are less developmentally mature.  Nonetheless, it is still important to measure and monitor physical abilities for any athlete to reach their athletic peak.  Below we outline the physical abilities currently included in our Athlete Centered Skating assessments.

We assess physical abilities with this simple algorithm:

(10 – Score) X Importance = Priority


The ability to move the body in different ways both smoothly and efficiently.  Coordination is considered the most vital physical ability (there are many different types of coordination) to develop in children because it provides a foundation to safely and confidently develop sport specific skills. Coordination Influences learning efficiency of new skills and adaptability.

Absolute Strength

Athlete’s maximal force exerted.  Represents the maximum weight an athlete can lift regardless of their size.

Relative Strength

Athlete’s strength relative to their body size.  In general, smaller bodies have higher relative strength than larger bodies because height and weight do not increase proportionately.  Therefore, taller athletes may have greater maximal strength than shorter athletes (e.g. they can bench press a heavier weight). However, smaller athletes tend to have higher relative strength (e.g. they can do more push-ups) than a taller athlete.  Figure skating is a sport that involves manipulation of one’s own body. Therefore, relative strength is a vital ability.


The ability to overcome resistance in the shortest period of time.  Power requires quickness/ speed to generate maximum strength.  One athlete might be much stronger than another but cannot generate that strength as rapidly as the another.  Therefore, this athlete would have less power and might not be able to jump as high as a result.


Ability to move fast in a short time.  Quickness is the second component of being able to generate power.


The athlete’s ability to move a joint or group of joints through a range of motion.  Flexibility allows for the body to move in a full range of motion which has the potential to reduce injury and maximize movement potential.  Also of importance, figure skating rewards flexibility as if it is a skill because skaters get rewarded for achieving flexible positions – especially in spins. Flexibility is important to develop before athletes reach puberty because bones grow faster than muscle.


Ability to achieve and maintain different positions without losing one’s axis.  Balance is actually a more complex ability than people might think.  In fact, motor researchers contend there are different types of balance abilities that can be measured separately.  If there is any sport that demands (and develops) balance – it is figure skating. Everything figure skaters do – even basic skills- requires a strong ability to balance.

Practice Endurance

Practice endurance refers to the athlete’s ability to maintain their work as the training sessions/ day progresses.  An athlete with very high practice endurance can get more work done on a practice session and can maintain a higher workload from practice to practice.

Program Endurance

This category refers specifically to the athlete’s ability to complete their competitive routine without looking fatigued.  This type of stamina requires very specific training to maximize one’s potential.

Warm-up/ Recovery

Quality of athlete’s warm-up and recovery work.  The warm-up includes active stretch, jump and other technical skill work, and motor imagery.  Recovery includes stretching, foam rolling, icing when necessary, motor imagery/ visualization.

Below is an example from our physical abilities outline we developed in our brainstorming session. As we mentioned earlier, if we want to promote and assess specific qualities, then we coaches must integrate opportunities within our curriculum for athletes to develop them and our own behaviors must promote and encourage those qualities as well.


Physical Ability Coach System Coach Behavior
Coordination -Coordination-specific off- and on-ice classes/ lessons -Encourage athletes to perform basic skills exercises in different positions & with different upper body movements.

-Encourage young skaters to participate in gymnastics classes.


Skill Analysis

Skill analysis is a much more complex process than most people might realize.  For example, what constitutes ‘learning’ as in, “this skater has learned an axel?”  Must they land it once? Twice?  Ten times? Then, what happens when the athlete “loses” the skill?  Did they un-learn it?  We created six different “areas of learning” to recognize the different degrees our athletes have learned their skills.  We then provide space to discuss ‘technical improvements’ ‘importance/ discussion’ and ‘priority’.

Expect blogs that discuss motor skill acquisition in greater detail in the future.


Here we record a specific skill such as an axel, leveled combination spin, move in the field pattern, or step sequence.  Which skills are listed will vary from athlete to athlete depending on their goals and commitment.  We will also list ‘future skills’.

Areas of Learning

In the areas of learning we break down learning into several meaningful categories.


Successful completion (of the skill or technical intervention) under the most controlled conditions. The athlete can complete the skill with a proper array of preparation exercises and from a very specific set-up/ entry.


The athlete can leave the skill alone for 2-5 days and still complete the skill (80% success rate).


Skater demonstrates they have transferred what was learned from this skill to other skills.  For example, if the skater is working on an outside three turn and they successfully demonstrate the correct behaviors of that three-turn on a salchow jump takeoff.  Or perhaps the athlete improved one jump takeoff and applied the concept to another jump – we consider this transfer.


Successful completion from three or more different approaches.  The athlete can perform the skill from multiple approaches and speeds with confidence and quality.  The characteristic reflects deeper learning.


Successful completion under a novel condition picked by the coach.  The athlete can perform the skill under completely new conditions determined immediately preceding the performance.


Successful completion at competition.  The athlete demonstrates they ‘own’ this skill in competition!

Grade of Execution

Reflects the Grade of Execution (GOE) bullet points the judges can award the skill in competition.  This gives us an indication of what type of GOE score we can aim for in competition (e.g. +5 through -5).  Each bullet point represents one point and each point adds 10% to the value of the skill.  The GOE bullet points include:

Size: very good jump height / length (of all jumps in a combo or sequence)

Takeoff/ Land: good take-off and landing

Entry: steps before the jump; unexpected or creative entry

Effortless: effortless throughout (including rhythm in jump combination)

Body Position: very good body position from take-off to landing

Music: element matches the music

Technical Improvements

Explains specific corrections and focuses the athlete needs to make to improve the quality of the skill. We provide a checkbox area for coaches and athletes to mark technical progress.  Importantly, technical improvements should be considered as learning-process goals (as in, the athlete pushes off the skating foot on the lutz), whereas areas of learning represent performance-goals (as in whether or not the athlete can land a triple jump).  It is very possible for a jump to improve in performance consistency in the absence of any technical improvements.  This is an issue for long-term progress.

Importance/ Discussion

Explains more details and why the skill is important to train.  For example, the skater might need a specific skill for an upcoming test or the skill has high value on an upcoming competitive season or level.


The priority score allows the athlete and coach to easily sort through the skills to see which ones are more important to develop.  The priority score will be determined by the coaches in some assessments.  Other priority assessments are for the coach and athlete to discuss the scores together and then, ultimately, for the athlete to prioritize the skills themselves.

Athlete Questionnaire

The athlete questionnaire is the psychological characteristics assessment re-worded for athletes to read and score themselves.  The scale they use will change over time as the athlete develops and matures.  For example, in most cases the athlete score will range from 0-5 (while the coach’s score range is from 6-10 which gives more weight to the coaches score.  The ultimate goal is for the athlete’s score to have more weight (6-10) and the coach’s less weight (0-5).  We also provide a space for athletes to rate how well they understand each question. We will monitor these scores, provide more explanation when necessary, and make adjustments to wording on future assessments.

Comments/ Proactive Feedback

This page allows us to provide feedback on which behaviors should be targeted in the coming training period and offer specific suggestions for our athletes on how they can make improvements.  We will also use these comments as feedback to inform which activities we create in the training environment to support their learning.

Questions for Parents

Please send your responses to: Garrett@acskating.comand

Question 1: How could it be possible for a skater to improve a jump’s consistency without improving the jump?  How does this perspective negatively influence long-term progress?

Question 2: How can you support your child in completing the questionnaire without influencing the scores or acting as a form of surveillance over their shoulder?

Question 3: which categories/ target behaviors would you like to learn more about in future blogs?


Tai, J., R. Ajjawi, D. Boud, P. Dawson and E. Panadero (2017). “Developing evaluative judgement: enabling students to make decisions about the quality of work.” Higher Education: 1-15.