Athlete Centered Skating

The Athlete Centered Skating (ACS) pledges are for athletes, parents, coaches on the ACS team, as well as coaches and trainers who work with the ACS team.  They convey the core behaviors valued and nurtured by the ACS program. This blog series presents more information about the values conveyed in the pledges. First, we will present the athletes’, then parents’, and finally the coaches’ behaviors. The athlete behaviors are key ingredients that allow the individual to achieve peak performance and, most importantly, develop into a capable, resilient, and respectful human being.  The pledges also share specific behaviors that are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the ACS program.  

ACS Athlete Pledge

The ACS athlete pledge conveys core behaviors athletes are expected to respect and adopt when participating in the ACS program.  The pledges define these behaviors, and the ACS curriculum was designed to nurture these behaviors in our athletes as they develop their sport specific skills.  Below, we provide a brief explanation for each of the behaviors in the athlete pledges.  The following behavioral expectations are set forth for all athletes in Athlete Centered Skating:

My time is precious, and there is always something useful I can be working on. I use each class or training session as an opportunity to improve myself and my skills. I am here to do exercises in the way it will benefit me most, no matter how easy or difficult they are.

This pledge reflects the importance of ‘quality practice.’  Practice time (daily training) is limited, so it is vital that an athlete make use of this time effectively.  Quality practice means there are specific, challenging, yet attainable goals to achieve, and that the athlete can regulate their emotions and behaviors to accomplish those goals.  In general, practice can have ‘learning-oriented’ goals or ‘performance-oriented’ goals.  You can also read more about this distinction in Garrett’s book, A Constraints-led Approach to Figure Skating Coaching.  Learning-oriented goals, for example, reflect experimentation, change, and adaptability, and should relate to a ‘competent struggle’ from the athlete (e.g. trying to improve a jump technique or regulate an emotional response to challenges).  Quality practice, in this case, would be observed through the athlete’s resilience, maintenance of a positive mindset, and respect for the coach (if in a lesson).  Success is not necessarily defined by how many jumps are landed, but rather how much ‘change’ the athlete was able to make.  They could fall many times when working on their jumps, yet still achieve a successful practice session.

In class settings, such as dance classes, sport-specific classes, or strength classes, athletes have other ways of utilizing quality practice. There is always a way to modify the task if it seems too difficult or too easy. For example, if the exercise appears “easy” to the athlete, it is a great opportunity for the athlete to refine their technique, check in with their form, and improve upon their understanding of concepts such as core engagement, turn-out, and proper alignment. 

I value my physical and mental wellbeing. When something is not right, I will communicate with my coaches.

Learning how to train effectively is about learning to train smarter, not necessarily harder. If something hurts, communication is key for the athlete, coaches, and parents to find a way through the injury. This might be something as simple as modification for a day or two or something to be examined and guided by a medical professional. At ACS, the athlete’s safety is a top priority, and proactive communication achieves a multitude of desirable goals. Proactive communication can reduce the risk of small injuries becoming larger ones over time, and it also helps the athletes become more verbally precise to describe what they are feeling. What type of pain is it? Is it pain or soreness? As the athlete learns to discern and communicate these details to parents and coaches, they become more attuned to their bodies and able to smartly manage their training.

The same is true of mental health. When an athlete actively communicates with coaches and parents about mental wellbeing, it becomes a team effort to overcome the challenges the athlete is facing over time, or to connect the individual to the proper resources they need. 

I will treat other athletes with kindness, respect, and sportsmanship. I understand that sportsmanship is defined as:

  • Creating a positive environment for everyone around me;

  • Being supportive of my teammates and competitors alike;

  • Acknowledging that this is a judged sport and respecting the results of competitions, test, etc.; and

  • Recognizing that those around me are human beings, first and foremost.

The last bullet point is the key here. Everyone is a human being, first and foremost. From this, it is easy to cheer on your teammates and competitors alike: they are all trying as hard as you are! Competitions, tests, shows, and exhibitions are all opportunities to perform and share what you have been training so hard to achieve. While the results of training at these events may differ, it is important to recognize the work that goes into each of these moments and how they are learning experiences along the journey of your skating career. It is just as important to support others in their successes and disappointments as it is to take your own experiences in stride. Not everything will go your way, but the collective effort of everyone involved, the coaching team, athletes in ACS, other competitors, parents, officials, and spectators, is something larger than any one person. Recognize how you contribute to this ecosystem, and make it greater than the sum of its parts!

I understand that I represent ACS, my club, and USFS in practice, competition, shows, and any related events. I pledge to remain professional through my actions, words, and in how I project my emotions.

Whenever our skaters are at a competition or even walking in the door to practice at our home facility, they are aware that they represent something greater than themselves: they are ambassadors for not only ACS, but also their home club(s) and U.S. Figure Skating. As you walk into your daily warm-up routine or step onto the ice at an international competition, we ask that you do so in a professional manner that reflects positively on you and the organizations you with which you are associated. You never know who you might meet!

I am responsible for maintaining my equipment with the guidance of my coaches and skate tech (skates, blades, padding, etc.).

While we do our best at ACS to remind athletes through our shared Google Calendar when to sharpen skates before an event, this timing can differ from skater to skater. Different athletes prefer a different level of sharpness, some wear their blades down quicker than others, and the same applies to boots. Since we do not put our own feet in your boots, communication is key when you notice the boots breaking down or getting too small! From here, we can work with the skate tech to properly assess which boots and blades might be best going forward. With regard to other equipment such as padding, guards, and gloves, it is the skater’s responsibility to replace these when they are worn out. 

I will adhere to all pre-competition, show, and testing plans. I know this is vital to my success and my place in the ACS program.

With a deadline, such a competition, show or test, there is no such thing as cramming the night before. Instead, the ACS team creates a detailed, tailored training plan for each athlete leading up to their events at the qualifying level and above. A lot of thought goes into how the athlete builds stamina, peaks, and tapers as the event nears, but it only works as it should if the athlete adheres to the plan. The plan creates structure and overall consistency while still allowing for variety within the athlete’s training. This allows for consistency, preparedness, and flexibility at the time of the event.

I will step on the ice at the start of all sessions, prepared with my equipment (water, padding, tissues, etc.) and plan for each session. I will be prepared for all off-ice dance, strength, and sport-specific classes with my equipment, ready to start at the prescribed time. 

Be a model for other athletes to follow! This ties back to the previous point of using every moment of a session, class, warm-up, or cool-down. In order to honor your time and get the most out of each piece of training, be the first one on the ice or on the gym floor and the last one off. Have your equipment ready on the ice so that time is not wasted in the middle of a session, class, or lesson. 

I will always come forward to a coach if I feel that I or another skater is experiencing physical or psychological harm, even if they shared it with me in confidence. 

This is a tough one. While is it uncomfortable to come forward or break the confidence of another, it is more important to care for one’s safety, whether yours or someone else’s. The ACS team will respect what you have to say unconditionally and will act appropriately to ensure your safety or that of the person you are concerned about. We are mandated reporters through SafeSkate, and it is our duty to keep everyone safe from harm, whether physical or psychological. 

I will treat my coaches with respect as human beings, first and foremost. I know that my coaches have my best interests in mind, and I will always show respect to them by:

  • Acknowledging them when I am called over;

  • Agreeing to follow through with my coaches’ overarching plan and day-to-day tasks;

  • Recognizing that my coaches have my wellbeing in mind, and they provide the professional experience to have the final say on decision making.

At ACS, we work tirelessly to develop athletes as humans first and foremost, and we ask the same in return from our athletes. We are here to help our athletes reach their goals, and the best way we know how to do so is by offering feedback and creating structure through training. We show care by creating these plans and tasks because we know our athletes care about achieving their goals. We are here to support the athlete’s development as humans and as athletes, and to do that, we ask for the athlete’s cooperation and trust.

Behaviors not tolerated by ACS

The ACS athlete pledges also list behaviors that are not tolerated and could result in suspension or expulsion from the program.  We want the ACS program to be recognized for the positive behaviors it promotes.  However, we also understand that the quality of a program is represented not only through the behaviors that are promoted, but also those that are tolerated.  It is important for the athletes to recognize when their own behaviors have strayed away from being effective and acceptable for their training.  In some cases, these behaviors could result in a verbal warning from the ACS coaching team.  In other cases, such as repeat or severe offenses, the athlete could be suspended or expelled from the ACS program.  These decisions are made solely at the discretion of the ACS coaching team.  Below is a list of athlete behaviors not tolerated by ACS:

  • Gossiping about other skaters
  • Kicking or otherwise damaging the ice surface or the area surrounding them. 
  • Causing harm to others or themselves
  • Throwing their arms up, staring down other skaters, stomping, or projecting frustrations at someone else
  • Talking back to or skating away from coaches
  • Not regulating or controlling emotions
  • Talking to parents while on the ice 
  • Seeking parents for technical advice
  • Not actively engaging in training while on the ice or in a class setting
  • Chronic failure to adhere to training plans as outlined by the coaches. This includes on- and off-ice training schedules.