Athlete Centered Skating

It is time to edge our way back into the blogging as the summer is coming to an end.  Previously, we started a long blog series on feedback that will continue in the coming weeks.  Please check out the first and second blogs from the series to review.  To help refresh our readership, we penned up another “common scene” at a figure skating rink.

As before, see what “red flags” you can find in this story.  Note: there are fewer dialogues (exchanges between coach and skater) but there are still plenty of feedback issues to note!  Provide your comments below or submit them to

Another Common Scene

A skater arrives at the skating rink for practice.

First, she has a lesson with her main coach.  She performs an axel, double salchow, then double toe loop.  Next comes the double loop jump.  On the first attempt, her arm raises over her head as she “loads” the takeoff edge.  Then, when she jumps her body leans out to the left.  She falls.  She skates over to the coach for feedback.  “You let your arm fly over your head again and you leaned out.  We talked about this before.  Stop doing that.”  The skater tries several more attempts at the skill and receives the same comments each time. “That still wasn’t right.  The arm is flying up and you are leaning out.  You gotta fix that if you want to land this jump better. Are you listening to my feedback? Do you know what I’m telling you?” The skater nods and says “yes.” “Then why don’t you fix it?” the coach asks.  The skater shrugs.

On the next session the girl hops on the ice and starts to practice.  Her second coach calls her over for another lesson.  “I saw you working on that double loop last session. Let’s work on that.”  The second coach has her perform several exercises meant to address the takeoff of the loop jump, one of which involves using a different approach (set-up) to the jump.  They practice the exercises together for several minutes and then the coach says, “OK – let’s try this on the double jump now.  I’ll get the harness.”  The skater puts on the harness and they go practice the double loop several times.  She lands every attempt.  The coach then states, “These jumps are better.  Try it off the harness.”  The skater tries the double loop off the harness and it does seem better to her. “Something must be working.  The harness really helps me,” she thinks to herself.

The session finishes and, after a break, the skater has one more session.  This time she has a lesson with her 3rdcoach- the “stroking and edges” coach.  This coach has her work on crossovers and three turns through a handful of repetitive but isolated exercises.  First, they start with forward turns.  The coach explains how to use the knee action on the turn to develop rhythm, how to lean on the edge and create edge pressure.  Then they work on back outside three turns in the same way.

The next day, the skater arrives at the rink for her lesson with the main coach.  The girl performs her axel, double salchow, and double toe loop and then starts the double loop again.  The skater knows that with the main coach, she should use the standard approach the main coach prefers.  She attempts her first double loop.  Her arm raises over her head and she leans out to the left on the takeoff- just like yesterday…

In the next blog we will discuss the “red flags” and then after that we will go deep into the world of feedback. We build our discussion around research literature in sports and motor learning, academics (especially higher education), and our experiences as athletes and coaches.  We will discuss: what exactly feedback is, the types of feedback available to an athlete, feedback content, how the timing of feedback impacts learning in different ways, misconceptions about feedback and learning (e.g. the influence of within session improvements; the distinction between learning and performance; and physical guidance).  We will use all this discussion to finally equip parents and coaches with effective feedback strategies they can apply themselves to support their athletes’ learning and development.