Thoughts On Designing
Effective Programmes
Heredity and personality will determine the extent to which the performer can take advantage of training. All Free Skating training programmes reflect their designer's appreciation of the nature and interaction of these three main components and her position on the following questions:

1. What components are important to be included in Free Skating training?
2. What is their relative value?
3. How trainable are they?
4. How trainable are they by the coach?
5. If they are not trainable by the coach, who is responsible for training them?
6. How practical is the training programme?

Training is the only area coaches can affect. Skaters must train with enough ice time and lessons and with proper equipment before stressing any other components. The coach, the skater and the skaterís parents make up the skaterís development team. Coaches work directly with parents to provide the skater with the most comprehensive training regime possible in each unique set of circumstances. It is their job to evaluate performance and offer feedback and recommendations to the other members of the team.

Coaches ought to be well informed in subjects relevant to the development of Free Skating performance. It is up to the skater and his parents to act on them to the best of their ability. It is the responsibility of the Club to collect fees with which to purchase ice time and then allocate it to its members. Clubs are not in the business of developing skaters, coaches are. It would be reasonable for clubs to form Skater Encouragement Committees the purpose of which would be to support coachesí efforts to develop skaters. They can do this by insuring that the club infrastructure is well organized and efficient, promoting the club, fund-raising and providing rewards and recognition.

Assumptions Underlying a Coach's Curriculum For Skater Development
  1. The existence of club programmes will not in themselves improve skatersí performance; only skatersí
      hard work coupled with consistent, correct and appropriately timed feedback has the potential to
       improve performance.
  2. The fitness benefits derived from Free Skating training are limited by the skaterís skill.
  3. The developmental stages of growing children and adolescents dictate the physical capacities that
      can be improved.
  4. Semi-permanent changes can be made in flexibility that can enhance performance and reduce the risk        of injury. Flexibility acquired off-ice is transferable.
  5. Good training habits should be developed as early as possible.
  6. Training should flow from the general to the specific.
  7. A well-planned training regime adheres to the commonly accepted principles of training-
     variability, progressive overload, individual differences and reversibility.
  8. Training must be practical.
  9. Adaptations to training are largely neural.
10. Auxiliary training should occur after sport specific training.
11. Hard training with poor skills is detrimental to long-term success.
12. Skill improvement is the best emphasis for Free Skating development.

These assumptions apply in the training of all free skaters regardless of tests passed or competitive results. What distinguishes a competitive skater from other skaters is the depth of
his commitment not the coachís or the clubís.

Hierarchy of Free Skating Needs

Lessons: with oneís private coach(es)
Ice Time: the total annual training volume
Equipment: skates, clothing, costumes etc.

Supportive Environment. A high level of commitment, effort and optimism from every one including other skaters, other coaches, family and Board members helps the developing skater cope with the stress of training.

Parental Education. A better appreciation of Free Skating demands and the coachís philosophy for coping with them strengthens a parentís and skaterís commitment to the process and helps them to understand how the coachís recommendations affect them. Parental education in areas specifically affecting individual skaters is not the responsibility of the club but the private coach.

Flexibility Training. Some skaters benefit from flexibility training. Improved flexibility enhances performance and reduces the risk of injury: hyper-flexibility can destabilize joints and leave skaters more prone to injury. Flexibility training is highly transferable to the ice.

Aerobic Conditioning (under 12 in particular). Young performers may not yet be sufficiently skilled at free skating to derive a fitness benefit from their on-ice participation. Running games, high energy dance classes, skipping, aerobics etc. can help aerobic conditioning and general co-ordination in the years preceding the development of the skaterís skill. However, where aerobic conditioning classes are offered to advanced skaters they should follow on ice training as these activities have the potential to disrupt recovery cycles and impede the learning of physically demanding skills.

(Upper body) Ballet: Training the turn-out in the hip joint for classical ballet technique is not as imperative for free skaters. Good jumpers have excellent turn-in as well.  Additionally, the time necessary to properly train ballet usually far exceeds most skaters' available free time. Carriage of the upper body and arms however, is valuable and transferable.

Simulations: Proper performance of the complete skill(s) planned for the competitive setting is the only option that should be contemplated in a simulation. Effective simulations recreate in as much detail as possible, the entire competitive experience.

Ongoing music appreciation, i.e. music lessons and/or education
Ongoing Creative Movement
Ongoing mental training

Field trips

OPTIONAL NEEDS(on an individual basis)
Sports psychology                                                               
Strength training
Fitness testing

Assumptions Underlying Club Programmes

The programme will:

1. Not hinder skatersí progress
2. Not waste time
3. Allow sufficient ice time
4. Allow sufficient lesson time
5. Be periodized
6. Accommodate the individual
7. Be financially viable

Two Types of Club Programmes

Skater Encouragement Programmes concentrate on supporting coachesí efforts to ensure that all skatersí primary needs are filled while at the same time supporting keen skatersí efforts to advance faster and perhaps further. They do this by allowing skaters access to ice time and lessons. Ice time and lessons are linked. Some skaters do not receive enough lessons because they do not have enough ice time. This may be because they do not want to skate more often but sometimes there just is not enough ice time in the club structure for coaches to distribute lessons appropriately. Sessions happen when enough skaters can be pooled. If the skater pool is not distributed evenly throughout the coaching pool then certain skaters and their coaches will suffer if those skaters cannot be accommodated elsewhere in the schedule. It should never be the case that skaters or coaches are discouraged or penalized for being keen. Skater Encouragement Programmes recognize that the clubís future is created in large measure by coaches- starting at the beginner level -and will ensure that skaters who want to skate, can and that they will not be financially or otherwise penalized for doing so.

These are made available by clubs and are supportive of the skaterís curriculum offered by his coach. Hopefully clubs can assume their competitive skaters are already participating in a comprehensive training regime and are minimally satisfying their primary needs. The club programme can then make available secondary through fringe needs where appropriate, particularly those that are better presented in a group format. Simulations and certain off ice training [flexibility, aerobic-(particularly under 12) and (upper body) ballet] are examples of activities that may be impractical for coaches to deliver themselves. Or the club can provide seminars in other fields such as nutrition, makeup etc. Seminars for coaches only on subjects like biomechanics, learning theory, training theory and motivation may help them better prepare for lessons.

Before deciding what should be included in club programmes it should be known what successful skaters have in common and how, when, where and who contributes to this success. Only then can informed decisions be made about the propriety of proposed elements. Each element included should address an observed need. The inclusion of elements merely for the sake of filling programme quotas or to placate parents do not further skatersí development. At the same time it would be unwise for club programmes to try to address each and every skaterís individual needs. That is the coach and parents' responsibility. All programmes should provide a framework in which all skaters and coaches are supported in their individual efforts to improve performance.

Authentic and Fallacious Programmes
Authentic club programmes accurately assess its membersí needs and offer appropriate activities and/or support. These activities follow a hierarchy in sequence beginning with primary needs and continuing toward fringe needs. Authentic singles programmes ought to promote the idea of satisfying primary needs but should never force skaters to skate at particular times, have particular lessons or wear particular equipment.

Fallacious programmes on the other hand misread the needs of its participants. If secondary, tertiary or fringe needs are offered before primary needs are satisfied the consequences may be that time and effort is misdirected and wasted in superfluous activities. If primary needs are already satisfied and the programme does not recognize this skaters may miss opportunities to enrich their skating experience.

Programmes do not instruct- coaches do. Regardless of what needs are satisfied for each member programmes should never be so structured as to obstruct any skaterís efforts to adhere to his own individual training plan.

Club Programmes Fall Into One of Four Categories

1. Premise: All primary needs are filled for all participants. True. The programme, rightly, provides
    secondary, tertiary and fringe needs. 

2. Premise: All primary needs are not filled for all participants. True. The programme, rightly, supports
    primary needs.

3. Premise: All primary needs are filled for all participants. False. The programme prematurely provides
    secondary, tertiary and fringe needs.

4. Premise: All primary needs are not filled for all participants. False. The programme unnecessarily
    supports primary needs.

A persistent problem at many recreational clubs is the diverse depth of commitment of its members. Some skaters skate infrequently and/or only part of the year. It is questionable whether some skatersí training schedules even qualify them as participants in the sport of Free Skating. Others are deeply dedicated even looking for ice time opportunities outside of club hours. Some clubs simplify this complex problem by offering general programmes in an effort to make sure everybody is covered and everybody gets something. As a result, nothing is really covered and no one really gets anything. When training programmes are too general,skaters who already train specifically with their coach waste their time and those who do not would be better off spending their time practicing appropriately.

A Club Programme Should:

. Not hinder skatersí progress by:
     a) planning high energy auxiliary training before on ice training
     b) not having proper music equipment available
     c) not allowing them to skate extra sessions or by charging them proportionally more to do so

Not waste time by:
     a) arbitrarily scheduling fitness testing
     b) conducting irrelevant and/or excessive numbers of seminars in lieu of practice sessions.
     c) allowing auxiliary classes such as Stroking, Dance Session and Creative Movement to engage in
         wasteful activities such as games instead of the instruction for which they were designed.

Allow sufficient ice time:
     a) by combining the resources of the club as efficiently as possible
     b) using fund raising money (if any) to subsidize ice time.

Allow sufficient lesson time:
     a) by not filling time with seminars, Club group lessons and other activities for the sake of it.
     b) by considering that time is necessary for jump and solo practice as well as for Dance, Skills, 
          stroking and spins.

Be periodized:
     a) Fitness testing must be considered in light of many factors including the training phase in which it is
     b) Seminars should not be delivered at inappropriate times regardless of the presenterís availability
          and should be at an appropriate time of the year.
     c) Judgesí and other simulations should also take place at an appropriate time of the year.

Accommodate the individual:
     a) Skaters at all levels of proficiency, maturity and commitment need to be considered when designing
         appropriate programmes.

Be financially viable:
     a) Skaters need three things first- ice time, lessons and equipment. Until these priorities are filled it is
         pointless to discuss any other supposedly beneficial activities. Available funds should be applied to
         ensuring that dedicated parties have at least these three things.


The opinions expressed on these pages are those of Cheryl Richardson, author of, Skating Ahead of the Curve. Every effort has been made to properly credit sources for other materials. You may link to my pages but please do not reprint or otherwise distribute without my permission.  

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