New skating Mom seeks advice
As my username suggests, I am a mom to a new skater. I need some general advice. I have posted this same thing on another forum and received some wonderful information. I just figured the more the better.
My daughter is 8. She will be 9 in September. A few months ago my in-laws were watching her and suggested they go ice skating. She had never been but said she'd love to go. She immediately took to the ice... just went out and started skating like she'd been doing it all her life. She loved it.
My ILs saw where they were doing sign ups for a basic skills class and asked her if she wanted to take it. She did, so they signed her up. She easily passed the class. There was a week or two off, and then she started the basic skills 2 class. Again she easily passed the class. The rink doesn't do classes over the summer.
I've very informally chatted with the director of skating at the rink, and she has told me my daughter is a very strong skater.
My daughter has danced for six years. She is ok at it, but it is like a different world with skating. That being the case my husband and I decided it might be time to start talking to her about a different direction (skating). She had already told us that she like skating more than dance. She has decided she'd like to take private skating lessons.
Now onto my questions/needing advice. Upon talking to another skating mom whose daughter is in our local figure skating club, I'm afraid we may be rushing things. I'm also a bit confused. First I should say I do not think she was trying to discourage me in any way. I've known her for several years, but ice skating isn't something we've discussed other than I knew her daughter skated.
So my first question is do you think it is too soon for my daughter to start private lessons? My second question is if she does take private lessons should she continue with the group basic skill classes once they start back in the fall? If not, how does she test for the different basic skill levels?
We do have a local FSC. Should my daughter join now? The mom I talked to said they'd love to have us (she and her husband are both officers of the club) but told me there was no need to rush joining. My understanding is if my daughter isn't a member she can't test. If that is the case, how would she test for her basic skills if she wasn't taking group lessons? My thought is the club isn't real expensive to join, so why not join for a year. If she decides skating isn't for her, we don't have to renew the membership. I just don't know how I'm going to learn about figure skating unless I get into a group and meet more people who know about it.
If we go with private lessons now, how should I select a coach? There are basically three adult coaches. The mom I talked to said two of the three would be fine. One of the two she said would be fine does not do dance (does that make sense - is it a style of skating?). She coaches freestyle. I'm not sure what "dance" is exactly, but I could see my daughter liking that style. The other one of the two teaches dance and freestyle (are there other styles) I've been told it is frowned upon to switch coaches, so I feel like I need to make the right choice upfront.
The mom also mentioned there was at least one girl that was not a class A coach (is that what it is called?) I guess she can't take anyone to competition or something like that. Would it be better to start with someone like that to see where my daughter wants to go with this?
Oh my... I feel like I have a hundred + questions and don't know where to go with this. I've looking for any advice anyone can give about this new journey. If I'm not asking the right questions, then tell me what I should be asking and give me you thoughts and opinions please. I feel completely lost.
It sounds like you're in the US since you mention Basic Skills.
I can tell you a lot about how the US system works and so can other posters here. If you're located somewhere else, we'll defer to posters familiar with that system.
US Figure Skating is the governing body for figure skating in the US.
They offer a Basic Skills curriculum that is usually taught through group lessons run by the rinks. Testing for these skill levels is done by the instructors within the classes.
The Basic 1-8 levels introduce basic stroking skills and basic turns (forward to backward or vice versa).
Freestyle 1-6 levels build on those skills to teach basic spins and single-revolution jumps.
So skaters can spend their first year or more in the sport working through the group classes and developing these skills with only a "Basic Skills" membership in the organization.
There are competitions available at these levels, for those who are interested in competing early on.
These levels are designed so that skaters with aptitude and a few hours practice per week can move from one level to the next every couple of months.
Some skaters want to keep their skating recreational, only skate a couple hours a week and progress slowly. They may stay within the basic skills levels including the freestyle classes for years. The main reason for sticking with the recreational/group lesson approach may be financial -- it's much more affordable. But it won't get you to advanced skill levels.
If a skater wants to progress more quickly, or after they've mastered everything taught in the group lessons, they can take private lessons. If a skater takes private lessons while still at the basic skill levels, e.g., over the summer while group lessons aren't offered, the coach can still pass the skater on to the next level once they demonstrate mastery of all the skills in that class level. These are not the standard USFS tests that the mom you talked to was referring to.
After learning the basics, interested skaters might want to work on more advanced skills (e.g., double jumps, and maybe someday triples; trickier turns and more complicated spins). In most areas of the US, advanced training is done primarily through private lessons.
Testing and competing at these levels requires full membership in USFS. It's usually more cost effective to join the association through a local club.
The standard test levels are called Pre-Preliminary, Preliminary, Pre-Juvenile, Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, Junior, and Senior, in that order.
For each level there is a required Moves in the Field test, which focuses on stroking exercises and edge work.
After passing the Moves test for a given level, a skater is eligible to take a Freestyle test at that level, which involves required jumps and spins skated in a program to music (although at the first level, pre-preliminary, they're done in isolation).
Standard competition levels have the same names and require skaters to have passed the corresponding tests.
The skaters you see on TV are generally competing at the Senior level.
Skaters can move through the Moves tests as quickly as they like, or as they are able. As the levels get more difficult, it can take more than a year to master the skills at each level.
Once they pass a freestyle test, though, they have to compete at that level.
Skaters often stay at the same freestyle test level for one or two years.
There is also a "No-Test" level for skaters who have not yet passed their pre-preliminary freestyle test. The skill level at no-test is similar to the skill level in the Freestyle 5 and 6 group classes.
In standard competition, skaters are allowed to execute much more difficult skills than are required on the tests, and the kids who want to win try the hardest tricks they're capable of. There is also a "competitive test track" with stricter limits on what's allowed at each level, which is more suited to recreational skaters who don't train as many hours per week. The lowest levels of the test track, for skaters who have not yet passed any standard freestyle tests, are called Beginner and High Beginner and have similar skill levels to the Freestyle 1-4 group classes.
So often skaters will start taking private lessons and preparing for their pre-preliminary tests while also taking the freestyle levels of group lessons.
Ice dance is a separate discipline that originated as ballroom dancing on ice, in teams of one man and one woman. (USFS does offer a solo dance track now, which is fairly new.) It's all about skating choreographed dances with specific edges and turns to specific beats of music and expressing the rhythm of the music -- no jumps or spins. These "pattern dances" have their own test structure. At higher levels there are "free dances" in which skaters have their own choreography and the teams can do some lifts.
Training and competing at higher levels can get very expensive. Private lessons cost more than group lessons. Practice sessions dedicated to figure skating cost more than public sessions. Serious competitors take several lessons a week and practice several hours every day. Club membership, test/competition fees, equipment and costumes also add up, but the biggest expenses are ice time and lesson fees. And travel to out-town-competitions if you end up going that route.
You don't need to commit to that lifestyle at this point, but know that serious commitment to the sport will involve a serious commitment of time and money.
So there's no need to rush into this system while your daughter is still developing beginning skills. It probably makes more sense to take a few private lessons over the summer, get to know the coaches available and see if your daughter clicks with one of them, continue with classes for at least a few more months, and watch some club sessions/freestyle sessions and talk to the skaters' parents to see what's out there if your daughter wants to get serious.
First off - Welcome! I am also a Figure Skating mom with a 9-year old girl. My daughter "announced" at age 3 that she wanted to figure skate and I have been learning the ins and outs of the sport ever since.
Do you think it is too soon for my daughter to start private lessons? No. We started my daughter in private lesson after she had completed her second set of group lessons. She had just turned 4.
My second question is if she does take private lessons should she continue with the group basic skill classes once they start back in the fall? I taught swim lessons for years and I always thought that the kids who made the best progress took a combination of group and private lessons. The private lessons give you the technique; the group lessons give you the peer pressure. So yes I would recommend a combination of group and private lessons. Note: Not all coaches agree with this philosophy.
We do have a local FSC. Should my daughter join now? I would hold off for now. I think a child typically takes about a year of lessons before they are ready to even attempt to take the first test. My guess is your daughter may participate in a "basic skills" competition before she ever takes her first test, so I would look at joining your local FSC at that time (many times you have to join USFS participate in a competition - the USFS membership is included in the FSC fee). Many clubs offer a special introductory rate so be sure to check if your offers one. Ice skating is HORIBBLY expensive so it is always nice to save money whenever possible.
If we go with private lessons now, how should I select a coach? The most important thing you need to focus on is whether the coach and your daughter "mesh." The coach can be GREAT but if your child does not get along with him/her, you are just wasting everyone's time and your money.
She coaches freestyle. I'm not sure what "dance" is exactly. In over simplified terms, freestyle includes all the jumps; dancing has no jumps - it is more stroking/edge work. What I have noticed is that most girls start off as "freestyle" skaters and then some opt for the "solo" dance route. The issue is that there are just not enough male skaters for all girls to get a partner.
Another option that you have not mentioned but is popular with girls this age is synchro skating. That is "team" skating where each team has about 12 girls and they perform a series of "patterns." You may want to ask if there is a local team and what the requirements are for joining.
The mom also mentioned there was at least one girl that was not a class A coach (is that what it is called?) I guess she can't take anyone to competition or something like that. Would it be better to start with someone like that to see where my daughter wants to go with this? That is a tough one to answer because it depends on the individual coach and how good they are. Investing in good technique early on pays off in the long term. I was lucky - one of my daughter's early coaches was a "recreational" coach only but boy did she work on getting my daughter's stroking technique perfect.
Other words of wisdom - purchase your daughter some good quality beginner skates. My guess is you should be a able to get them at your local pro shop for well under $150.
How committed do you want to be? Is the rink convenient? Do you have money to tie up into skating in the future? At least $500-$2000 a month?
I wish someone would have shoved me into a bucket of ice water when I signed up my daughter. I can't afford more than $500 a month (and not really that) but now her progress needs much more. It is very hard to pull your kid out of something they love. Skating for me is heartbreak and for my daughter it's a passion.
if money and time and driving aren't a concern, I would make sure that she is skating on her own for an hour for every 30 minutes of instruction (private and/or group). If she is in privates and groups and doesn't spend time on her own it's not realistic for her to learn how to work through things on her own. Let her learn how to practice with an adult being on the ice telling her what to do.
If you want her to be a strong skater and you are happy with it's demands, I would do both group and private instruction. I would look at your coach who has the highest level of freeskaters. Watch and see how they instruct - do the kids look serious? happy? Are they arguing and crying at the teacher? How does the coach handle a kid who is rude? Then look at your kid. Do they work well for a teacher who is hands on? One who is hands off? A fun light hearted coach? A serious coach? In her two group classes did she bond with an instructor more than the other? Why?
Your coach will be with you for a really long time so you should respect them and have the feeling that they respect you.
You only need to be a basic skills member for testing at this level. There is no rush. Once she has an axel/close to an axel you can look at full usfsa membership. A good coach will walk you through the steps when your child is ready as well as let you know when there is a competition she might like to enter.
Get her skates - Under $200 can get her nice boots. Expect them to last 6-12 months depending on how fast she grows. Get them sharpened every 20 hours she is on the ice to start. Teach her how to care for them and let her practice tying them. You might need to arrive early and retie them, but independence is good. The pretty dress doesn't matter as much as decent skates.
And have fun. Skating is a magical sport.