Prepared by Dave Liverman
Revised Jan 2006
The world of skating can be confusing for parents of young skaters. In particular the transition from the group instruction of CanSkate to the Junior level introduces both parent and skater to a whole new world, with different rules, regulations, and much to adjust to. Having gone through this ourselves, we aim to help others with this short guide.
Up to now your skater has progressed up through the various levels of CanSkate, stage 1-7, with group instruction once or sometimes twice per week, by programme assistants supervised by a professional coach. Advancement through the levels is by the recommendation of the professional coach. Some skaters will have participated in a future stars programme, or accelerated CanSkate, but again, this is group instruction. At some point you’ll start to wonder – what next? Ideally at this point the professional coach in charge of the session will make a recommendation that your skater move up, either into advanced CanSkate, or to what we call the Junior programme.
CanSkate stage 6 and 7 and Junior
Skaters moving up from CanSkate can take two routes, or a combination of both. Advanced CanSkate (stages 6 and 7) is a one hour session, once or twice weekly, where group instruction at a more advanced level is offered by a professional coach. Junior sessions are offered several times a week, and are structured very differently (see below). Some skaters will do advanced CanSkate, plus one Junior session a week, others will elect to do two junior sessions, and others may decide that just the one advanced CanSkate session a week is appropriate. A third option, discussed blow, is the PreJunior programmme. Several factors have to be taken into consideration when making this decision.
- The level of commitment to the sport – are they interested in it as a recreation, or do they want to compete/
- Cost – each programme has a different cost attached to it
- Maturity of the skater – as outlined below, some skaters are not ready to move out of group instruction, and thus the advanced CanSkate route may be more suitable.
The major difference with junior sessions is that skaters must have an individual professional coach, and this is covered in more detail below.
To a parent used to CanSkate sessions, a Junior session comes as a bit of a surprise. The first difference, and this is a major one, is that each skater divides their time between being instructed by a professional coach, and working and practicing on their own. A typical Junior session lasts 90 minutes, split between unsupervised practice, and direct coaching. Obviously this requires that the skaters learn responsibility in order to use the ice time effectively when not under instruction. The session is usually divided up into several parts.
Dance consists of learning a progression of set dances, each performed to set music. Unlike ice dance as seen at a senior level on TV, the skaters work on the dance without partners.
Skills consists of a number of drills designed to improve basic skating, working on edges, turns and other basic moves. These are also set patterns, performed to music.
Stroking is the only part of the session performed as a group. Under the direction of a professional coach supplied by the club, the entire group work on drills to build up fitness, improve basic skating and other aspects. Stroking sessions are comparatively short- usually 10-15 minutes.
Free skate is where the skaters work on jumps, spins, and put together solos for competition.
The first time at a junior session can be a bit intimidating, especially if a young skater is skating on a session with more experienced skaters. It takes a while to learn the rules, where it is safe to practice, and to keep an eye out for other skaters. There’s a maximum of 26 skaters allowed on a junior session, and as far as numbers allow, we try to separate the skaters by level. There is however, a chance that the young skaters will be on the ice with others who are much faster, bigger and stronger. Your skater’s coach will help them make the transition, and it is amazing how soon they adjust.
Most juniors start off skating twice a week, with possibly adding a session close to a competition, or as the year progresses. As they move on through the system, some stay at twice/week, but others, especially the older competitive skaters, skate more, up to six days/week. This is too much for most junior skaters. The junior-senior sessions are coordinated by a club volunteer. If a skater wishes to guest skate an extra session, or change sessions, the junior-senior coordinator should be contacted to see if space will allow this.
There are rules, written and unwritten that are associated with the Junior – Senior sessions. The formal Club rules are appended (Appendix 1). The “unwritten” rules are mostly those that allow skaters to successfully practice on crowded ice without getting in each other’s way. In free skate sessions, certain parts of the ice (usually the corners and ends of the rink) are used by skaters to practice jumps and spins generally are worked on at centre ice. Skaters must give way to those practicing their solo to music, or to skaters on lessons with their coach. Skaters need to learn that if they want to rest, chat, socialize or do anything other than work on their skating, they should stand out of the way by the boards. If a skater falls they should get up immediately unless hurt- a skater on the ice is hard to see by others, and is in a dangerous position. A skater’s professional coach will provide some guidance and help on rink “etiquette”.
Another issue parents must deal with is that of helmets. Helmets are mandatory on CanSkate sessions, but are optional at higher levels. The Club provides no policy on this – it is a decision that must be made by the parent. We suggest that helmets should be worn until both skater and parent are comfortable with removing them. In practice few skaters at junior level and above wear helmets.
The professional coach is an important and integral part of skating at the junior level, and onwards. We are fortunate in having a number of talented and experienced coaches associated with the club, most of whom parents will have come in contact with in the CanSkate programme. The club supplies a list of coaches associated with the club on request, but selection of a coach is between the coach and the skater. When selecting a coach, possibly the most important factor is the relationship between skater and coach, followed by that between coach and parent. All coaches recommended by the Club are qualified. Coaches may not in some cases be able to take skaters due to being fully committed to existing students. Coaches have a set hourly rate, depending usually on experience, and these are currently between $20 and 35/hour. Although this seems like a high figure, it is important to remember that most skaters will have no more than two 15 minute lessons in the course of a session. At the junior level, some coaches are willing to coach a pair of skaters of similar level, and this will reduces the cost.
The “pre-junior” stream, is designed to assist skaters making the transition to junior. The PreJunior Program is for advanced Canskaters to introduce them to the Skate Canada StarSkate Program. Group instruction is provided in a broader field of skating activities with a smaller coach/skater ratio.This means that a private coach is not required in the junior session. Skaters skate twice/ week (currently on Saturday mornings and Monday afternoons)
At the junior level, skaters will be working towards two main targets every year; competitions, and passing the next test level up. Both are covered in the following sections.
Every season, there are a number of competitions, designed for different ages and abilities. Your coach will recommend whether you enter a given competition, and is the best judge of what is best for each skater. Entry for competitions is based on a combination of age and Test levels. Interclub and Junior provincials have competitions for advanced Canskaters, where a short solo is performed to set music. The first competitive level, where skaters perform a solo for the judges is pre-preliminary. This is followed by preliminary, junior bronze, senior bronze, junior silver etc. When entering a competition, skaters will be entered into a group along with others of similar age and skating ability, based on test level. Thus the Preliminary category will be divided into Preliminary A, B, and C. Preliminary A will be for skaters who have passed their preliminary Test and are under a certain age (10 years old for Preliminary). For skating purposes, age is defined as being age on July 1st of the preceding year. The age limits move up with Test level e.g. for Junior Bronze A skaters must be under 12.
Your coach will advise you on procedures on competition day. Most coaches will want skaters to be at the rink at least an hour before the scheduled time to prepare and warm-up. Most skaters will have a special competition dress or costume, and judges like to see a well turned out skater, with neat hair, polished skates, and tasteful make-up. A waist length sweater/ cardigan is normally worn for warm-up. Two copies of the music should be brought along. Skaters in the group will have a 5 minute warm-up, and then skate in an order determined by a random draw – skating order will be posted at the rink the day of competition, well before the posted skating time. As opposed to the competitions seen on TV marking is “closed” – the judges marks are collected, compiled and the marks posted later, usually 15-45 minutes after the last skater finishes.
This is an Avalon region competition for lower level skaters, and most get their first experience of competitive skating there. There are a number of competitions, including an introductory level, where skaters perform a series of set elements (jumps, spins etc) sometimes to a short piece of music. There are also more conventional competitions, where skaters perform their solos and are marked by judges. In inter-club, usually 1st to 5th places are listed, and all other skaters finish 6th. Inter-Club is normally held in February, and rotates round the Avalon region clubs (Prince of Wales, Bell Island, Mount Pearl, St. John’s, Southern Shore, CBS). A “Junior Provincial” competition is organized for the better skaters at Inter-Club level
This competition is held in January, and involves all clubs from the Avalon region, plus skaters from St. Pierre. It involves a wider range of skaters than Inter-club, ranging from pre-preliminary to pre-novice skaters. The top three in each category from Preliminary up qualify for Provincials (pre-preliminary skaters qualify for Junior Provincials). It is normally held over a weekend with skating on Saturday and Sunday.
The Provincials are held every year in late February, and rotate around the Province (in recent years Provincials have been held in Labrador City, Clarenville, and CBS; in 2001 they will be in Corner Brook). The competition is usually held over two or three days. Travelling to a competition away from St. John’s involves more organization and also cost. Skaters have to cover the costs of their coach, although this is normally split between several skaters. The Club provides small amounts of assistance in the form of travel grants. The format is much the same as regionals, with closed marking, the main difference is that skaters are allocated times for a practice session before their competition.
This is the main competition of the year for serious competitive skaters (see below), and is held in November. TThe top three in each category from pre-novice up qualify for the Skate Canada Eastern challenge event, themselves a qualifying competition for national events. The top juvenile skater automatically qualifies for Junior Canadians, a national competition
Tests and test day
Skaters are tested in three areas – dance, skills, and free skate. Test days are organized by the club or by the region. Your coach will recommend taking a test, and a fee is payable to the Club test coordinator- usually $10/test. Skaters need to be to the rink well in advance of their scheduled test, dressed neatly as if for competition. Tests can be intimidating, and nerve wracking for parents and skaters alike. It is important to be well prepared and rested on Test day. Each type of test takes a slightly different format.
Each test level has a number of set dances that need to be passed. Dance Tests are done with a partner- often the skater’s coach will partner, or a senior skater will be asked to assist. There are exceptions at the senior bronze level and higher where one dance is done both with and without partners. After a warm up period the evaluators will watch each skater perform the set dance. Often two evaluators are present to allow two skaters to be tested at once. To the watcher, the test seems very brief – once the evaluator is satisfied that the skater has skated the complete pattern they will ask the music to be stopped and the test is over. In special circumstances an evaluator may ask for a re-skate. Once testing is complete the coach will be given the evaluation sheet, and discuss it with the skater. The skater is evaluated on a number of areas, with timing to the music being critical in dance. They must pass 4 out of 6 areas to pass the test (each area is rated excellent, good, satisfactory, or not adequate).
Skills tests follow a similar format to dance, except that the skater is not partnered. They perform the set skills as determined by the Test, and are evaluated. To pass, all skills that form part of the Test must be performed adequately. The evaluator may ask for a re-skate of one skill if it was not performed up to standard the first time. Three out of four areas must be passed to pass the Test as a whole.
The free skate test takes a somewhat different format, being in two parts. In the first part the skater is asked to perform a series of elements – jumps, spins, and basic stroking using different edges. Each Test level has a different series of required elements. Not all must be performed adequately – a skater may fail on two elements as long as they are not the required stroking/ edge elements. For instance, a skater can pass the Junior Bronze Test without being able to perform an axel jump, if all other elements are skated well. Often two skaters are tested together with two evaluators, and two further skaters will be warming up. The skater returns to the evaluator after each element, and will be instructed as to which element to perform next. After the elements are completed, then each skater must perform their competitive programme. The emphasis at lower levels is on general skating ability, interpretation of music and performance rather than specific elements. To pass the Test, both elements and programme must be passed. If only one of the two is passed, it does not have to be re-tested at a later date.
Interpretive tests are becoming more popular with skaters. There are three levels (bronze, silver and gold), and each involves skating a programme to a piece of music of the skaterÕs choice. The emphasis is on interpretation of the music using good skating technique, but as opposed to free skate, jumps are limited.
It is very important that Test sheets and certificates be kept in a safe place, along with the skater’s Skate Canada number – these are the only evidence of passing a given level. The basic sequence of Tests is:-
STARSkate versus Competitive programmes
There are two programmes that operate in parallel for the more advanced skater,
a stream for the serious competitive skater that could lead to national level competition,
and the recreational programme, designed for skaters who are less ambitious.
Skate Canada say
“The STARSkate Program offers skaters an opportunity to take optional tests in free skating, ice dancing, skating Skills and interpretive skating. These tests challenge a skater to learn and develop more advanced figure skating skills. STARSkate skaters work independently and with group and/or private coaches to attain certificates from Preliminary to Gold levels.
CanSkate or STARSkate skaters who show potential as competitive skaters can “jump” into the Competitive Program.
The Competitive Program provides opportunities for skaters to compete in
a variety of competitions from the regional level to the national and international level.
Skaters compete in singles, pairs, dance and precision events at levels ranging from juvenile
to adult). Skaters who exhibit aptitude for competitive skating can advance from club
competition to provincial or national championships and beyond.”
As explained above, the levels in the STARSkate programme progress from Preliminary through Junior Bronze to Gold. The competitive stream starts with the pre-juvenile category. The ability to move to the competitive stream depends on achieving a certain Test level by a given age. A skater that passes the Junior Bronze Test, and is under 12 years old as of July 1st of the year in which the season starts may opt to compete in pre-juvenile at the Newfoundland Sectional event. From then on however (Juvenile, Pre-Novice, Novice, Junior), a skater must have passed the required competitive test to compete, as well as meeting the age criterion.
Once a Junior skater is 12 years old, they will be asked to assist the Club in running the CanSkate programme by acting as a programme assistant. The Club subsidizes the costs of the Junior – Senior programme through money made on CanSkate, and thus skaters have an obligation to coach and assist in this programme. Every eligible skater is expected to attend a training session prior to the season, and to coach at least one CanSkate session per week.
The region offers off-season schools, usually a 6 week Spring school, and 4 week summer and fall schools – these have been held in Mount Pearl over the last few years. Skaters from our Club, and others in the Avalon area share ice for junior – senior sessions that operate in a similar manner to the Club sessions. Most serious skaters choose to skate these schools. In addition, the Newfoundland Section has been offering a training camp in late June to July. This offers a more intensive training session, combining a couple of on-ice sessions every day with fitness and dance classes. The Club or your coach will have more information on these schools.
Regional and sectional seminars
The region and section offer various seminars for promising skaters, and your skater may be invited to attend one. Your coach will advise you as to the benefits of attending- it is at section seminars that skaters are monitored by experienced coaches brought in from elsewhere in Canada by the Section and the Region.
Skating is not a cheap sport. The Club does what it can to help the skaters by subsidizing the Junior – Senior sessions from the proceeds of CanSkate. With ice costing between $100 and $150 per hour, and with no more that 24 skaters on the ice for a typical session, the charge for Junior- Senior sessions is well below cost. It is worth noting that the Club is obliged to sent the Section $12 for each skater, and Skate Canada $15. Some rough guidelines are given below (using 2006 figures).
The example given is a rough budget for a skater skating twice/week at a junior level, with some group lessons.
Ice costs: two junior sessions per week for 24 weeks. $450
Coaching costs: roughly $50/month -$400-600
Entry fees for two competitions -$60
Clothing – $150 – $300
Skates – $70-300
Off-season schools – $450
Notes: growing children will need new skates nearly every year, and the quality and cost of the skates will escalate as they start to attempt more difficult jumps. Sometimes second hand skates can be found but good quality new skates will cost at least $150.
This is a conservative estimate. As skaters progress, costs may escalate. Travelling to competitions can be a major expense – especially if air travel is involved. As skaters move to a higher level, skates become more expensive, and they may wish to skate up to five times a week. Serious competitive skaters practice year round, so the costs of summer skating also have to be factored in.
Some of these figures are intimidating, but the costs are spread out over the full year, and it is important to budget realistically for the costs involved in skating.
The parent’s role
Skating can be a confusing and expensive sport, and the parent forms a pivotal role in any younger skater’s sport. The best way you can help your skater is to learn about the sport yourself, so that you can make informed decisions in consultation with your coach. Understanding the complexities of tests, competitions, jumps, spins, and all the other areas takes some time. Understanding the elements of the sport allows a parent to understand when a skater has skated well or poorly, and to note progress. In addition it helps when discussing the sport with the skater, and assisting them in setting personal goals. Spending time at the rink allows the parent to observe the interaction between coach and skater, and gives some idea of the aims and objectives at any point in the career. As well it shows the skater that you are interested in their skating, and eases the pressure of competition. The balance between being supportive, and obtrusive is maybe hard to judge, and it is important that parents as well as skaters maintain a balanced approach to the sport. The coach is the best judge of the skater’s progress, but parents should get to know the coach, and make sure they understand the coach’s view of the skater’s abilities and progress.
Parents have a further responsibility to the coach and the club. You can help your coach by getting the skater to the rink on time, paying coaching bills promptly, and by letting the coach know if your skater will not be attending a regular session. The Club is run by volunteers – consider becoming one. People are always needed to serve on the executive, play music, help with fund-raising, assist with ice-shows or competitions.
Skate Canada has published an excellent parent’s guide to skating, designed mainly for the skater aiming for the competitive stream. Although a little dated, it is very useful, and was used as a source in preparing this document. Copies are available at the Club office.