Learning to Figure skate at age 27?

What would you say to a guy who started skating when he was 4 quit at 13 and now is 27 and wants to try it again? would it be worth the time or say screw it This guy hasn't skated in 14 years? --Aaron

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The Never Ending Mountain

Just as your child is starting to get a handle on one jump, they'll start to introduce another one. This has the effect of always giving them something new to work on as well often resulting in them loosing a skill they've previously mastered. As they start to work on their double jumps, they might start to over-rotate their axel for example so there's some more work to do to get what they thought they had already mastered back into shape. There's always a new challenge for a figure skater. There's never really any time when they can just relax at the level they've attained.

Sometimes I have to remind my daughters of what they've acheived so far. They forget that there was a time when they couldn't do a single salchow. They look to higher level skaters and can feel like they're not making progress.

It's a never ending mountain but hopefully they can stop and look around at the view from the height they've already climbed.

How tall can a male figure skater be?

Well, this is one of the more unusual questions I've received to date. The good news is that there is no height limit for male figure skaters. They do tend to be shorter than average but that doesn't mean you can't be a tall skater and reach some level of success. Being taller does make the skills a little more difficult because your centre of gravity is higher, and without getting into a lot of physics, someone who is really tall will have slightly more difficulty mastering the skills.

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I'm turning 17 and i recently got intrested in learning to figure skating. but i was wondering what do i do? are their begginer classes for my age? were do i start? how much will it cost etc.

If you're just learning to skate at the age of 17 and have never skated at all up until now, then you'll probably want to start in a learn-to-skate program. In Canada, SkateCanada member clubs offer a program called CanSkate which teaches everything from learning to stand up on your skates to the basics of figure skating like spins and waltz jumps. If you're in the US, I believe the USFA has a similar program called Basic Skills.

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What about getting a 13 year old boy into figure skating?

Well, another question about boys figure skating.

13 years old is certainly on the late side for starting to figure skate but there's nothing that says it's too late. You're probably not on track for an olympic medal, but that doesn't mean you can't learn the skills and perform at a high level.

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What about boys who want to figure skate?

This is a bit of an unusual question that we've been asked and I don't know if it was a child or parent that asked. I'm not sure where it was going, but here's my response.

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Can you go from group skate to star skate in one year?

Looks like a question form another ambitious skater. The answer to the question of can you progress through all the group skating levels of CanSkate to STARSkate in one year isn't easy to answer. In general, I'd say it's unlikely. It would take some physical as well as mental maturity to do develop that much skill that quickly. However, if you have a good amount of natural athletic ability, particularly good balance, and took classes 3 or likely more times a week,

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how long does it take for a kid to learn how to ice skate?

This is one of these questions that doesn't have one answer. It depends on how you define "ice skate" and at what point they're done learning. One of my daughters who was 3.5 years learned to skate in about an hour. She still fell down a lot, but she could perform the act of moving her feet and gliding a little bit.

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Boys who figure skate

If you were a 14-18-year old boy, can you think of any place you'd rather be than a figure skating club? Think about it. Girl to boy ratio of about 10 to 1. Now if only I'd figured that out when I was 5 so that I could have been a good skater when I was a teenager.

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In level 5 figure skating, do you need to wear a helmet?

This question clearly came from a CanSkate Level 5 skater who is looking to shed their helmet but it's a worthy question.

In general, most skating clubs like their CanSkaters to wear helmets until they graduate up to formal figure skating lessons.

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How many hours per week should an 8 year old who is starting figure skating skate?

That's a really loaded question. There isn't one single answer. It depends on what your objectives are for the sport and the skater's talent. If your objectives are to start wining in STARSkate competitions then you've probably got a bit of catching up to do. Other skaters have started as young as 3.5 or 4 years old but that doesn't mean you can't catch up.

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How much time do I have to spend at the rink?

You'll probably start off at 1 hour per week. You can do more of course but typically, if your daughter is 4 or 5 years old, 1 or 2 hours per week will be lots. In Canada, they'd be doing the CanSkate program.

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What is the road map for this sport?

Not every skater has the interest, motivation, talent, or money to be a high performing competitive skater, but that doesn't mean that they can't keep skating and enjoy themselves. There are basically three tracks: recreational, competitive and testing.

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How much traveling will I have to do?

If your daughter is on the competitive track, you will eventually have to travel. Your proximity to major skating competitions determines how far you'll have to travel. In the first few years, you may only be driving across town to other local clubs to compete or maybe to a neighbouring town. Your club may host competitions and invite other clubs to send skaters or your club may host a competition exclusively for kids who skate at your club. These club competitions are often a good starting place for a young competitor. Your coach will likely select competitions that are appropriate for your daughter.

Is this sport as whacked as I think it is?

Quite possibly, but if your daughter loves it, what are you gonna do. Politics. Pettiness. Jealousy. Cattyness. Unfair judging. Fashion obsession. Body image issues. Lots of stuff. Every sport has its baggage it seems and figure skating is no different.

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What's with the tests and competitions? Do we have to do both of them?

Kids who compete also do tests. Most competitions restrict categories to skaters who have attained specific levels in the national testing program.

How do I know if my kid is a really good skater?

Well, your coaches should be able to give you some indication. Most clubs are pretty good at identifying the kids who show the most inherent ability for the sport and a good coach should speak to you and let you know how good your daughter is. If your coach doesn't voluntarily talk to you about your daughter's performance, call the coach or try to speak to them after the session ends (if they aren't trying to get back on for another session).

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Is my kid going to go to the Olympics?

Probably not, but hey, don't kill that dream. If you've got enough money, anything is possible.

Does my kid have to take skating lessons at a figure skating club or can she get good training at the community centre?

Many community skating rinks offer various learn-to-skate programs. These can be very hit and miss. Some of these programs have good coaches and the kids in the program may be fairly focused on the sport, but often you're getting the basics. You aren't choosing a performance kind of environment. In general, if you want the best coaching and highest probability of long-term success, a skating club is the way to go. And yes, Skating Clubs typically cost you more than a community rink learn-to-skate program.

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How old does she have to be before she's too old to start?

Who knows. I guess it depends on her aspirations but some kids are ten when they start getting proper coaching and they can still become capable competitive skaters. There was an American Olympic gold medalist (can't recall her name) who said she started skating when she was ten but I suspect she was probably active and athletic before she took up the sport.

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Will doing other activities make up for less ice time?

Yes. Ballet, gymnastics, hockey, pilates, yoga, skipping rope and running can all help. Skating takes, muscle, balance, and grace in addition to the ability to perform the essential skating skills so anything that enhances these abilities will help them to skate better without being on the ice. And a little showmanship probably helps if competitions are going to be part of the picture.

What about off ice training?

Once your skater starts tackling more complicated jumps, longer freeskate programs, and more complex moves, off-ice training becomes almost essential. Learning to jump up and spin around and land while on dry land is easier and cheaper than learning only while on the ice. Off ice training helps with these specific skills but also helps with other physical conditioning tasks as mentioned.

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I'm worried that my kid isn't progressing quickly enough.

Don't worry. You can solve this by spending more money. That sounds a bit cynical but it's essentially true. Skating twice a week rather than once a week will usually accelerate skills development. Spending more time with a coach may also help. But ask yourself how much it matters. What benchmark are you comparing against.

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Will my kid make friends at skating?

Maybe. The reality is that figure skating is largely an individual sport. In addition, ice time ain't cheap and neither is coaching so when the kids are on the ice, they need to make the best use of their time. Standing around talking doesn't really fit. And, some clubs just aren't that friendly. However, there are opportunities to make friends.

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My kid says we have to have some music for her routine and it has to be exactly X minutes long. How do I do that?

Well, your coach may be able to help out here. Many experienced coaches have a small library of music that they can use. If you want to do it yourself, you probably have to start with a piece of instrumental music (no vocals).

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How do you book ice time?

Talk to your club. Usually clubs designate certain time periods for certain types of skaters and you book a series of sessions. For example, Every Monday from 5:00-6:00 from Sept. to Dec. The cost depends on the number of sessions and in some cases on the demand for those time slots. Typically, early morning ice is a bit cheaper than evening ice. Clubs have different ways of approaching pricing so talk to your club.

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Are all types of skaters on the ice at the same time?

No, For example, 3:00-4:00 is for Dance skaters. 4:00-5:00 is for Free Skaters who are at the Senior Bronze level or higher. 5:00-6:00 is for Junior skaters who have completed CanSkate but have no other qualifications. You want to make sure that your daughter gets booked into the right time slot. There is a tremendous speed mismatch between skaters at different levels and you don't want your daughter getting creamed by someone 4 times her size traveling at 10 times her speed.

Are all clubs the same?

No. They each have their personalities and quirks. I don't know how to shop around for a club. We picked the one closest to our house and it turned out to be a very good club with a long, rich history and some excellent coaches and a nice community of skaters and parents. They're not all like that.

My daughter keeps pushing herself forward with her picks rather than skating properly by pushing off to the side. How do I stop this?

You don't. She'll grow out of it eventually and in the meantime, it will drive you insane. Be comforted however. Both of my daughters went through this phase and both of them outgrew it fairly quickly (3-8 months).

My daughter says she wants to do pairs or dance but there are hardly any boys to skate with. Can she still do this type of skating?

Well, yes and no. She can learn dances and her coach, or another more experienced skater can do tests with her, but the door is pretty much closed on doing competitions if she doesn't have a partner. Pairs is pretty much out without a partner.

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Will my daughter get hurt skating?

The cold hard truth (often referred to as ice)  is yes but hopefully not very often and not too seriously. In the big scheme of sports that you can get hurt doing, figure skating is not at the bottom but a fair ways from the top. She will fall. If she wants to be good, she will fall a lot. If she's small, she won't usually get hurt falling. The next worst falls are when she lands hard on her tail bone. That hurts a lot!

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When should my kid stop wearing a helmet?

Well, there's a loaded question. You'll get lots of different answers to this. In my view, you want her to wear a helmet for as long as you can for as long as there is a high likelyhood of her hitting her head. The reality as that there will be a few areas of pressure to get her to remove it. First, as she builds up her skills and other kids stop wearing them she'll want to ditch it as well.

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The coaches say my daughter should move from CanSkate up to a higher level with figure skating group lessons or private lessons. Is this necessary? Should I do this?

Yes. Your coach has teenagers in college and has to pay tuition in a couple of months. Seriously though, you'll find lots of opinion on this. The cynics in the bleachers say that it's just coaches trying to make more money. Perhaps there is some of that at some clubs, but from what I've seen, the coaches are fairly adept at identifying skaters who show some potential and this is responsible coaching to communicate with the parents that their kid is doing well and should be encouraged.

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Does skating have a career path?

It doesn't look good to me. From what I can see, skating leads to only a few open doors: professional skating (Stars on Ice, Disney on Ice, etc), coaching, and commentating. None of which seem particularly lucrative in most cases. Some of the top coaches seem to do ok. I suppose if your skater turns in a gold medal performance at the Olympics, she might be able to cash in on some endorsements and some champions parlay their fame into speaking engagements, but the reality from what I can see is that skating costs a truck-load of money and doesn't lead to any lucrative jobs at the end. Or at least, not for the majority of skaters. Don't do it for the money. Do it for the love of skating and seeing your kid learn, struggle, set goals and achieve.

Is my daughter going to be my meal ticket in my retirement?

Not unless you plan to be eating at the soup kitchen.

If your kid lands a gold medal at the olympics they will have some good cash potential for a few years and can probably make a good living off the sport for the rest of their lives. Keeping in mind that the olympics come around once every four years, that doesn't make for a very big job market.

How do the levels work in skating?

Well, you'd best consult with the Skate Canada Web site or some other similar authority for the details.

Here's about all I know. This only applies to Canada as far as I know.

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What about skate sharpening?

Talk to your coach. In general, I wouldn't get them sharpened at the rink and never do them in one of those automatic machines. There seems to be a lot of opinions on sharpening and you'll find some people who claim a certain place does a terrible job and others do a fantastic job. There are also some proprietary coatings that can be added to a blade after sharpening which are supposed to make them faster.

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