Question from Parent:
Is there too much training? Sometimes I feel that coaches big-up the childs skills to get the parent to send them to more coaching lessons. Often when they go to these additional coaching lessons, there can 20 other kids on the ice with 2-3 coaches on the ice - how does this benefit the child doing this additional coaching? I personally feel it is a bit of a con so the coached get more cash. At a young age (10) should they be doing training 5-6 days a week - is this good for their body growth? I am new to Canada so I am unsure if this is normal practice? Any light you can provide on this would be great. Thanks
Well, first, it's a highly subjective question. You will get many different answers from many different people. I'm sure there are some coaches that use extra sessions as a cash grab, but the reality is that most kids will improve the more they skate, even if they're not getting a lot of one-on-one coach attention. Group stroking sessions can be very effective if the skaters take them seriously and work hard at them. A little correction with a lot of group practice can improve skills so I don't mind seeing 20 kids and one coach if the coach has them all engaged.
As to how many days to train, that is very dependant on the skater and where they are in their development. I'd recommend reviewing the Skate Canada Long Term Athlete Development document. It has a lot of information about athlete development and has some guidelines on how much a skater should be training at various ages and stages of their development. I'm assuming a lot of research went into this document so it's probably your best objective reference.
My daughter was skating 5 times a week when she was 10 and competing as a pre-juvenile. She was combining that with 3 or 4 45-minute off-ice training sessions that were specific to figure skating (stretching, core strengthing, conditioning). Some kids at the same age and level skate quite a bit more, some skate less. My daughter wasn't getting burned out physically or mentally with this level of training and was showing good improvement so we felt it was the right level of training for her. She sustained no injuries at this training level and seemed very structurally healthy. No issues with joints, muscles or bones. For two weeks of skate camp in the summer she trainined 9 hours on the ice and 10 off. I wouldn't recommend keeping that up for the whole year at that age but some kids do.
I'm definitely not an expert on youth physical development but I believe that kids shouldn't be using free weights or weight machines. My daughter's off-ice training is based on isometrics and exercises that work their body against gravity or against other muscles which I think is a healthy approach. Maybe there's a time when weights are necessary but I don't know when that is.
I think it's also important to have a balanced training program on the ice. If a skater is focusing on a small set of skills, there is probably a higher risk of repetitive stress injury.
This is probably beyond my level of expertise, so first, I'd say consult with your daughter's free-skate coach. Most coaches are qualified to teach dance as well up to a certain level, so you may not need a dance coach. As your skater reaches higher levels of dance tests, you may need to go to a dance-specific coach. It's important to discuss this with your skater's main coach to make sure you go in the right direction and if you are adding another coach into the mix, you want to make sure that their methods are consistent with your main coach.
There are several coaches at our club that work with groups of skaters. They also work with skaters on an individual basis but there are times when skills can be taught very effectively in groups. Each of them has a slightly different approach, but in general, they collect the students of similar skills together for a period of time to work on a particular skill. It might be stroking, or a particular jum or spin and they work through the skill together. Usually after isntruction, each of the skaters in the group will take a turn practicing the skill. The coach then provides feedback and all children hear the feedback so they all learn from each individuals effort.
You will need to select a figure skating coach when your kid moves up from Canskate or when they've graduated out of group lessons. Some clubs have kids move directly from from CanSkate group lessons into one-on-one private coaching while others have group lessons for more advanced skaters. So you don't have to worry about selecting a figure skating coach until your kid's skating skills really start to develop.
Get the right coach - kid fit
Picking a figure skating coach is really personal and is going to really depend on what you're trying to get out of figure skating as a sport. With young kids, I think you need a coach that is going to help build the sense of fun in the sport as well as helping them develop their skating skills. As they get a bit older, you want the best skating coach you can get but you can't ignore the coach/athlete rapport.
From my experience, the amount of coaching time is significantly affected by the age of the skater. A 5 or 6 or 7 year old skater often has a hard time keeping themselves busy and focused for more than a few minutes. They get distracted. They get bored. They forget what they should practice, etc. So, for young kids, I think small group lessons are the way to go.
Most clubs do not allow this. I watched a figure skating coach ask a parent to leave the rink because of this once. Depending on the club, you may be able to get away with coming down out of the stands to the boards for a few words every now and then but most figure skating clubs won't allow someone to stand at the boards instructing their child. If your kid is going to be on the ice for a fair bit of time without coaching, try giving them a list of skating skills that they can keep in their pocket. When they can't think of what to do next, they can consult their list. My daughter couldn't read more than a few words when she first started being on the ice without a coach so we drew some pictures to go with the words.
This all depends on how much money you want to spend but typically a kid who is 9 years old should be able to have 15 minutes of coaching and work independently for the remainder of an hour.
The cost of figure skating coaching varies a lot and depends on:
- the club,
- the qualifications of the coach,
- the number of kids being coached at one time,
- and to some degree the coach's competitive performance. An Olympic medalist can probably charge a premium.