Is there too much training?

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

My Answer

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.