I have found that my students work much harder and stick with a task longer when they are "playing" rather than just "working". Have you ever noticed that? Personally, I love to play and I think most people do too. That's why we as coaches can make it a priority to come up with games and challenges for our skaters.
A favorite creation of mine is the Pyramid of Spins. The idea was inspired by John Wooden's Pyramid of Success where the character qualities on the base of his pyramid support the qualities higher up. I wanted to come up with a fun way to encourage my students to expand their spinning repertoire. We all need our students to be ahead of the curve when the ISU inevitably makes spin levels harder to achieve.
At a seminar awhile back I heard a comment that suggested we are not developing the spinning ability of our skaters as well as other nations. The example was given that in Russia skaters are required to perform 8 features to pass the Junior test and 12 features to compete as a Senior. When I watched the events at Regionals this year I saw most skaters do the same easy 6 (or so) without much variety. I'm sure you would agree that this is not the best preparation for competitive success.
Now on with the pyramid... it is based on the principle that achieving quality features is only possible with strong basics. That is why each skater needs to complete the bottom row of the pyramid before getting credit for any boxes on the second level. The features progressively get more difficult as skaters climb the pyramid. When using this pyramid with your skaters, I suggest you apply the Janet Champion Rule: Skaters need to be able to repeat the bottom row spin revolution requirements whenever asked before getting credit for other boxes. Think of it as a pop quiz! Janet noticed that a few of my students appeared to be "one hit wonders" and were not able to meet the basic requirements when she rechecked them on a different day. This was obvious evidence that they did not have the strong basics that I wanted to instill.
A couple of the upper level boxes need explanations. The "8 total features" box means that students can successfully show 8 features of their choice during one lesson. These can be the features they used earlier in the pyramid. The top "12 total features" box is similar to the 8 features box. This ensures that students have maintained the skills they acquired through climbing the pyramid. As an added incentive, I offer students a $100 reward for getting to the top. That amount of work deserves a serious reward so pick whatever reward you think is appropriate.
If you like this pyramid, consider purchasing the manual Game On: A Creative Approach to Coaching, which I wrote along with Olympic coach Kori Ade. You can make your purchase through the PSA Online store at www.skatepsa.com. You will need to click the PSA Online Store link on the left hand column and then type "Game On" in the search box. You will receive a custom printed 3-ring binder with easy to photocopy handouts, full instructions, tips for success, and coaching insights that illuminate the sports psychology behind each of the 24 challenges.
Now let's go out and play figure skating!
Ryan Jahnke is Master Rated in Free Skating and Moves in the Field. He is the founder of MySkatingMall.com, a website where skaters can buy and sell new and used figure skating items while raising money for skating charities.