The X factor
Posted by Dean Holden at April 8th, 2013
by Diane Ness, 27 March 2013
As a skating instructor, my job is to teach skaters young and old the mechanics of all skating skills. Whether it’s a stride, forward crossovers or transition, all skills take a certain awareness and understanding to acquire.
The one area that is always overlooked and hard to understand is what we would call the “natural flow” of skating. This would be the effortless, natural movement that comes with every skating maneuver.
In all athletics, any sport-specific skill we do becomes more than the technique. For example, even if you have the exact steps down to any certain dance maneuver, it is going to look very robotic and unnatural without any rhythm or flow to the steps. The same applies in skating; a skater should try to execute the proper form while continuing rhythm in their skating.
One of the most difficult skills to teach younger skaters is a forward stride. What happens? A coach gives the skaters 10 different things to think about, the skater over-thinks the skill and then the skater actually looks worse than before. This is when we see arms completely out of rhythm as well as feet and legs doing unorthodox movements.
The best way for any skater to practice this is to pick one or maybe two components of a skill and focus on just that. Let everything else come natural and once you have improved one component, then you can move on to another. This is the progression of improvement, working through the skill with repetition.
Some skills take a lot of time, energy and effort and will not always come after only a few minutes of practice. The key is to be patient and again try not to “over-think” the skill.
As I work with older skaters, some are so athletic and such quick-studies they are able to pick things up almost instantaneously. Kyle Okposo is able to make tweaks to any skill almost immediately. Most skaters will not be able to pick things up as quickly but we’re talking about someone at the highest level.
It seems like sometimes the more we know or think we know, the more mechanical we become. Rhythm to skating is so overlooked and really a difficult concept to understand. After all, the key to a great skater is to make things look easy.
If you get a chance to watch Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin skate, you will see the definition of what it means to be an efficient skater. Those are two great examples of what it means to combine good technique and footwork while allowing yourself to be an athlete as well.
Diane Ness has been a full-time professional skating coach for over 35 years. She has coached both figure skaters and hockey players alike and is a former U.S. gold medalist in figure skating. She is the Director for the Pro Edge Power hockey camps and the Learn to Skate program at Highland Park Arena. Ness is the skating coach for the New Jersey Devils, the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. She has trained players in the NHL, AHL, NCAA, USHL and NAHL.