Moves in the Field Testing

January 2013 Coach’s Corner
Moves in the Field Testing
Presented by Sandy Sparger

sandy sparger

Until 1990 skaters were required to take figure tests where the skater executed figure 8 patterns on the ice, with different turns, so that they could learn and master proper edge technique.  Now skaters are instead required to perform moves, which, besides edge quality, also emphasize extension, power, quickness and a variety of other skills in a free skate format, rather than on tracing precise patterns on the ice.

There are 8 levels of Moves in the Field (MITF).  At each level, the skater learns individual skills such as edge patterns, turns  and steps in pre-defined patterns or sequences. Each level is designed to teach the skills necessary to attempt increasingly more difficult free skating, pair or dance elements.  Without knowledge of the fundamentals at each level, a  skater will have little chance of success at a higher level.  Each test contains essential building blocks of skills that must be mastered before the skater is ready to progress to the next level.  The skater should show a steady progression of skill, mastery and performance at each level as they move up the test structure.  The skater should also be able to show an increasing ability in bilateral movement,  executing all turns and steps equally in both directions, clockwise and counterclockwise, forward and backward.

Moves are an important part of skating because  these individual skills are part of  a well balanced free skating program through footwork containing edges, turns, and connecting steps and required step sequences.

When testing, the judges are looking for edge quality, extension, flow, power, quickness and posture.  For the beginning tests the skater is expected to know the move and be able to perform it without any major mistakes.  As the skater progresses to the higher levels, the judges expect to see better edges, power, posture and flow.  At the highest levels, the skater is expected to give an effortless performance with strong edge control, power, extension and flow.

Three judges will observe the skater’s test, and at least two of them must agree to pass the skater  to the next level.  If one judge is passing and another judge is very close to passing, they may have the skater re-skate an element to see if they can give a higher score to pass the test.

As coaches, we try to prepare the skater  completely  for these tests but many times nerves  take over.  We try to keep the skater calm and focused on what he or sheneeds to do out there, but  it can be  hard to tell how a skater will react in front of judges. This is why it is really important to put a lot of time and effort into practicing so that the skater can confidently go out and show the judges how well they know these moves.

Every child is different.  Each learns moves differently and each skates differently.  Some learn faster than others, but the skater must remember it is not enough to just know the move– it is also important to understand all the edges and turns in each pattern being performed in that test and remember them.    They not only will be used in  higher-level tests, but the skater will need them for their free skating programs as well.

Moves tests may be taken without ever having to test freestyle, pairs or dance, but to qualify to compete at various levels in these disciplines, a skater must pass the corresponding freestyle test as well.  Moves tests are also required to compete at certain levels in synchronized skating and theater on ice.

Choreographing the Figure Skating Program

February 2013 Coach’s Corner
Choreographing the Figure Skating Program
Presented by Tommy Steenberg


Choreography is a much broader term than we tend to think–it doesn’t have to be set to music, doesn’t have to include dancing, doesn’t have to make any sense, doesn’t have to tell a story, and doesn’t have to serve as a performance for an audience. Yet all of these elements are extremely common and sometimes even required in competitive skating choreography.

There is a lot of uncertainty for a skater entering a competition: Will they land all their jumps? Will anything get downgraded? Will their spins and footwork get the levels they aspire to achieve? Putting all that aside, the one aspect that a skater can be confident in is the fact that they have a great program. Having a program that a skater trusts and enjoys is extremely important because the program is a constant amidst all the other variables.

Coaches often make changes with their skaters from competition to competition for strategic reasons Therefore, it is important to continue lessons with the choreographer throughout the season. Too often, programs morph into something beyond recognition as the season progresses. In addition, skaters get comfortable with programs and lose some of the passion behind the performance. Choreographers can help maintain and further that passion by providing specific reminders as well as by adding difficulty to complement a skater’s progression. As the season progresses, the program should be getting better, not worse.

There are five program components under the ISU code of points: skating skills, transitions, performance execution, choreography, and interpretation. A score from 0-10 is given for each of these categories and, theoretically, the total program component score should provide roughly half of the skater’s total score in a well-balanced performance. Of course, based on the skater’s strengths and performances, they may tend to earn more points on either their technical or program components.

Sometimes a champion does not have the highest technical score but wins nonetheless, demonstrating the importance of choreography and the performance aspect of skating. This happened under the 6.0 system and still happens today.

A great example of a major transformation of a skater from one season to the next is Michelle Kwan at Worlds in 1995 vs. Michelle Kwan at Worlds in 1996–very similar technical content, very different impact in terms of the performance and her placement. Her short and long programs from both of these years can be found on YouTube.

Tommy supports taking risks with an innovative program. However, taking risks could mean different things for different skaters. A very classical program can be just as risky as something incredibly obscure. Ultimately, the judges want to see great skating just like anyone else in the audience.

It is important for skaters to watch a lot of skating, such as past and present national, world and Olympic champions, to familiarize themselves with all aspects of what makes a winning, and memorable, program.

Parenting the Youth Figure Skater

November 2012 Coach’s Corner
Parenting the Youth Figure Skater

Presented by Lucy Galleher

Lucy Galleher kicked off this season’s Coach’s Corner with a presentation on parenting the young figure skater. Lucy, a coach at Fairfax, is also a Sport and Performance Consultant with a specialization in Neurofeedback Training. Lucy’s presentation focused on increasing the motivation necessary for a child to excel at his/her chosen sport. Her key point was that intrinsic motivation (internal passion or self satisfaction) is necessary for success. Extrinsic motivation (external rewards such as money, prizes or grades) can be effective when used properly, but may become detrimental when over utilized—the skater will begin to see the sport as more of a chore and will lose passion for it.

There are steps parents can take to help improve a child’s intrinsic motivation. These steps include, but are not limited to:

  • Helping to facilitate friendships with other skaters at the rink (keep an eye out for SCNV events that are designed to promote a sense of community among the skaters).
  • Focus on your child’s performance rather than the outcome.
  • Be a good listener: you need to check in with your skater to make sure he/she is happy with his/her training situation.
  • Make sure your child is in a good mood when he/she gets to practice; positive mood states correlate highly with successful practice.

One key point of Lucy’s presentation was that you, as the parent, need to put your child first and the skater second. Providing a positive atmosphere and leading by example will help your child succeed (in addition to paying the bills—that is another one of your roles). Be on the alert for red flag behaviors that could interfere with your child’s well-being, such as:

  • Changes in behavior: eating, sleeping, appearance, grades, social behaviors, etc.
  • Resistance to skating or complaints about skating
  • Mood swings
  • Increased aggression or apathy
  • Decreased concentration
  • Less productive practice behaviors

If you notice any of these red flag behaviors and they persist for two or more weeks (or your child talks to you about how he/she is feeling), it may be time to take action. A good place to start is to talk to your child’s coach, but meeting with other professionals may also be in order.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can help your child, Lucy is available for one-on-on consultations.


Building Success With Off Ice Training!

Building Success With Off Ice Training!

Presented by Jill Smith

The June 4th installment of the Coach’s Corner was filled with excitement and exuberance thanks to an audience participation segment, but before that, Jill started off the evening with an informative presentation about the benefits of a focused Off Ice training program and the results it can bring to the ice.  She added that Off Ice is becoming more and more critical in preventing injury on the ice by keeping the skater well conditioned throughout the year.  During the presentation, Jill outlined the key components of a good Off Ice routine.  Those include a Warm Up, Strength Training, Jump/Plyometric Training, Aerobic and Anaerobic Conditioning, and Off Ice Harness Training and Skating Specific Drills followed by a Cool Down.  When practiced regularly, this kind of routine will produce better posture, more power and speed, higher jumps, faster rotation, improved spin positions, and better cardiovascular conditioning.

Following the oral presentation and a brief Q&A, Jill led approximately 15 of the participants in a series of drills that correspond to the USFSA S. T. A. R. S. ( Challenge for Off Ice competency.  That is a competitive Off Ice testing session held yearly to rank skater’s development and progress in their Off Ice Training and proficiency. 

Both young skaters and adults showed off their best efforts in the 10 disciplines.

  1. Jump Rope – (endurance) jump rope for the length of your program
  2. Inchworm - (active stretch) start with your body in a plank position, then move your feet towards your hands with your legs straight until you are in the shape of an upside down V, then move your hands keeping your legs still until you are back in a plank position
  3. Jungle Climb – (coordination, strength)start with your body in a plank position, then move your L hand and L foot to the side, then move your R hand and R foot to the same side, repeat in opposite direction
  4. Grapevine – (coordination, agility) cross your L foot in front and then cross your left foot behind moving sideways, repeat in opposite direction
  5. Side hops – (agility) skip sideways jumping as high as you can, repeat in opposite direction
  6. One foot hops – (coordination, agility) hop on one foot for a distance of 20ft, repeat on opposite foot
  7. Walking Spirals -(active stretch) start with a L spiral and then step to your R spiral
  8. h” and “d” positions – (coordination) stand on the ground to practice these positions, to add a challenge practice the positions on a half foam roll, pillow, or any uneven surface
  9. Air turns – (strength, coordination) practice these with a 1/2 turn, 1 turn, 1 1/2 turn, and 2 turns
  10. V ups – (strength, endurance) start laying on the ground on your back, then sit up with your legs tucked in and your arms reaching past your toes, then lay back down in starting position

It was great to see parents and skaters leaping and jumping side by side.  I think some of the parents were surprised at how hard some of the drills were and some of the young skaters were surprised at how well the adult performed.  All in all, it was a really fun night and left everyone feeling motivated and slightly out of breath!

About Jill:
Jill started skating at age 5 right here at Fairfax Ice Arena.  She is a USFSA Double Gold Medalist meaning she passed both Senior Moves and Senior Freeskate.  She also competed as a Senior at the South Atlantics Regional competition.  Jill has a degree in Athletic Training from George Mason University and graduated in 2009.  She is a PSA rated coach and currently teaches all levels of Freestyle and Field Moves.

Sarah Clark interviews her coach Sandy Hurtubise

When did you start skating?
I started skating at age 8 and started competing at age 10.

 What were some of your competitive accomplishments?
Where do I start?!  I was a national competitior in singles from Novice through Senior ladies.  I was a Junior pairs national silver medalist, an international championship pairs gold medalist, and an Olympic alternate.

 Did you always know you would be a coach?
The minute I went to Penn State’s ice rink, I knew I wanted to coach.  My dad still made me get a degree in family studies.

 What do you like about being a coach?
I like the relationships with the athletes.  I like holding them accountable, and directing them to pursue their goals.

 What advise would you give a young skater?
Keep your figure skating in perspective.

Is there a fun fact that you’d like to share?
I like dream about flying.  I like to cook and I love being a mom!

Selecting the best boots and blades

Selecting the best Boots and Blades for your skater!

Presented by Nick Perna

The first installment of the Coach’s Corner went off without a hitch. Our beloved Nick Perna gave the attendees a very informative presentation culminating with an interactive Q&A session. Approximately 25 parents and skaters were in attendance.  The presentation began with information about the different types of boots and the materials they are made from.  Nick’s personal favorite is a boot made of all leather construction.  He feels that gives the best overall combination of comfort, performance and durability.  He supplemented this later with a short video on the construction of a leather boot in the factory, which was very interesting to see.

Boot fit is critical to getting the best performance from a skater.  Nick discussed what to look for in a properly fitted boot.  The three areas of most importance are the toe, heel and ankle.  The skater’s toe should almost touch the front of the toe box and the width should not allow any side-to-side movement inside the skate.  Next, the heel should be snug behind the skater’s heel bone allowing only a minimum of slip, if any.  That is achieved by making sure to look at the spacing between the sides of the boot when it is laced up.  A gap allowing the sides of the boot to expand outward is optimum whereas a parallel gap means the width of the boot is too big across the toes. Nick demonstrated the pencil test along the ankle crease of the boot stating that the skaters’ foot should fall just below, or in line with, the two sides of the boot at the ankle crease with the tongue of the boot pulled forward and out of the way.  If not, the boot won’t fit properly.  Last is the ankle fit.  Again Nick pointed out the lacing should separate above the ankle crease allowing the skater’s ankle to have some flex both front to back and laterally.  He mentioned that a boot will naturally develop a small crease on the OUTSIDE (and ONLY the outside) ankle.  That doesn’t mean the boot is broken down.  Only if the crease runs from the front of the lace holes to the back of the boot should replacement be considered.

Blades are the skater’s point of contact on the ice and are very important to keep properly sharpened in order to achieve the best performance. Nick discussed the various types of blades and recommended sticking with either MK or John Wilson blades.  He imparted the fact that every Olympic medal ever won in the sport of figure skating has been won on blades made by either of those two manufacturers in England. He suggested that blades should always be replaced with the boots rather than moving old blades onto a new pair of boots.  One runs the risk of getting out of sequence with boot and blade replacement, which can adversely affect a skater’s performance during adaptation periods because of the drastic change in equipment.  Nick warned about the possibility of blades reaching the end of their life and that as each successive grinding takes off steel, the toe pick gets lower and lower to the ice ultimately causing a skater to fall forward or get the pick stuck in the ice too often.  A typical blade lasts about 15 sharpenings and if performed monthly means the boots and blades should last about a year at which point the competitive skater would need to replace them both.  Nick also addressed the subject of which grind to choose for your skater.  The more narrow the grind between the two edges, the better the grip on the ice but the wider the grind between the two edges, the better the glide and the faster the skate.  Factory grind is 7/16” typically which is a good compromise between grip and glide.  Ultimately it is up to skater preference.

The last thing Nick mentioned was that you should ultimately trust your head coaches recommendation for proper boot and blade selection. They will know best which boot a skater needs based on their skill level and size as well as which blade will provide the skater with the performance needed to match their abilities.

Nick PernaAbout Nick:
Nick is a PSA Master Rated Coach who has over 25 years of coaching experience.  He is also the inventor of The 8-Mate, Pic Skate Frame, and the Freedom blade but he is probably best known for his work developing the Pole Harness to assist skaters in learning jump technique.  He has worked with Sasha Cohen, Sarah and Emily Hughes, Michael Weiss and Johnny Weir.  Also an excellent skater in his own right, Nick began skating at the age of 9 and eventually went on to become the Eastern Great Lakes Senior Pairs Champions with his sister Penny.  He is currently always in demand at Fairfax Ice Arena and conducts skating seminars around the country with Audrey Weisiger’s “Grassroots to Champions.” Additionally Nick is actively involved with the Pic Skate inline skating competitions worldwide.  Don’t be surprised when you Google his name to find more interesting facts about Nick.



SCNV is proud to bring you this interactive live mentoring and development program to actively inform and educate you on all matters pertaining to the sport of figure skating.  The best thing is you get to ask questions from a professional within the sport of figure skating and to have them answer it personally!  That is what the Coach’s Corner is all about.  SCNV will host periodic mentoring sessions on Monday evenings featuring coaches, choreographers, and other industry professionals.  Each session will cover a specific topic to help guide and inform skaters and parents on the best choices to improve their skating and compete successfully!!!   

 Nick PernaSelecting the best Boots and Blades for your skater!

Presented by Nick Perna

 Monday, April 23
6:05 – 6:45 PM
Presented concurrently to SCNV’s Club Ice Session

 About Nick: 

Nick is a PSA Master Rated Coach who has over 25 years of coaching experience.  He is also the inventor of The 8-Mate, Pic Skate Frame, and the Freedom blade but he is probably best known for his work developing the Pole Harness to assist skaters in learning jump technique.  He has worked with Sasha Cohen, Sarah and Emily Hughes, Michael Weiss and Johnny Weir.  Also an excellent skater in his own right, Nick began skating at the age of 9 and eventually went on to become the Eastern Great Lakes Senior Pairs Champions with his sister Penny.  He is currently always in demand at Fairfax Ice Arena and conducts skating seminars around the country with Audrey Weisiger’s “Grassroots to Champions.”  Additionally Nick is actively involved with the Pic Skate inline skating competitions worldwide.  Don’t be surprised when you Google his name to find more interesting facts about Nick.

 Schedule of Future Topics 





Boot and Blade Selection

Nick Perna

Mon. April 23




Mon. May 7