Coach Chronicles

Ice-Tech has prepared a series of Coaching Chronicles or general knowledge papers about figure skating and general sport movement.
These are based on as much fact and science as possible and as little opinion and supposition as possible. These documents are designed to be used a a reference point, not specific teaching methods. More chapters will be added from time to time. Check out each chapter and we hope that it creates discussion if nothing more.

Chapter 1 - Why Do Skaters Fall Down?

Skaters fall down because they lose their balance!
Even though this may sound too simple, it is VERY true.
There can be a huge number of reasons why you lose your balance. This is the subject of chapter one.
Balance, better known as stability, is a function of 3 basic things:
  1. Overall mass
  2. How low your mass is to the ground
  3. How large the area touching the earth is and the area between those points, if there is more than one
Overall Mass
We had to mention this point even though it is not really relevant to skaters as you can imagine. We will be more stable if we increase our mass but we also may not be able to jump as high or our partner may not like it either. But we had to mention it as reference.
How Low Your Mass Is To the Ground
Or ice in our case. Bending your knees will make you more stable. Most people and coaches already know this. But as with anything there is a limit to how low you can bend down to try and stay balanced or stable.
Size of Area Touching the Ground
As this includes the area between the points touching the ice, obviously we are more stable and balance is easier on 2 feet. Remember that when you are on one foot, the only part touching the ice is a 4-5 mm (1/8") wide, rounded blade. Not much surface area to try and balance on.
Applying Stability to Figure Skating
Since balance seems to be very difficult to achieve on the ice as point #3 (Area touching the ice) is the only thing we have some control over. We will focus on this point almost entirely.
In addition to this point (Point 3) almost all of the things done in Figure Skating that have any merit must be done on one foot. Turns, take-offs, landings etc all must be done on one foot to gain marks, etc.
Even more, we want to create rotation, lots of rotation! So we are pushing against the ice in order to create rotation, but we can’t push ourselves over in our attempt to spin.
Plus, there are 3 directions of rotation that need to be addressed. Ignoring any one of them can lead to a fall or a loss of balance. These rotations are on the 3 axis known as X, Y and Z axis (or roll, pitch and yaw if you are aeronautically minded).
Add all of this together while jumping into the air or throwing your partner into the air and you can begin to understand how balance can be lost.
You Get to keep What You Start
This is described by NikeŽ as “A body in motion stays in motion”. In physics it is known as the Law of Inertia.
In other words, once you start to rotate over backwards you keep falling over backwards until something outside of yourself changes that. Hopefully this is your foot, not your back-side.
The terribly human thing about jumping or any athletic movement is that we will create extraneous movements along with the one or two movements that the athlete actually wants.
In skating, these extra rotational movements will cause a loss of balance and usually a fall. The movements that you create on the ice at takeoff stay with you … you don’t jump into the air balanced and then in the air “lose your balance” it doesn’t work that way.
What you start on the takeoff stays with you in the air and you’ll pay for it by the time landing arrives if it is wrong.
Next Chronicle: Staying in the Spin Position (or “You Opened Too Soon”), stay tuned.
© Ice-Tech Skating Programs 2014