Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
Everything you wanted to know in the beginning of your skating... but were afraid to ask. Relax, I got your back!
1. What is my first step to start Ice Skating?
I recommend, for most locales, go online to search for local Ice rRnks. Most ice rinks have public sessions, open to all skaters with rental skates available. Most rinks also have a Community class or Learn To Skate program, that runs for a set period of time, each semester usually being around two-three months, and others have rolling entries. Classes are a great way to see if you like skating and to make friends.
2. How do I pick a rink to get started, if there is more than one?
Look for a program with instructors who have competed or tested at Senior or national levels and/or have instructed skaters who have. Also look for Coaches with PSA ratings. Not all instructors in a program need to have reached these elite levels, but the presence of experienced staff members at part of a skating staff is a sign that there is a high quality of instruction available.
3. What do I need to go ice skating?
You will want to dress warmly, even if it is summer. Wear full length pants that allow you to move freely such as sweatpants, leggings or other sports type attire. You should wear layers like a shirt, sweatshirt and even a jacket. Your socks should be thin or medium thickness (bring both to help you get the right fit in rental skates) and must extend above the height of the skates to prevent blisters. Do not wear two pair of socks to “keep your feet warm”. Remember gloves. Even though rinks are not “freezing cold”, your hands may get and the ice is actually far below freezing temperatures and its uncomfortable to touch, especially for little kids.
4. Do I need to wear safety equipment like when I ski or go rollerblading?
That depends on you. Unstable, new but older skaters and young children should seriously consider wearing head protection such as a rounded back helmet (helmet recommendations coming soon) or a protective headband (also coming soon). Young children (and adults) may benefit from other padding like knee, elbow or butt pads (recommendations pending). Please check my reviews for easy to purchase, quality products. I do not recommend wearing plastic wrist guards. They tend to slide on the ice when people fall, rather than protecting the wrist. Because ice skaters usually slide when they fall, the wrist injuries common in rollerblading and skateboarding are less frequent, though not impossible, on the ice. For full disclosure, I did once break my wrist when I made a major, and quite stupid, technical error on a jump. It was all my own fault and I had been skating close to 10 years before it happened.
5. What do I do if I can not skate when I try it out at the public session?
Most rinks have a form or “walker” for nervous or unstable skaters to rent. They are sometimes made to look like molded plastic animals (some you can push a friend around) to make it more fun. They are worth the small extra cost. You can also contact the rink to request an introductory private lesson.
6. What happens at a skating class?
Sign up in advance. Arrive early, because skating school is usually the highest volume time that in a rink. You will check in with the staff usually and rent skates if necessary. Many but not all rinks include rental in the class fees. Only bring what you need. Not all rinks have secure places to leave your stuff. Some have lockers to rent. You will be guided to a class location on the surface of the rink or rink side . Many first-time classes will meet off ice to go over safety basics like falling down and standing up, proper balance, skate tying. Your instructor(s) will then help you onto the ice and over to the class area. You might be able to stand and glide on your own, but if not they will either hold your hand or provide you with something to help you balance as you build your confidence.
7. I enjoyed my class and want to buy skates. What do I do?
If there is a skate shop at the rink, that is your place to start. You can also ask an experienced skater/parent where they get their skates. There are good entry level skates available online but you might not get a bargain. Skates are not sized the same as shoes. The skate technicians know how to pick a skate for the right level and foot shape (each brand differs). Please refer to my reviews (insert link) section for more information on a number of different types of skates and places to get them online if that is your only option.
8. What is the best brand of skates?
There isn’t one. There are mediocre brands that are only appropriate as a replacement for a rental (purely recreational, appropriate to skate around the rink for fun on a public session or in the earliest part of your classes). Pro shops usually sell mostly well known brands. I recommend getting fitted by a professional.
9. Help, there are so many skate options. I feel overwhelmed.
This is where you should rely on the skate technician. Each brand fits differently, so the boot should be fitted to your foot shape. Skate stiffness should match the skater. The skate technician will look at your feet to see the general shape and look for how your foot functions. He/she will ask a series of questions. How often do you plan to skate? What level are you? How long have you been skating? Do you have a private coach (some coaches prefer certain brands/models of skate or blade over others)? They may ask more personal questions such as age and weight, to determine need for growing room, determine the right stiffness and foot development safety. These are all important questions to out you in the right equipment, so don’t be insulted. We don’t all look our weight or age.
10. How do I pick a private instructor?
You may be approached by your instructor about lessons. That’s great. You already know them. If you have taken lessons with a few instructors, you should feel comfortable talking to them. Take some spare time to sit in the stands and observe them teaching private lessons. Observe the level of their skaters. Do their students seem to like them? Are they appropriate with them physically and verbally for your learning style? Are the skaters advancing? Pick the ones who you feel match what you want. My colleagues may disagree with me on this one. I recommend trying out a few coaches for a couple lessons each. You must be completely honest with them that you are trying them and some other coaches. We have struct guidelines about coach-coach and coach- student relationships in some facilities and not being honest with the coaches can cause them to be uncomfortable or even violate their workplace and governing body rules. Remember that the “best coach” in the rink may not be the right coach for you or your skater.
11. My skates hurt or don’t feel right. Did I get the wrong skates?
Don’t panic. Skates have to be broken in. Ask the skate shop or your instructor if you are tying them correctly for break in and how long to wait until you can tie them to the top. If you have painful pressure points and a skate that is either heat moldable or adjustable (the shop can tell you) go ahead and mark the sore spots with a dot on the outside of the boot (a little black dot is fine) after skating. This is not an option with the very inexpensive skates. They can “punch out” space for the ankle bones and foot bumps. If you are experiencing blisters or feel you heel lifting in the skate that is a sign of too much space somewhere. It might be how you are tying it or you may need to adjust it, add a lift/orthotic/ankle sleeve/pad. This is part of the break in period. If it continues, be persistent but patient with your skate tech. The skate tech cannot feel what you feel. Heel lift and blisters can cause real injuries long term, so make sure it is addressed ASAP.
12. I like my coach but and frustrated with some aspect of how I am learning. What do I do?
I recommend treating your coach relationship like any other. Communication is key from the beginning. First or all, You should have some reasonable goals and expectations, according to how often you skate, how many lessons you take weekly, whether or not you are doing level appropriate off ice training and your overall fitness level and commitment to the sport. I have seen many people switch coaches because their friend is advancing faster, despite the fact that the friend is skating three times as much and taking many more lesson a week. Has your coach told you that your commitment to training does not match your expectation? If so, you first need to either change your level of commitment or your expectations. Follow your coach’s guidance to the letter. If you then follow their guidance for a sufficient amount of time, and I mean months not weeks, and you are not advancing, it is time to respectfully discuss it with them. They may want to add a secondary coach for something specific; Pole harness, choreography, skating skills, spins etc. They may recommend a different coach. Not all coaches try to hang on to skaters beyond the appropriate time frame. I have more than once assisted skaters in their coach search, when I was not the correct person for them. You MUST compare apple to apples: Similar skaters in terms of age and physique, similar amounts of ice time training and lesson time, etc. Be honest with yourself as to what you can accomplish.
13. I want to take private lessons. How do I pick a coach?
I always recommend observation. Spend some time just watching and listening to coaches. Does their tone and verbal instruction work for you? Do you like their body language? How engaged are they with their skaters? Do they stand by the wall most of time or do they actively engage with the skaters. Keep in mind that older and more experienced coaches will tend to be a little more verbal than younger and newer coaches who may rely more on their ability to demonstrate. How does your skater learn best? Are their skaters progressing? (again looking at progress is more important than the level of the coaches' skaters) Ask coaches about their style and what their skaters accomplish. What have they done in the past and what are they currently doing? Coaches’ careers are cyclical. We may have years when we have a lot of higher level skaters and seasons with a lot of new athletes. Our skaters only skate a limited time of their lives. Even our top athletes eventually stop taking lessons and new customers of their coach won’t see them. Many things impact a coaches student base: life occurrences (did the coach just have a child, go back to school, have an illness, take care of an ageing parent etc), where we are in the Olympic year cycle, had they been selecting certain types of students during a certain time period. Ask them about their clientele. Ask about students who are like your skater or what they want to achieve within a certain timeframe.
14. What does it take to be a competitive skater?
Like the famous quote “If you want to get to Carnegie hall, practice, practice, practice.” We tend to group skaters into competitive and recreational. However, it is more complex than that. There are skaters who exclusively take skating tests, skaters who are on an elite competitive track (or want to be), recreational competitive skaters, adult skaters etc. Mileage on the ice, if well spent, is essential to learn. You can’t practice skating on your couch. A truly competitive skater, meaning one who plans to compete through to high levels or a the very least do strong double jumps, will skate 5-6 days a week. Usually six. They will take dance classes and do off-ice training, which may include using a spin harness. Testing only and competitively recreational skaters may skate 3-6 days a week. The rate of progress and quality of learning is directly proportional to the amount that they skate and the skill of their coach in training athletes. Very strong coach may be able to produce a decently competitive skater in as little as 3-4 days a week .They may not win but keep up somewhat close in pace to the other skaters their age and level. Same with testers. They will have more success skating every day but can go at a “slow but steady” pace if necessary. Purely recreational skaters will skate 2-3 days a week. They may be able to participate in basic skills competitions, recitals and group classes. If they compete in the competitive tracks, they will not place well but may want the challenge anyway. Adult skaters run the gamut of these categories. They tend to skate regularly and frequently, but learn at a slower pace and have a completely different testing and competitive track.1. Am I (or my child) too old to start ice skating or hockey?
Absolutely not. I have worked with adults starting in their senior years, albeit with caution. Most rinks offer Adult only classes. There is a completely separate track for adult skaters. There are specific tests for Adult skaters. We have Adult only competitions and Adult events at regular competitions. Many skaters have started a little older. Is there an advantage to starting young? Yes there is. Muscle memory takes time and develops best when we are young. If you want to become a competitive skater, start young. Most skaters start in early elementary school. That doesn’t mean that a skater starting a little later wont be successful. They just have t be willing to wait for success and work hard to overcome a few obstacles.
15. My child wants to figure skate but I want him/her to play hockey, to toughen him/her up. What can I do?
Hockey is great. Super sport. Your child will learn his character from the examples you and his mentors set. I work with a lot of hockey players. Now to answer your question. Doing any sport can teach your child self discipline, grit, determination, athleticism, sportsmanship, how to push through pain, character, how to practice, how to follow through with something, body awareness and a lot of rules. Nothing about hockey is any more “toughening” than any other sport. Figure skaters train 2-5 hours a day and take thousands of falls to learn a skill. If it takes 10, 000 attempts to master a skill, just think how hard a skater has to work to learn 6 single, 6 double, 6 triple and now 6 quad jumps. Then there are the spins (six basic positions and dozens of difficult variations, flying spins and spin combinations) A Triple axel rotates 1,260 degrees in just over half a second. They have to spin as many as 25-30 times or more in a handful of seconds to achieve the highest difficulty level and then jump just a few seconds later. Their heart rate may reach close to 200 beats er minute during a 4.5 minute senior long program. Now what were you saying about toughening up your kid?
16. I played soccer and I don’t really want my kid being judged, but he doesn’t like team sports.
Totally ok. A lot of people thrive in individual sports. In the skating world, we have speed skating and figure skating. There are many individual sports that don’t involve being judged subjectively, speed skating being one of them. It’s unavoidable in figure skating. We do now have a great judging system called IJS, the International Judging System. The scoring involved a technical panel that calls out the specific jumps, spins and step sequences, and only whether they have been achieved. Each technical element has a specific value, (example below) A separate panel of judges gives each individual technical element a series of pluses and minuses to increase or decrease its value based on specific criteria. my job as a coaches is to make sure that my skaters understand where they stand with their scores, what they can expect to receive in different scenarios. The judging panel also scores several program components, for the artistic side of the sport. It’s about as fair as we can get. Is it perfect? no, but they do try to get close.
17. I want to compete. What do I do next?
First of all, ask your private coach. If you don’t have one, you will need one. Got your coach? OK, now you will need a program. Your coach will probably recommend music. Warning, your favorite song may be an eye roller for the skating world. Ahem “Let it go circa …”. Ask your coach. They will have ideas about good music for you. We know what sounds good in the rinks. Some beautiful music sounds horrible over rink sound systems. Same with some pop music. Your coach ca guide you to good music. You will develop an ear for the right music. Movie soundtracks often work because they are designed to play over a sound system very similar to what we use. may or may not like doing choreography. Most of us do choreography, but we also bring in other coaches to help with some aspects of the program construction or presentation training, so that we can focus on overall direction of the skater. Once your music is ready, you will be placed in an appropriate level for your skills and the choreography begns. Once you have a program, practice it as often as posssiblt with your music. It takes months to prepare for a competition, so plan well in advance. Pick several competitions with at least a few week sin between to learn fomr one and try to improve nefor the next. Now you need a costume.
18. Where can I get a costume?
There are great dressmakers locally in most places and online. Ask around, especially if you see a dress that you like. You can buy a simple dress from the local skate shop or Amazon. For a basic skills event, it may or may not need more embellishment. You may need a slight alteration to get it to fit. Online dressmakers can make both plain and embellished dresses. Some skaters buy semicustom dresses form top dressmakers then save money by crystalling or otherwise decorating them at home. If you enjoy sewing or want to learn, to make costumes, you will need a machine that has the stitches for spandex. Competitive skaters MUST have appropriate attire. It will be reflected in your results, as your costume is part of your artistic presentation. On a limited budget? Keep it simple. Simple and tasteful is better than cheap looking or poorly fit but fancy.
19. How many lesson should I take?
The “rule” sounds something like that. For every half hour of skating you should practice .5-1.5 hours. There are definitely exceptions, but it us a good guide. It is actually very important for skaters to balance practice and instruction. They need to do some unsupervised practice in order to reinforce their memory of the lesson. Otherwise, we end up with skaters who need all their information spoon fed to them. Too much unsupervised practice leads to bad habits, very quickly. Strike the right balance for you and your budget, but keep in mind the consequences of how you train, both good and bad. “Shared” lessons are a great way to reduce the cost of instruction while reaping many benefits if private instruction.
19. Am I (or my child) too old to start ice skating or hockey?
Absolutely not. I have worked with adults starting in their senior years, albeit with caution. Most rinks offer Adult only classes. There is a completely separate track for adult skaters. There are specific tests for Adult skaters. We have Adult only competitions and Adult events at regular competitions. Many skaters have started a little older. Is there an advantage to starting young? Yes there is. Muscle memory takes time and develops best when we are young. If you want to become a competitive skater, start young. Most skaters start in early elementary school. That doesn’t mean that a skater starting a little later wont be successful. Older youth actually pick up the earlier skills more quickly than little ones.They just have to be willing to wait for success and work hard to overcome a few obstacles.
NOW GET OUT THERE AND SKATE