If you want your child to get the right introduction to figure skating, learn proper skills, and have the kind of positive experience that make them love the sport, look for a local skating association or recreation program that follows the Skate Canada recommendations for each age.
Following the Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model, Skate Canada has developed specific guidelines for children’s skating at the elementary school age levels.
Learn to skate (females aged 3-9, males aged 3-8)
Properly designed Learn to Skate programs should introduce your child to skating in a fun and inclusive environment. Because children can enter programs as young as age three, programs should focus on teaching basic movement skills and physical literacy. They should also learn motor and skating-specific technical skills. Your child may also be introduced to the concept of performance; competition is not emphasized, but your child may get the opportunity to perform in fun team meets with no rankings after age five. Training sessions begin lightly but become slightly longer and more routine towards the end of this stage.
Learn to train (females aged 7-11, males aged 8-12)
In the Learn to Train stage, your child should continue to develop basic movement skills. As they progress, they should be introduced to more advanced technical skating skills and knowledge, including rules, artistry, and choreography. Commitment levels will increase, and your child may be encouraged to do off-ice training. Coaches should individualize training plans for each child according to their level of development and maturation. Although the emphasis remains on training rather than winning, your child may start to participate in more competitions, ranging from one per year at the beginning of the stage to 4-6 competitions by the end of it.
Learn to Compete (females aged 9-13, males aged 10-14)
Your child may have the opportunity to enter the Learn to Compete stage of training and competition towards the end of elementary school. In this stage, coaches work to consolidate your child’s figure skating skills and refine them through increased competition. Skate Canada judges and officials begin playing a larger role in competitions. For your child, the focus during competition should simply be to develop confidence and familiarity with competition, not the result. Coaches and parents should guard against over-competing, as it can lead to burnout and/or injury.
When you look at a figure skating program for your child, don’t be afraid to ask if they follow the Skate Canada LTAD guidelines. For more information on Skate Canada’s development program, contact them directly.
You can learn more about quality figure skating programs at Canadian Sport for Life.