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Saturday, January 14, 2006

How fast does a skater progress?

When starting their children on skating lessons, many parents would ask, "how fast will he/she learn to skate?" Indeed, skating is one of the few sports with a steep learning curve. Just being able to control yourself on the ice requires effort and time to master, not to mention the fanciful acrobatics freeskaters perform!

Basically, how fast a child progresses is entirely dependent on the child. Some kids pick up fast and progress fast. Others start slow, but progress fast. Yet others start slow, and progress slow. It all depends on how quickly the child picks up basic skills, how much effective practise time the child puts in, and how strong the child is.

I read somewhere that children should be able to do single jumps after 8 months of learning. Such a sweeping statement seems hardly reliable, as the other factors are not quantified. Initially, I ignored such statements about how quickly skaters "should" learn certain things. Indeed this has always sown discord between parents who try to compare their childrens' progress. Also, my view is that the skater's ability is the most important deciding factor, that moving on depended on whether the skater was ready to learn more.

Nevertheless, I have been trying to target the 8-month criteria with my students, and gradually I'm beginning to see that, on average, 8 months' of lessons, once a week with at least one other practise time in between, is sufficient for the skater to master the basics and start on jumps (modulo interruptions like competitions and tests). I would say, 14 months would be sufficient for an average young learner to learn all single jumps decently.

I have learnt that knowing how much time a skater should take to achieve a certain level is important for me to know when to move on. The time spent on the ice does contribute to the comfort level of the skater with the ice, and perhaps, while I didn't think the skater was ready, there is no harm in pushing the skater to do a little bit more. I might just be surprised!!

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