About Learn-to-Skate Programs
Most skaters get their earliest training in a "group lesson" environment. This is a very cost-effective way to begin a journey onto the ice -- whether the journey will ultimately move towards figure skating, hockey, speed skating, or just plain recreational skating. Generally, learn-to-skate programs will have class sizes ranging from 5-20 students, and most rinks offer a range of classes appropriate to a wide range of ages and initial skill levels. Because the costs of the ice and the instructor's fees are spread out over a number of students, the fees are usually quite reasonable.
In North America, there are 3 primary "programs" of learn-to-skate instruction, depending on the affiliation of your rink.
|USFSA||At USFSA-oriented rinks, the program is generally called "Basic Skills", and typical levels have names like "Basic 1" … "Basic 8", and "Freeskate 1" … Freeskate 6" for more advanced learners.|
|ISI||At ISI-oriented rinks, the classes are known as "Alpha", "Beta", "Gamma", "Delta"|
|Canada||In Canada, the "Canskate" program offers classes with names like "Beginner Badge", etc|
All of the programs develop similar skillsets. They start at the very beginning (fall, get up, stand on the ice), and progress through strong edges, front and back crossovers, stops and turns. Students completing the fundamental sequence in any program will be ready to move onto advanced training in whatever discipline they chose.
Each of the listed programs offers several "grades" or levels. Usually, each level will encompass 4-8 weeks of instruction with lesson time of about 30 minutes per week. In most programs, the skaters are tested by their instructors during the final week of a session and are either advanced to the next level or retained for further development.
Figure skaters generally move into individual instruction with a "professional" when they have mastered the skills from their learn-to-skate curriculum. Often, the professional they chose for individual instruction will be one they have met and come to know through the learn-to-skate program. Parents and skaters both should take advantage of this opportunity to evaluate and develop a relationship with potential future instructors.
Most Figure Skating Clubs require that incoming full members complete or demonstrate proficiency equivalent to a certain level of their local Learn-to-Skate program. This helps to ensure that incoming skaters are able to handle themselves competently on the ice and will not pose undue hazard to either themselves or other skaters on quick-moving freestyle sessions.
Passing through a Learn-to-Skate program is not a pre-requisite to entering the program of standard Tests within the USFSA, nor is it a pre-requisite to any competition levels, although many competitions offer specific events tailored to the Basic Skills program levels.