Figure Skating Associations

Like all formally organized sporting activities, figure skating has a hierarchy of organizations to control it. This section provides a brief overview of that hierarchy.

Clubs and Rinks

Beginning skaters usually skate in rink-sponsored "general" sessions or in a Learn-to-Skate program, which might be sponsored directly by a rink or by a skating club. Usually, when skaters have advanced beyond the beginner level, they join a skating club and take individual instruction from a private instructor, or "pro". In most cases, skating clubs have an affiliation with a National Governing Body, which coordinates the activites of clubs.

National Governing Bodies

Within the USA, most clubs are affiliated with one of 2 national organizing bodies -- either United States Figure Skating (USFSA), or the Ice Skating Institute (ISI). Each association provides an organizational structure for programming, administration, and skater development. While both associations provide a full range of programming to support skaters of all interests, they actually cooperate to each provide a slightly different emphasis. The USFSA emphasizes programming for the competitive skater, and provides the sanctioned path to World and Olympic competition. The ISI emphasizes programming for recreational and fitness skaters.

The ISI is actually an organization for rink owners and managers, which defines programming and structure for their figure skating programs. The USFSA provides a structure for clubs which are each individually managed by club-member elected Boards of Directors.

The USFSA and ISI each define a "Learn-to-Skate" curriculum, as well as a level and test structure for advanced skaters. Both associations sanction competitions at local through national levels.

US Figure Skating ISI
Emphasis: competitive skater Emphasis: recreational & fitness skater
Path to Worlds, Olympics No path to Worlds or Olympics
USA divided into 3 Sections, each composed of 3 Regions (total 9 Regions) for competitive purposes USA divided into 16 Divisions for competitive purposes
International: member of ISU International: not an ISU member, however ISI itself sponsors competitions internationally
Clubs are independently managed by club-member elected Boards of Directors Programming typically managed by rinks and instructors
Defines "Learn-to-Skate" structure / curriculum
Defines tests for recognition of accomplishment
Defines competition levels, elements, structure & sanctioning

In some cases, your choice of "affiliation" will be determined by the availability of clubs in your area. In most areas, you will have the opportunity to choose a club of either affiliation, and you should choose based upon an understanding of your own needs and goals.

Skaters who join a club affiliated with either of these governing bodies automatically become members of the associated governing body as well.

Because of the cooperative agreement between USFSA and ISI, skaters affiliated with either of the organizations are generally permitted to compete in competitions and perform in ice shows sanctioned by the other organization without loss of "eligibility" in their own organization. It is possible to have memberships in both organizations. Skaters without a club of the desired "flavor" in their area may join either association as "independent" members.

International Governing Bodies

At the international level, figure skating is organized by the International Skating Union (ISU), which has its headquarters in Switzerland. The ISU defines basic technical and "eligibility" rules and standards for amateur ("eligible") skaters. National Governing Bodies (NGBs) for many countries across the world have become members of the ISU.

The ISU sanctions figure skating competitions internationally, including the annual World Figure Skating Championships. Only skaters who have qualified according to the rules of an NGB affiliated with the ISU are eligible to skate in Worlds and other ISU-sanctioned competitions. All Olympic skaters must be members of ISU affiliated NGBs.

In the USA, the USFSA is a member of the ISU, however the ISI is not.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) works with its affiliated national committees in each member country (for instance, the USOC in the United States) to organize the Olympic Games. For each sport, the IOC recognizes a sport-related governing body to establish the basic structure for competition in that sport. For figure skating, the IOC recognizes the ISU and its member associations as the defining authority.

Professional Associations

The Professional Skater's Association (PSA) is an organization of ice skating professionals engaged in the instruction, training, and performance of figure skating. Membership in the PSA is available (but not required) to all professionals in the field of skating. The PSA offers training seminars and classes for instructors, and manages a "rating" system whereby instructors can receive certification of their ability to teach at various levels. Additionally, the PSA makes available insurance, retirement services, and job placement services for professionals.