Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Forgotten Art of Skating Etiquette

PS Magazine, OCT/NOV 2010

This past September, I was in San Francisco for both the PSA Nationwide and ISI seminars. I was excited to be there as I was unveiling a new presentation/soapbox, "The Forgotten Art of Skating Etiquette." But before I was scheduled to deliver my new PowerPoint, I had an on-ice presentation to do. Standing in the middle of the rink finishing up my session, you can imagine my surprise as I was interrupted by this gentle voice from behind.
"Excuse me Mr. Santee, I am sorry to interrupt…I’m warming up for my test and I need to use the middle of the ice…Is that OK?"
I turned and just stared at him in stunned silence…Did he just call me Mr. Santee? Is he asking my permission to use ice he already had a right too? WOW was all I could think, and "Sure" was all I managed to say. Turning toward the coaches standing there, I said, "I’ll even get out of his way." I was so impressed with his demeanor that I thought to myself that if I taught there, I would probably always make it a habit to look out for him.
What really excited me was that this was a great example to what I believe is a major problem today– the lack of "Skating Etiquette." It seems that hardly a day goes by where my own children don’t complain about someone getting in their way during their program. Or maybe it’s a kid working on an axel in the lutz corner or someone practicing moves in the field in the opposite direction on a crowded session. It’s the beginner who never moves for anyone, or worse the coach who follows their skaters throughout the lesson, oblivious to anyone else on the ice. There are probably a hundred examples of poor etiquette. And almost everybody has an excuse. I wish I had a dime for every time I hear, "…so and so never moves for me. Why should I move for them?"
Why? First, respect - as a society in general, there is a lack of respect for anything or anyone. Do we let in a merging driver or speed up? Second is safety – two skaters playing chicken on who is going to get their jump in first. Someone has to take the high road or there will be a collision. And finally, there is an economic component to this issue. Mayhem on a session creates an unsafe atmosphere and a total lack of productivity. Frustrated skaters are just going to search out a free style with fewer people. Fewer people on a session are not profitable for a rink. How long will it take for a manager to take away an hour of ice and sell it to hockey?
We can’t change the world but as coaches, we can begin to change the skating one…one skater, one coach, one parent, one club, one rink at a time. We can do this by making it a focus to teach our skaters the history, traditions and etiquette of our sport.
Here are some thoughts on what to teach:
1. The Right of Way (rīt'əv-wā') The customary or legal right of a person, vessel, or vehicle to pass in front of another.
2. Programs have the 1st priority to the right of way. The program skater should be easily identifiable. Use a fluorescent colored vest or material that can be tied around the waist
3. Do not restart programs. A protocol should be developed regarding double run through’s prior to competitions.
4. Coaches should NOT make a habit of following a skater during their program
5. Lessons have the 2nd priority to the right of way. This means the skater having the lesson, not the coach!
6. Seniority has the 3rd right of way and the responsibility to avoid collisions
7. Be Courteous – "Excuse me, Thanks"
8. When passing slower skaters, always pass to the outside of the skater
9. When skating towards another skater, when in doubt skate to the right.
10. Look both ways before skating away from the barrier
Suggested Area’s of Instruction

Closer to competition time, coaching should be done from the side or off the ice completely. Practice as you compete, compete as you practice.
As a general practice, do not let skaters skate behind you.
Coaches have the ultimate responsibility to control the safety of a session
When teaching spins, it is advantageous to do so in the center of the ice. This cuts down on the skater having to travel straight across the traffic pattern to the barrier and less disruptive to the flow of traffic
Coaching corners- a great spot to teach younger skaters who need closer attention.
Avoid standing jumps using the blue lines or the center red line. This can be very disruptive to the flow of traffic and dangerous for the skater. If required, use the area in the second half of the session. The rationale being that generally there is less skating activity as the session progresses
The following are some diagrams that are handy for teaching skaters traffic flow protocol. As a disclaimer, these are suggested. Each individual arena will have exceptions based on the skill level of skaters, and the individual needs of the arena and skating program. Copies of these diagrams can be downloaded at