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How Do I Compete in Figure Skating?

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

After taking a few recreational spins around the rink and maybe even completing some Learn to Skate classes, you finally want to learn how to compete in figure skating. Great! But, how do we do that?

When looked at as a whole, competitions can seem intimidating and complicated, but they don't have to be! The Hudson Valley Figure Skating Club wants this process to be as hassle-free as possible, so we've put together all of the things you could need for competing, as well as for ice-skating shows, figure skating tests, and more!

1. Be a USFSA Member

One of the essential parts of being a competitive figure skater is being a member of the United States Figure Skating Association. Membership is needed for all USFS sanctioned events, including shows, competitions, and test sessions. Usually, skaters will become members via their home club (AKA... Us!). There are different membership types that you can choose from, so there will be something that best fits your family's needs. Joining USFSA through a club also gives you access to exclusive club events and discounted figure skating test sessions!

2. Find Your Discipline and Competitive Track

Most competitors start their careers off as solo skaters. However, there are two different types of competitive tracks to take; Well-balanced and Excel. Well-balanced is the competitive track that can bring a skater to the Olympics, while Excel offers a more relaxed competitive environment with national competitions. Both competitive tracks offer solo, pairs, ice dance, adult, and synchronized skating. If competing is not necessarily your thing, being a show skater could be your discipline! Skating in shows is for entertainment purposes only (both skater and audience) and allows the skater the freedom to do whatever elements and skills they enjoy most. This track helps guide skaters to work in future ice shows such as Cirque Du Solei or Disney on Ice! If neither one of these options seem interesting, then maybe being a test skater is for you! Skaters can test their elements in Moves in the Field or Freestyle without competing or doing shows as a way to track their improvement.

3. Make a Routine

Once you and your coach have decided which route to take, it's time to make a program! You and your coach will work together to find music, cut the piece to its time requirement, and choreograph the program for competitions or shows. Depending on the competitive route you take, your program may have specific requirements to be met or limitations on what is allowed. Make sure you work with a qualified coach who is familiar with the process to help you navigate the technicalities. Your skater can place lower due to a coaching error! For shows, things are more relaxed as there are no requirements. Depending on your abilities, you may be able to choreograph your show program in your free time!

If you choose the test route, it is also essential to work with a coach who is very familiar with the different tests or even working with a Moves in the Field Specialist.

4. Find an Outfit

Now that you have the music picked and the program made, it is time to look for an outfit. It could be easier for younger competitive figure skaters to find off-the-rack dresses online for lower prices. Lower prices are good for when skaters are rapidly growing, as more "designer" figure skating dresses can run over $1000 and are mostly worn when skaters get to higher levels on skating. Looking at "dress swap" sites and eBay are also a good resources for skaters!

Girls will mostly wear their hair in a bun secured with a hair net so that no loose bobby pins go flying onto the ice (which would result in unnecessary deductions!) They're likely to wear a dress, although in recent years unitards have been sported as well. If wearing a dress, make sure to buy flesh-toned competition tights that can either layer over a second pair of tights or are thick enough to offer warmth. Over-the-boot tights create long lines on the ice but are subject to more wear and tear. If your over-the-boot tights have holes in them, make sure you replace them before the event. Special competition gloves can be bought or made by a designer, or skaters can compete without gloves. Makeup can add to the glamor, but refrain from full-on face paint.

Boys will usually skate in competition pants and a shirt but can also have customized one-piece outfits made. As long as their hair is neat and out of the way, they are ready to compete!

Also, if you don't have your own skates by this point– get them now!

4. Get Practicing!

Now that everything is ready to go, it's time to start really working towards your goals. Scheduling private lessons throughout the week can improve skating skills in a shorter period of time. Creating routines is only possible during freestyle sessions, so making sure you already have private lessons set up can make this transition more smooth. For beginners, having one to two private lessons a week and increasing lessons closer to the competition date can be a good approach. Once skaters move beyond Basic Skills competitions, they're more likely to need three to four lessons weekly with practice in between. Highly competitive skaters train with coaches six days a week with at least two hours of training. They also train off the ice doing different work-outs to improve their skating and body strength. Competitors of all levels can benefit from off-ice workouts and dance classes to improve overall skating. The younger a skater starts these things, the better off they'll be in the long run!

Practice truly does make perfect. Make sure that the program is run consistently, even when the skater isn't feeling up to it!

Those who are only completing Moves in the Field tests may only require one to two lessons a week. However, if a skater is planning on also testing their Freestyle tests, then two to three lessons a week would help tremendously.

5. Find a Competition, Show, or Test Event

Typically, your coach will suggest competitions and other events for the skater to attend. However, it's always best to be informed as a parent or skater about what works best for you. More than likely, if a coach feels a skater is not ready to compete, test, or perform, then they will not suggest a skater attend an event. Anyone can find competitions and tests through Entryeeze as well as through USFS. Shows are usually held by skating clubs or private skating organizations and can be learned about usually through word of mouth. However, special events that are more recreational are offered through the Compete USA program, which allows skaters to perform with less restriction. These events include Elements, Compulsory, Spin Challenge, Jumps Challenge, Solo Ice Dance, Hockey Elements and Skills Challenges, Theater on Ice, Showcase Events, Interpretive, Team Compulsory, Adaptive (Special Olympics and Skate United), and Partnered Moves. You can read more about each event in the Compete USA Manual.

And that's it! If you have any more questions you can always discuss things with your coach or contact your home club for more advice. Experiencing the performative side of figure skating is one of the most rewarding parts of the sport. Good luck to everyone at their future competitions; we hope to see you there!

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