Ice Skating Test Day for Newbies

Chalkboard, test -

British Ice Skating has introduced competitive tests. Skaters can claim these retrospectively for Short/Long Programmes or Pattern Dances/Free Dances upon achieving a set test score in Open competition. While skaters can choose the new competitive format or the original test format, there’s only one type of test that is unavoidable for all disciplines. Skills. The basic skating skills that build to make all important transitions in a skating routine.

If you are due to take your first Skills test, no doubt your Coach will have rehearsed you thoroughly on your exercises and they will likely have given you some information about how test days are run. Here’s some things you may know already, and some things you may not.

How Tests are Organised

You’re ready! – Once your skills are “test ready” and consistent, your coach will suggest you enter you test. This means completing a form and sending payment to British Ice Skating to book your test. When your Ice Rink Test Organiser has enough skaters needing tests, a test day will be arranged.

On test day, the ice rink will be closed for ordinary skating until all the tests are completed. You will be allocated to warm up groups in ascending levels of skill. Beginners first and more senior tests later.

Unlike competitions, skaters are not judged against one another, but against a standard of skill quality which the judges have been trained to assess. You will get to rehearse one last time in your warm up to prepare and then it’s time to wait your turn. Skaters run through their test skills for the judge or judges (2 judges for higher level tests). When it is your turn you will be on the ice alone to skate through your test.

Test Day Etiquette

Shh! – Keep your voice down when waiting for your warm up/turn. The quiet atmosphere is to allow the testing skater to concentrate and also the judges. 

Forbidden! – No photos or videos of the tests in action, yours or anyone else’s (BIS regulation)

Be early – be ready to skate at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time and keep an eye on how the test order is progressing. Re-skates can slow test schedules down, but a few quick, clean passes can soon make that time up again. The Test Organiser will post the skating order (often on a wall) at the rink. It helps if you know some of the skaters, but if in doubt, ask where the schedule is up to.

Not everyone knows

Once your test begins talking to your coach (or anyone else) is not allowed until your test is over unless you get a re-skate. For example, if you forget the order of your Skills you would have to speak to the judge and they would prompt you to remind you what comes next.

If you get a re-skate – you will have a chance to go over the correction with your coach before you try your exercise/element again. It’s worth knowing that for Skills a judge can award up to 2 re-skates, but they have to be for different exercises. So for example, if your first re-skate didn’t go so well, the judge cannot allow you to re-skate the same exercise again.

Shake on it! – It is customary in UK upon a skater passing their test for the judge(s) to shake the skater by the hand. This is in part to signal to the spectators that you’ve passed. You’ll usually get a modest round of applause from spectators when they see the magic hand shake. Occasionally the judge may be enthused about a technical point and want to give you some feedback and forget to shake your hand. That’s mostly just confusing for the audience.

Dress tidy. There used to be very conservative expectations for ice skating test attire; plain black skating dress for girls/ladies and black skating trousers and top for boys/gents and zero decoration. These days bright colours and bling aren’t frowned upon, but the body outline must be clean with well fitted sleeves/top/trousers. This is to reflect that you are taking part in a sport activity where body lines are important. It’s a good idea to make sure hair is tidy too.

Get ready to hear a pin drop – During your Skills or Elements test be ready for the extreme quiet. You’ll hear your blade noises more than ever before! It’s a good idea to have skated on a “quiet” session before the big day if your rink usually has background music playing whenever someone isn’t playing their routines. That way the quiet rink won’t be too unsettling and you can even work with your coach on getting blade noise down, especially those pesky toe pick scrapes!

The quiet can also extend to while you’re skating a Free Programme, as spectators will feel obliged to maintain the hushed atmosphere. If you’re used to getting applause for your jumps/spins, this phenomenon can feel odd, almost as though people are being rude and ignoring you. They’re not, everything is fine.

Re-skate Psychology – think positive. If you’ve been awarded a re-skate, you are close to a pass mark and the judge wants to give you a chance to nail your correction. See it for what it is, an opportunity rather than a poisoned chalice.

Judges aren’t scary; judges are volunteers. Expert volunteers. They know a good deal (super-understatement) about ice skating and have given their time to come to the test session. They will have had an early start just like you and their commitment deserves some respect. You and they have something in common, you both love Ice Skating. Surely that makes them a little less scary.

Got a “Re-Take”? Try again – it’s not the end of the world. If by the end of your test the judge feels there are some skills that you need to be better at before you pass, then they have a good reason. Many skills in ice skating are built on the foundation of other skills while some elements in ice skating can even be dangerous to try before we have learned enough control or consistent technique. It could also just have been nerves that kept you from skating your best, but even that is a sign that you may need a bit more time with those skills to feel completely on your “A” game when the pressure is on.

Good Luck if you’re taking a test soon!

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January 6, 2019

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