CanSkate Then and Now – Retro CFSA Badges to Skate Canada Levels and Ribbons

For my first ice show, I was a lollipop.

I remember touching my toes because my long hair fell in front of my face. And not much else.

I was a Beginner under the National Skating Test (N.S.T.) stream. This changed in 1983/84 when the Canadian Figure Skating Association (C.F.S.A., now Skate Canada) introduced CanSkate and CanFigure. While both had badges, the N.S.T. was more of a badge with a pat. Once a skater finished the N.S.T., the next step was private lessons or see ya. Unless the skater already jumped ship and entered hockey.

Then a seven badge CanSkate system. When a skater completed the system, they’d either advance into CanFigure – with sit spins and dance – or CFSA group or private lessons. CanFigure was a non-competitive program, whereas under the CFSA, skaters could compete, test their free skate, dances, and move up to be the Kurt Brownings and Elizabeth Manleys of the world.

Our first ice show, 1981. My older sis was a gingerbread girl at the Stroking level. I was a lollipop at the Beginner level under the N.S.T. stream.
The carnival theme was Days of Wine and Roses.

Today’s CanSkate system, under Skate Canada, doesn’t offer Beginner to Novice IV and Proficiency badges. Instead, it’s ribbons for proficiency in certain areas – such as agility and balance. When a skater conquers the skating skills in their category, they receive a badge, ranging from Level 1 to 6 – rather than the retired Basic or Novice II badges. When a skater reaches Level 3 or 4, they could be eligible for STARSkate group lessons – similar to the former CanFigure program, only CF was primarily non-competitive. One exception was synchro – formerly precision.

My collection of CanSkate badges with two badges from CanFigure. I was also a CanSkate Certified Coach.

CanSkate coaching techniques were overhauled too. Rather than scattered groups of freezing skaters on the ice with a coach, scrambling through a binder for their lesson plan, there are hula hoops and stuffed animals on the ice. Skating instructors use markers to draw on the ice for skaters to use as a guide for skills such as a right inside three-turn.

I know this CanSkate system will eventually change too, and some skaters will look back and say, “Well, back in my day.” I believe this CanSkate system is more efficient. It allows a skater to move through the CanSkate program faster, whereas the previous structure could take years.

I was skated under the N.S.T. stream for one season. After three seasons of “retirement,” my sister and I returned to the ice – and into CanSkate. By then, certain levels were gone for good. My sister was placed in Basic, and I was placed Beginner (a repeater) and advanced into Elementary.

I am proud of those retro badges, especially Novice III, IV and Proficiency because I received them within the same week. When I passed the Proficiency test, a friend and I sat on the boards and celebrated by splitting a piece of gum and “toasting” my success and entrance into CanFigure. I skated for one session because we were in rehearsals for our ice show – and my program was with my CanSkate group. I did receive two CanFigure badges.

The sooner a skater is exposed to higher level jumps, spins, (and competitions) the better. CanSkate offers a child more than badges and ribbons though. It teaches them balance, coordination, confidence, discipline, and improves listening skills – plus life long memories, such as the one mentioned with my skating friend and our celebration.

Adult skaters aren’t left out in the cold either. Skate Canada offers Adult CanSkate for beginners, and Adult STARSkate for former competitors of all test levels.

There are two skills everyone should have – swimming for safety, and skating for socializing.

When everyone’s on patches of ice, it’s nice to know you won’t be left out of the loop.

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