For my first ice show, I was a lollipop.
The only thing I remember is touching my toes because my long hair fell in front of my face.
I was a Beginner under the National Skating Test (N.S.T.) stream. This changed for the 1983/84 season when the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA., now Skate Canada) introduced CanSkate and CanFigure – eliminating the 12-part N.S.T. – and seven-level alternative power skate stream.
The CanSkate stream had eight levels – Beginner, Elementary, Basic, Novice I, II, III, and IV, and a Proficiency before you either jumped into CanSkate or another avenue. At the time, CanSkaters would learn the basics such as falling, skating forward and backward, cross-cuts, waltz jumps, and two foot spins. If you didn’t leap into hockey or ringette before you passed Novice IV, you’d sweat through a proficiency test, judged by your club’s professional coach. Passing proficiency launched you into the CanFigure program with more advanced spins and jumps, plus simple figures and dance. Or you could enter the CFSA’s private or group lessons.
CanFigure and CanSkate were non-competitive programs, however, you could compete in precision and at your home club competitions.
With CFSA’s private lessons, skaters could compete without restrictions – if they qualified based on their test levels and/or age. There were out of town test days with unseen judges planted either in the stands or at ice level – depending whether you were testing your free skate, dance, or figures (also called compulsories or patch). Artistic was added in the early-90s. Figures were *eliminated at the senior, junior, and novice levels in 1990. Canada eliminated figures for all levels in during the 1996/97 season and replaced them with a new category called Skills – deep edges, twizzles, brackets, and footwork combinations.
At the time, when you passed a test, you received a sterling silver CFSA pin and a snazzy badge. The levels – minus figures – were preliminary, junior bronze, senior bronze, junior silver, senior silver, and gold. Dance had an optional diamond portion. There were nine levels of compulsories: preliminary, then first figure to eighth.
Today’s CanSkate system under Skate Canada doesn’t offer Beginner to Novice IV or Proficiency badges. Instead, they reward 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 IV badges. When a skater reaches Level 3 or 4, they’re eligible for STARSkate group lessons – similar to the former CanFigure program.
CanSkate coaching techniques were overhauled too. Rather than scattered groups of freezing skaters on the ice with a coach who was 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 … ” However, I prefer CanSkate 2.0 compared to the analogue version. It’s more efficient and allows a skater to advance faster through the program, whereas the previous structure took four different sizes of skates.
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, the N.S.T was gone, and – since we could skate – we were assessed based on skill. My sister was placed in Basic and I was a repeater – Beginner. Only for a couple sessions. I never could fall properly. But in total, minus retirement, it took four seasons to finish CanSkate. That may not sound like a long time, but I didn’t learn flips and camel spins until private lessons. The old system held skaters back (just like figures, but that’s another post).
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 with CanFigure for one session – after CanSkate. We were in rehearsals for our ice show – and my program was with my CanSkate group. However, during that session, I received two CanFigure badges.
The sooner a skater is exposed to higher level jumps, spins, (and competitions), and footwork the better. CanSkate offers a child more than badges and ribbons. 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 gum 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.