With the new school year officially begun, many of us have spent hours pouring over supply lists, wanting to make certain our kids have exactly what they need to be successful in the classroom. I’ve been known to spend just as much time agonizing over music and costume choices (admit it – most of you have too!) and yet when it comes to secondary equipment (secondary meaning anything other than the skates themselves) most of us don’t think about what items a skater needs for training. Some items are deceptively simple, like soft wrist guards and “crash pads”, but are still overlooked when packing the skate bag. Here are just a few products that we use and a few our coach strongly encourages her skaters to have.
Helmet – if your skater is young (under the age of 6), very inexperienced (at any age), has recently had a concussion, or is at higher risk for injury (older adult skaters), then it’s a very good idea to wear a helmet. I know one adult skater who hates the thought of the helmet, but has suffered a bad fall in the past. Her solution to the “ugly” helmet? She “blinged it out”. She has the prettiest bonnet in the Easter Parade!
Wrist Guards – Skaters just starting out all the way to the Senior level should wear wrist guards when training to prevent injury to the hands and wrists. The hard roller blade type of guards are not ideal, they hold the wrists at an uncomfortable position and can put more force on the wrist in a fall. The soft guards used by weight lifters are just right – supportive but not hard.
Crash Pads – Whether you use padded pants or pads tucked into your tights, any skater working on jumps should wear padding. Even beginning skaters can benefit from hip and knee pads. I really like a new type of pad invented by a teen figure skater. PeacePads™are fantastic, and you can find them at http://livekuhn.com.
Spinner – there are several types of spinners, some plastic and some metal. The plastic ones are very light and inexpensive, but have limitations in how and where they can be used. Our coach prefers the metal type with ball bearings, and new these run about $60 or so, depending on where you buy it. The benefit to a spinner is that the skater can work on his or her spins regardless of the availability of ice. Be cautious when using a spinner: there is a learning curve with it and you want to make sure there is a nice open area in case of falls.
Jump Rope – Jump ropes vary in price and quality, but it’s not always necessary to spend a lot of money to get a good one. However, the cheap ones sold as toys may cause more frustration than they’re worth. I purchased a weighted jump rope from Five Below and simply removed the weights (you can choose to leave them in if you wish, discuss the benefits to both options with your coach.)
Champion Cords – Champion Cords were invented by Sheila Thelen, PSA Master Rated Coach & Executive Director of Audrey Weisiger’s Grassroots To Champions Seminars. (As an aside, if you ever have the opportunity to attend a G2C seminar, DO IT!) Champion Cords help improve alignment and control and are a VERY valuable tool in your training gear toolkit. I recommend buying two pairs of cords (four cords in all) because there are so many ways to use them. We love our Champion Cords! http://www.championcords.com
Ankle Buzzer – Another G2C tool, the ankle buzzer is a very simple idea that has amazing results. It’s a Velcro sleeve that attaches over your figure skate boot. When your feet are in the correct position, the “buzzer” goes off. (Our buzzer actually sounds like a magic wand. You can get replacement sound boxes that make almost any sound you want from Build A Bear!) http://www.grassrootstochampions.com/retailstore.htm
Notebook – What kind of notebook you choose is entirely up to you. You can spend as much or as little as you like. The important thing is to have a notebook. This allows you to keep track of everything from test patterns to when you last had your skates sharpened. Don’t forget the pen or pencil!
Some equipment is really expensive, other items are less so. These are just a few of the things we feel are really important to a comprehensive training regimen. Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy them all at once. We’ve been gathering a piece here and there for years, often buying equipment at consignment sales, Ebay, and http://myskatingmall.com.
Your coach may have other items s/he suggests, and may (like our coach) send out a “wish list” of training items around the holidays. If three or four family members pitch in, a set of crash pads or a spinner make a great gift that won’t break the bank for any one person. Gifting the skater in your life with equipment that will help them become a better skater is a great way to encourage them, and to help them become the best skater they can be.