In sports, intuition often makes our bodies do funny things. When I hit a jump while skiing or snowboarding my brain tells my legs to straighten, as if telling my feet they need to make contact with the ground as soon as possible. If I used a Go Pro (which I definitely do not do) video analysis would tell me, “hold your form, tuck your legs, relax, everything will be fine!”
For some reason, our human instincts go against the laws of physics that would otherwise allow us to succeed. As I have been focusing this week’s skating instruction on various types of tight turns, I’ve seen three common mistakes pop up at every level we teach.
1) Players lean back on their heels:
Watch a player tight turn transferring all his weight to the heels in both skates. Ice chips fly a foot in the air, the skates crunch through the ice, and the player quickly decelerates to a near-stop. I like to tell kids that the sound they hear and the ice they see flying in the air actually require energy to create.
If energy is being used to make the crunching sound and shoot ice chips in the air, it is clearly not being used to keep momentum or build it back up. I think that’s either Grade 10 or 11 Physics. There is a finite amount of energy available, and during the tight turn the kinetic energy in the skater’s speed is being transferred into sound energy and making the ice fly into the air.
If my Physics are a bit off, I apologize. My point is this: keep the weight evenly distributed throughout the centre of the blade, as long as possible. Feel the vibrations throughout the blade, rather than just the heel.
2) Players skate too tall:
A tall tree blows over quite easily in the wind. A shrub, on the other hand, will last through a prairie storm. Centripetal force is the key bit of physics at play here. Turning sharply is nearly impossible if the centre of the skater’s gravity is too high. Keep your bum low to the ice, your ankles flexed so that your shins press against the tongues of your skates and your chest directly above your thighs.
3) Players walk a tightrope:
Imagine a tightrope walker, with one foot in front of the other. Now envision a bow legged cowboy riding a horse. Or a Sedin twin. In a tight turn, positioning one foot in front of the other gives the skater a very narrow foundation that can be pushed over with the slightest of ease. A wide stance with chest above thighs, edges planted firmly in the ice shoulders forward weight evenly distributed along the blades, and shoulders directly above hips is a strong and well balanced turn. Come on, just try to knock me over now!
Teaching Cues for Tight Turns:
- Wide stance
- Get off your heals
- Chest above thighs
- Shoulders over hips
- Rotate the head and upper body in the direction of the turn
- One inside and one outside edge