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The Bridge Program is designed to teach skating skills at a faster pace in a group lesson environment and to introduce the benefits of club membership. Offering an affordable package program with one fee is the best way to entice new skaters. Remember, these are beginners looking to become more invested in the sport of figure skating.
A Bridge Program introduces skaters to a training program and offers them an introduction to all the elements in skating and what is required if they choose to continue to skate recreationally or begin a competitive career. Parent meetings are necessary to educate them about their future involvement in figure skating.
When time permits, incorporate workshops where the concentration is on one specific element or discipline. It has been the experience of some clubs that more than half the Bridge Program participants stay in skating, either free skating, dance or become a member of a synchronized team.
Who will love it?
Basic Skills skaters (and their parents) who are hooked on skating and are motivated to learn at an accelerated pace. Participating skaters should be members of U.S. Figure Skating, either as a Basic Skills member or full member. A one-year introductory club membership is suggested to help families make the transition to club membership. This way, when they are ready to test their pre-pre moves and free skate, they will be eligible.
After all the skaters are registered, sort them into smaller groups by ability. Be sensitive to how you do this to ensure everyone has a positive experience. Sort first by ability and then age, if possible.
Essentials to get started
Every club and Basic Skills program must customize the curriculum to meet the needs in their specific area and the ability of the skaters enrolled. Emphasis is on their badge curriculum so they can officially pass those classes and earn their badges. At the conclusion of the session, the skaters who are ready can test their pre-pre moves if desired.
The on-ice skating curriculum includes a sampling of the following:
- Proper stretching techniques
- Warm-up and cool-down activities
- Stroking, edges and power skating
- Introductory moves in the field
- Introductory ice dance
- Beginner synchronized team
- Artistry in Motion – beginning choreography and style
Schedule an introductory meeting before the first class to discuss the goal of the program, policies and to introduce the coaching staff. Include other meetings if possible and invite special presenters such as the local club president, a boot and blade expert and a certified judge to explain these topics in more detail. Parent education sessions are essential to the success of a Bridge Program.
Sample topics include but are not limited to:
- Proper equipment fit/purchase and attire – where to shop in local area
- Ice etiquette
- Ice utilization and good practice habits
- U.S. Figure Skating testing and competitive structure
- Joining a figure skating club
- Club functions
- Preparation for first competition
- How and when to select a private coach
- Ways to support your child in skating
Fees for the program should be higher than the group lesson fees in your area but not high enough to discourage people from participating. Encourage a mix of Basic Skills staff and club professionals to instruct this type of program so the skaters have some familiar faces yet will be introduced to some new ones.
Sample lesson plans, ability divisions, warm-up activities and parent education resources can be found on the U.S. Figure Skating Bridge Program web page. Go to Clubs then Bridge Program. If you have any questions, contact Susi Wehrli-McLaughlin at 719.635.5200.
Susi Wehrli-McLaughlin is the senior director of membership at U.S. Figure Skating.