Friday, April 6, 2012


"Don't do that." The visiting coach said (edit: five years ago) as she watched me do my tremulous baby crossovers. "You're swinging the leg out before the step over; bring it in next to the foot and then do the step over."  It's funny how advice can be good and bad in the same statement.

I had terrible problems when I learned crossovers.  I don't know if I'm typical. After all I started at 55, which is pretty old for learning skating.  But I think my skating errors journey can be instructive.

First things first. Crossing the legs while moving is unnatural in animals. I looked at hundreds of pictures for this post, and except for a couple of photo manipulations, I couldn't find any where crossing the legs while running or walking was a natural movement in any mammal.  Humans do cross legs sometimes in sports like baseball or football or soccer in order to make a quick turn. But crossing the legs repeatedly as part of motion forward (or backwards) appears to be limited to figure skating and hockey.

I learned with beginners crossovers, the ISI way, which is to step over the skating boot.  These are for absolute beginners, but even then I had some problems. Because of my pronation, I could be on the inside edge of my skate while actually being on an outside curve. Coaches would say, "You're on the inside edge on an outside curve. I've never seen anyone do that before. How do you do that?"

Uh, lousy skating skills? 

Because I was on the (incorrect) inside edge on the skating foot, crossovers were scary and uncontrolled. I was swinging the free leg away from the body as I brought it forward and rocking over to the outside edge during the step over. Then the guest coach told me to bring my free foot next to the skating foot before doing the step over. This actually worked. I had controlled crossovers,  since the two feet were together I was now on the flat rather than the inside edge of the skating foot. This made it possible to do the crossover, even though I had defective skating skills.

After I restarted skating I took a couple of lessons from Master Disaster.  I could not stand him as a coach. But he did give me a correction on crossovers. Crossovers are supposed to 'proceed' forward, so rather than stepping over (yes, I was still doing that)  I was supposed to move my free foot ahead of the skating foot during the cross.

 After that, Coach Amazing rebuilt my crossovers at my request Then Moves Coach tweaked them to emphasize the Twinkle Toes Maneuver. And once, just once, Dance Coach murmured 'Beautiful' about my crossovers.  But the story isn't over.

Crossovers are unnatural. I find if I think about them too much, they get worse. Once I started breaking them down, I consciously (stupid me) brought the free foot next to the skating foot just like that long ago coach told me to. Let me tell you, you can't proceed  the free foot forward of the skating foot this way (unless you have really good knees).

Then I watched Coach Cruella demonstrate crossovers. She arced her free leg outward as she move it forward, then brought it at an angle to cross in front of the foot. I mimiced the movement and my good crossovers were back.

With the improved edges, better posture, balance and knee bend I've gained over the last couple of years since the restart, I am now back to almost the same stroke with the free leg I had 5 years ago.

So, what can I say? Same stroke, different day!


  1. I had a coach back in Adult 1-4 LTS who taught us that progressives meant you put the free foot next to the skating foot then pushed it over ('progressed' it) in front of the skating foot. That's what I was taught - I didn't know any better until a few years later when I took a beginner ice dance class. The coach looked at me like I had 2 heads when I showed my 'progressives' and was trying to do these steps in Dutch Waltz. I'm still trying to get better's a journey, that's all I can say. I enjoy following your journey through this blog - thank you!

    1. I sympathize. There's something about progressives I just don't 'get'. When I try them my dance coach just says 'not yet' and looks pained so I'm still doing crossovers in the preliminary dances.