Initially, the skaters I work with always want to know why I stress “balance” so much in their development of skating fundamentals. To explain why great balance is so critical to skating and the game of hockey, I defer to the three possible actions a skater can take once they have lost balance:
- The most severe action an off-balance skater can take is to fall to the ice.
- Most skaters, when off-balance, will recover to a balanced position. We call this “resetting”.
- The third action an off-balance skater can do is attempt to stride from an off-balanced position. This stride will, by definition, be less than fully efficient.
All three scenarios lead to a reduction in speed. The player who fell down has to take time to get back to his feet and begin skating, often from a stationary position. The player who takes time to “reset” has missed a stride at the very least. The player who uses an inefficient stride is not moving as quickly as he would had he been in balance and taken a full-strength stride. Additionally, the off-balance skater still needs to reset at some point, take a subsequent off-balance stride or eventually fall down.
In other words, the stronger your balance, the harder it is to knock you off balance, and the less likely it is that you will be slowed due to balance issues.
At Action Innovation, we stress edge development with all our skaters. Mastering your edges is a fundamental requirement of becoming a better skater. This statement cannot be debated when you understand the physics.
When a player glides in a linear direction on the “Flat edge” or the “Flats”, whether on one foot or two, she reduces friction between her skate blades and the ice as much as possible. The ability of a skater to locate her “flats” gives the skater the ability to glide with minimum possible friction. However, when a player is unable to locate and hold her “flats”, she is, by definition, increasing friction and therefore no longer enjoying the benefits of an optimal glide.
What is happening if the skater is not on her flats? She is engaging an edge or multiple edges. While engaging edges is not desired during linear glide, it is an essential part of skating fundamentals.
When a skater engages their edges, it can have three possible effects. In practicality, there is often a combination of two.
- The skater can accelerate – increase speed by driving their skate edge into the ice, propelling them in the desired direction.
- The skater can decelerate – reduce speed by creating friction between the skate blade and ice.
- The skater can change direction – using the skate edge to carve into the ice, altering the direction of travel
While linear acceleration and deceleration can be intended and are fairly easy maneuvers to master, it is during “turning” that unintended deceleration often occurs. Through mastery of edge control, skaters can learn to execute turns without deceleration and in fact incorporate acceleration into the maneuver.
For more information on these skating fundamentals, contact us at Action Innovation.