Test Session 101

Lately, in my capacity as a skating coach, it seems like I’m always on my way to a test session, coming back from a test session, or printing out applications for the next one. To be exact, I’ve coached at six test sessions in the last two months, an unusually high number for me, and it seems like I have 52 more sessions on the calendar (okay, 4.) This means that I’m often on my cell phone in my car (of course utilizing my hands-free ear contraption…except for that one time) trying to explain skating tests to my non-skating friends.

I usually say something fairly abstract like, “They are judged performances designed to determine if the skater is ready to move up to the next level.” Even as I’m saying it, I know this description falls short; it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the unique adventure that is The Test Session. So I’ve decided to work on this.

As I have mentioned here before, I am a fan of the USFS(A) testing system and how all these smaller, more manageable goals lead to larger ones. Going through all these tests as a kid may very well be the reason that I am now a proponent of the “Bit by Bit” method of approaching most projects in life, in other words, taking one thing at a time, compartmentalizing, etc. Test sessions may also be why I believe that everyone should occasionally…scare themselves {insert menacing thunder clap sound effect.}

Anyway, here are some other possible ways of describing test sessions to skating outsiders. Feel free to use any of these in your own travels:

  • Test sessions are like the invisible ladders of skating. In order to climb from one rung to the next, you need written approval from two out of three supervisors. If you do not receive this majority when you first apply, you have to wait 27 days before applying again, so hold steady and pack a sandwich.
  • Or: It’s kind of like tap dancing at the foot of Mt. Rushmore. The judges are made of stone (or ice) and everything you do with your feet seems to echo throughout the universe.
  • Or: It’s like testifying in a Skating Court of Law. You’re the defendant, the judges are the jury, the rink is the courtroom, and instead of the Bible, you swear in on the USFS(A) Rulebook before taking “the stand.”
  • Or: It’s kind of like going to the dentist. The lights are bright and you can’t really speak up for yourself (read: make excuses.) Sometimes you leave smiling and sometimes…not.
  • Or: It’s kind of like getting silently interrogated by a well-coifed government agency. The primary methods of torture are extreme cold and a pack of butterflies specially trained to invade your stomach.
  • Or: It’s sort of like taking the S.A.T.’s. It seems like your entire future hinges on your performance in the next few hours (or moments.) But, of course, that’s not really the case; you can always meet up with your tutor (or coach) again in order to gear up and “Retry.” Besides, though it’s hard to believe this at first, in several years time you won’t even remember your score.
  • Really, test sessions are classic demonstrations of Murphy’s Law. The more prepared the club Test Chairman, the judges, the coaches, and the skaters are, the more things that seem to go wrong. Still, you’re advised to arrive ready for anything, and don’t forget to throw an extra pair of laces in your bag. 

Granted, when my students are about to step onto the ice, I don’t mention any of this, no, no, no. Instead we talk about how taking this test is not a big deal, how it’s just like any other day of practice, how it’s all about having fun. And, of course, all of this is true as well.

“Good luck!”


Any other ideas? Please share by clicking on “comment” below.

FYI, this weekend, I went on a wild and crazy road trip of not-so-cinematic proportions down to Delaware, USA. Read all about it by clicking on Cusp of Greatness in the column over to the right.  





  1. Jerry L · June 3, 2008

    Whenever I waited to get my test papers, it was the same anxiety I felt waiting for my report card. Very nerve-wracking. But yes, it’s good for us. It makes us hearty.

  2. sitspin · June 3, 2008

    LOL! Judges as Mt. Rushmore. Perfect.

  3. Martina · June 3, 2008

    Necessary yet heart wrenching part of skating. My favorite is when the kids go on their own and fill me in later.

  4. Ann-Marie · June 3, 2008

    When I think of test sessions, the absolute worst was taking figure tests-uugghh! I had to wear a weight belt to take my second figure test because I was too light to see my edges-those were the days my friend!

  5. BA · June 4, 2008

    I used to love testing, esp for figures, because it meant I could move up to the next level and start working on new things (read figures)! Yes, I am one of the very few who LOVED figures… the rink was so quiet, no music playing, everyone concentrating on their tracings, all you heard were edges – loved it!

  6. Jurry · June 5, 2008

    I love the one where the parent pressures you into letting the kid take the test, and then gets upset when the kid doesn’t pass – hey, who’s idea was this anyway?

  7. Krista · June 5, 2008

    This is really funny- I was awful at figures but always thought that I could conquer them. Well the joke was on me. Now that I judge I am really pleased that I do not have to shuffle on the ice and look at edges. I loved it when the judges would get down on their hands and knees to inspect the edges of a second figure test after all how many flats made up a fail?
    I have to say that I enjoy test sessions more now because I have the ability to put the skaters at ease having been in their shoes.

  8. Aaron · June 6, 2008

    I like the Skating Court of Law…swearing on the rulebook, that’s brilliant!

  9. sarah zee · June 7, 2008

    i always tell my friends it’s like getting the next color belt in karate. senior moves = black belt!

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