Not all organizations can or will follow the same calendar in a season. High-performance teams often schedule auditions in early spring, set their rosters by May, and begin practices soon after. Other teams choose to hold skills sessions in the spring, break for summer and set auditions for the fall and others may not have ice available to them before the fall and have all of their activities cease by March. In some regions, competitions begin in late November and early December, while in other areas the first competition does not take place until January. Team managers must create a calendar in consultation with the coach according to the size and level of the team using the resources available to them.
The following is an example of a synchronized skating calendar and the activities that need to take place in order for the team to arrive at their first event as prepared as possible. It is based on an average season and will not reflect the accelerated pace of high-performance programs.
Spring and summer – Basic planning and setting goals
- Coach recruitment and selection; signature of contract.
- Selection of team name (if a new team).
- A name should provide a unique identity and should be researched in order to be sure that no other team carries the same name in the region and at that level. Names of established synchronized skating programs are to be avoided entirely. While some skaters and teams do not mind having their name adopted by other teams, in general it is considered bad form to do so.
- Establishment of team goals and objectives according to age and ability.
- Choosing the team’s level should be done as soon as the coach and team manager have an idea of the group of skaters they might be working with.
- The categories and criteria for each level are established by Skate Canada. Please contact your section office and consult all relevant Skate Canada rules and other technical documents for more information.
- At the preliminary stages of planning you may be able to pre-select one or two different categories that the coach feels will be suitable for the team. The final decision can only be made once the group of skaters has been selected, their ages are known and the coach has evaluated their skills.
- Establish venue, ice times and practice schedules and conclude necessary contracts.
- The Long-Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD) makes recommendations on the amount of time athletes should be spending on the ice at the different stages of athlete development. Clubs are strongly encouraged to try to provide their skaters with the ice time recommended in the LTAD model. Nevertheless, practice times vary greatly across the country and not every club can provide ice times as recommended. Off-ice practices can compensate for some ice time, during which the team can learn new steps and transitions and perfect their synchronization and unison. This is highly effective and should be done regardless of how much time the team spends on the ice.
- Plan skater recruiting activities and advertisements.
- Advertisements can be placed in local newspapers, arena bulletin boards and club or section newsletters or on the applicable club or team websites.
- If the club is offering a team for the first time it may choose to invite a knowledgeable speaker, such as a coach, official or Section Synchronized Skating Chair, to speak to parents and create interest in synchronized skating.
- Hold a skater and parent meeting; communicate as much information as possible.
- Parents and skaters should be made aware of the team’s objectives and made to understand the importance of a strong commitment to the team, the commitment to attend practice and competitions and the importance of following team rules.
- Team rules will be used to manage conflicts. A copy of the team’s rules should be handed out as a reference so that the skaters and parents are aware of them before committing to the team for the season.
- A basic calendar of practices and, if known, competitions the team may be attending, should be distributed to parents as soon as possible.
- A basic outline of anticipated fees and financial commitments should be made known at this time.
- Hold auditions, evaluations, clinics, open house events or camps as needed.
- Auditions or evaluations are held even if the team is not full. A structured assessment helps the coach establish the skaters’ skill set and develop a training plan and strategies. Progress can later be assessed from this starting point.
- Some teams invite judges to help provide an objective assessment. This also lends credibility to the process and can avoid any possible problems of having the coach being suspected of bias later in the year, especially if/when choosing alternates.
- Confirmation of team roster.
- Recruit volunteers and delegate tasks.
- Hold a meeting with confirmed team members and their parents to communicate team objectives, rules and policies; if using a Team Contract for rules, distribute the document and collect signed copies from parent, guardian or skater, as applicable.
- Collect medical forms and emergency contact forms.
- Many teams hold “Open House” activities that invite all who are interested in trying synchronized skating to skate with the coach and previous year’s skaters. This no pressure activity allows those who are curious about the discipline to try a session and decide if they wish to join the team.
- Coaches should:
- Keep up-to-date with rule changes through frequent consultation of the Members Only section of the Skate Canada website and the International Skating Union (ISU) website.
- Any new communications or clarifications from the ISU should be read in order to determine if the changes apply to the team. Any technical document published by Skate Canada should be read and kept as reference.
- Attend any clinics or seminars offered (including online sessions) and communicate and consult with necessary resources on any rule changes.
- Plan any auditions, clinics or evaluations.
- Collaborate with team manager to create team rules and present a policy for alternates.
- Begin music selection and plan choreography.
- Music selected should reflect the age and ability of the skaters on the team.
- Create a yearly training plan with specific goals and objectives.
Late summer and early fall – Regular season begins
- Verify skaters and coaches are registered with Skate Canada for the current season and collect copies of all membership cards and official proof-of-age documents.
- Register team with Skate Canada by November 1st deadline.
- Oversee the selection of team clothing and competition costumes with the coach, including the selection and oversight of the dressmaker; team may decide to have other optional gear such as official practice outfits, warm-up outfits, skate bags, skate guards, etc.
- Competition costumes need not be expensive or elaborate as long as they allow the team to have a uniform appearance on the ice. Simple patterns and fabrics are perfectly acceptable and embellishments are to the discretion of the team. Costumes can also be purchased preowned or rented for a season from another club in order to keep costs low.
- Costumes should be athletic in nature and appropriate for the age group. Skirts or trousers are allowed for women but skirts must not be longer than the bend at the back of the knee (top of the calf).
- Any other clothing, such as track suits or practice dresses, are entirely optional and should be selected according to the budget of the skaters; however, most teams try to dress the skaters in a uniform colour off-ice in order to encourage team identity and a sense of belonging, as well as helping chaperones keep visual track of their skaters while on-the-move.
- Continue to hold regular meetings and/or information sessions with parents and skaters.
- Ensure practices are run according to established objectives.
- Plan fundraising activities.
- Order and obtain official program music from a qualified sound/music professional (or equivalent) for practice and competition according to rules (usually at least one CD for practices and at least two original copies submitted when team registers for event).
- Competition CDs should be played back and tested before every event. They should also be inspected visually for any scratches or damage.
- Many coaches also carry a back-up copy on a memory stick or MP3 player (iPod) in case the CDs prove to be incompatible with the competition’s equipment.
- Establish needs for competition costumes and begin working with dressmaker (if applicable) or proceed to research clubs with pre-owned dresses for sale or rent.
- Continue basic skills training and begin choreography.
- Establish clear communication with skaters and parents on individual progress.
- Begin planning alternate selection according to established policies.
- Plan and hold team-building activities and exercises, as needed.
- Guide the team through their selection of a team captain.
October and November – Competitions approach
- Make final decision on which competitions the team will attend and obtain competition announcements and registration forms.
- Invitational events are announced on club and/or section websites and qualifying events will be announced on section websites and/or on Skate Canada’s site. Registration requirements and process will be detailed in the announcement.
- Section offices will be able to provide information on qualifying events.
- Decide whether or not to attend regional qualifying events and if the team will attend synchronized skating nationals should they qualify for that event.
- Oversee the coach in planning for possible alternates at competition as per policies for alternates established at the beginning of the season. The skater and his/her parents should be informed of the skater’s weak areas as soon as possible and be told if the coach expects to name her as alternate for any competition approximately two weeks in advance.
- Present a final competition schedule to parents.
- Draft a letter to use at school or in the workplace on team letterhead, explaining the nature of the activity the athlete will participate in and to request the institution’s support and understanding for any absences. Distribute to skaters as required.
- Ensure that dressmaker will deliver costumes by promised date; make certain team clothing is delivered and fitted.
- Hold fundraising activities as planned/needed.
- Make reservations and travel plans for upcoming events; reserve tickets, reserve buses, check transfers, plan meals, etc.
- Plan and schedule exhibitions (often held in December or during Christmas season).
- Exhibitions help the team become accustomed to skating in front of an audience. They also act as a dress rehearsal for volunteers so they can learn how to prepare and manage the team, costumes and make-up through a performance.
- If an exhibition is not possible it is important for the team to test the hair, make-up and costumes at least once during practice before presenting at competition. This will help confirm there will be no wardrobe malfunctions in competition and that all embellishments stay in place, hairpieces stay on securely, dress seams are secure, zippers are not faulty, and so on.
- Complete basic choreography and begin run-throughs by late November or December (according to when team was formed and practices began).
- Inform skaters at least two weeks prior to an event whether she will be named as alternate, barring any changes due to sudden illness or injury.
- Schedule an evaluation or monitoring with a technical specialist, technical controller or judge. If local resources are limited, coaches can arrange to send video to an official and obtain an evaluation in that manner. Contact your section office for help in contacting the officials closest to your team.
- Have all competition make-up and hair styles planned and ready, along with the competition costume.
- Hair should be as similar as possible, but styles may be simple and quick to achieve. Long hair must be tied back or in a bun. The time and number of volunteers needed to get all the skaters’ hair done should be considered when choosing a style.
- Make-up is completely optional, but if the team chooses to use make-up it cannot be theatrical in manner.
- Plan exhibitions or other public events to simulate a competition environment and give team experience in performing in front of an audience. These events can also be used for fundraising. Many teams will invite officials to monitor this performance and give feedback, thus creating a more realistic simulation of the competitive experience.
- Be ready to compete (music in hand, dresses ready, choreograph how team enters and leaves the ice, choreograph one-minute competition warm-up, have off-ice warm-up planned and choreographed, etc.).
- Prepare the team captain on his/her responsibilities during the performance and how to speak with the referee in case of music malfunction or program interruption.
December to March – Competitive season
- Confirm receipt of competition registrations, obtain competition schedules as they become available and plan daily schedule for each event.
- Managers must plan meal arrangements and reservations according to the schedule and according to which restaurants are available and able to handle your group.
- Remember to schedule enough time for each activity (hair preparation, make-up, team warm-up, meals and travel time to and from the arena).
- Teams usually receive a set curfew and wake-up time.
- Finalize and confirm all travel arrangements as required.
- Support coach in the communication between coach and skaters/parents, especially with skaters who may be named as alternates.
- Supervise team chaperones and ensure that they have everything they need to support the team through a competition weekend.
- Plan end of season activities such as exhibitions, carnivals or team dinners.
At the end of the season some team managers may want to survey the skaters, coaches and parents, either informally or formally, through a team meeting or written survey, on what improvements they feel could be made in order to make the team’s next season a better one.