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Creating Excellence: It Takes a Village

Updated: Mar 5


The past several years have brought seemingly constant and evolving changes to our sport of figure skating.  We have experienced ongoing modifications to the International Judging System (IJS), an increased emphasis on jumps, and new skills seem to be taught at younger and younger ages these days.  One thing though that will always remain the same for a skater to be successful is the necessity for excellence and a strong foundation of quality, whether it be in singles, pairs, or dance.


As I reflect back over the last three decades, as part of the village necessary to make a top figure skater, I remain steadfast in my commitment of demanding excellence in skating skills.  Everything begins with a skater who has the desire and support necessary to go the distance.  It requires athletes and their families to calmly weather the many ups and downs every skater takes on during their journey.


A strong technical foundation comes from the skater’s technical coach.   It has been my honor and pleasure to have worked with many legendary coaches who have let me do my job unencumbered by any restrictions. They include Rafael Arutyunyan, Peter Burrows, Frank Carroll, Cindy Caprel, Carlo and Christa Fassi, Megan Faulkner, Sandy Hess, Christy Krall, John Nicks, & Tom Zakrajsek entrusted their skaters to me to choreograph for and help develop into quality skaters with excellence as their foundation. (maximize their training potential)


Often times a technical coach adds additional professionals to maximize each skaters’ training and potential. Many athletes have a spin coach to insure they get the highest levels possible and precision technique to increase their GOE (Grade of Execution) on their protocol sheets at competition.  A ballet teacher is a necessary component to develop a classical base with beautiful lines, inspiring musicality, and the strength, balance, and flexibility all figure skaters need at every level of development.  Off-ice sports physiologists and trainers are important for injury prevention and basic strength required of all figure skaters.  Moves in Field lay the basic foundation of edge quality and control that all skaters are required to test in order to compete in free skating at any USFS competition. I have always felt that ballet and playing a classical instrument, such as piano or violin, creates the perfect storm for a highly successful figure skater who can be molded into a champion.  This does not mean that a skater can’t become a champion without all of these professionals. However, it is easier and faster to attain excellence with a menu of pertinent coaches such as the ones mentioned above to complement development and training.


Over the years, my students who have achieved the greatest accomplishments, including numerous national and international champions and Olympians, realized that they must be coached in the nuances of choreography, lines, extension and skating skills on a regular basis. Achieving maximum results requires multiple lessons during a week to refine and develop quality and clarity.


Once a week lessons, simply put, are not enough engagement to maximize a skater’s skills and success on the ice.


Chloe Li, whose photo is featured in this blog, has worked with me in this more comprehensive way for several years. Her results speak for themselves. Her skating skills, confidence, flexibility, extension and presence on the ice are standout. This consistent work of meeting with motivated skaters multiple times weekly is what helps me to get the end result any coach or choreographer wants………Quality, Excellence, and Success.


The session is over and the Zamboni is coming out.


Auf Wiederschen

© 2020 by Phillip Mills

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World & Olympic Figure Skating Choreographer