Finesse figures into learn-to-skate program
December 22, 2008
Kelly Gadzala, My Town Crier
Laura Levtov doesn’t mince words:
“No body learns to skate when playing hockey,” says the former figure skater and skating coach of 29 years. “These boys run on the ice.”
The founding director of Skating Educators Canada, a Vaughan business that’s just expanded to the Beaches, has some cutting opinions about Canada’s hockey industry.
Canadian skaters should be dominating the NHL, she says, but they’re not because they haven’t learned to skate properly.
“Not having great skating affects every element of your game,” Levtov says. She describes a Junior A competitive hockey team she watched a few years ago. “They were falling on their faces.”
Levtov is out to change that. Though she’s coached competitive figure skaters for years and continues to do so, her latest program, the Power Skating Academy, helps hockey players improve their technical skills.
Partnering with Tom Martin, former NHL player and Toronto Marlboroughs coach, Levtov teaches players to skate faster, turn sharper and stop quicker.
“We call it power skating to appease the hockey dads,” Levtov says, but essentially the program is figure skating, she says.
“You have to learn your edges,” she says. “They’re your foundation.”
Levtov started the program after seeing the four and five-year olds she taught under her Funskate program stop their lessons to go and play hockey. They’d leave the learn-to-skate program too soon, she says.
To prove her point, Levtov says she was watching an A-level game with 9-year-old boys doing crosscuts in a circle. “They weren’t even doing cross cuts,” she says. “No one even showed them how.”
Levtov’s 13-year old son is the proof her training methods work.
“He’s been on the ice since he was five days old,” she says, referring to how she would carry him on her stomach. He learned to skate on figure skates, she says, and now he’s playing AA hockey.
“He out-skates everyone,” she says, adding people can’t believe he hasn’t played rep hockey before this year.
But convincing hockey dads and aspiring hockey players of her methods isn’t always easy. “I’m just a stupid figure skater,” Levtov says. Having Martin to back her word on the ice is essential, she says.
Levtov says you can’t just throw kids into power skating. Those who haven’t skated before should take the pre-power program until they start learning their edges, she says. Then there are the eight levels of the power skating program, which will take a good three years, she says.
Levtov hopes her approach will catch on. Her dream: to establish a national training centre for hockey within the next year.
Coaching the NHL is also on her inspirational vision board, she says.
But the ultimate goal, she says, is not to make coaching the NHL a need. For now, it is, she says.