Apr 26, 2010

Posted in Featured Articles, Rules | 14 Comments

United States Figure Skating Test Track vs. Well Balanced

United States Figure Skating Test Track vs. Well Balanced

Test Track vs. Well Balanced Program

What is the difference?

First- I want to explain what is the same. The Well Balanced event has always been around; it just has a new name. Before the Test Track event was created, figure skaters had one option: to enter a freestyle event. If your figure skater was Preliminary level, typically she would enter the Preliminary Freestyle event. I say typically, because it’s possible to enter a skater in a higher level than his or her current test level.

Adding an alternative track for restricted competition encourages skaters, offers them opportunities for success in a competitive atmosphere while they continue to progress through the USFS tests. Competitions that offer Test Track allow more opportunities to keep skaters motivated along the way and keep them excited about their abilities. USFS created this event in hopes of retaining skaters who may be discouraged by the high level of technical elements at all levels.

Today is Rinkformation’s joint posting day. Check out our other posts about competing

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The Test Track Event is a newer event and can be offered at all non-qualifying Balanced Rock Garden of the Godscompetitions. Test Track was created to better align a skater’s USFS test level with competition structure. If your skater has passed or can do everything in the USFS Preliminary Freestyle Test, then she should have no problem competing in the Preliminary Test Track Freestyle event. Test Track events restrict elements such as the Axel. (I think this can be better explained with a chart, see below.)

This week’s Ask the Expert: Summer Camp expert and National-level coach Diana Ronayne. This Wednesday, April 28 on IceMom.net.

On the flip side, if your figure skater has passed or can do everything in the USFS Preliminary Freestyle, she might not be ready to compete in a Preliminary Well Balanced program. Why? Axles and Doubles are allowed in Preliminary Well Balanced, but not Preliminary Test Track. Test level determines what level to compete in, not the other way around. If a skater has passed Preliminary Freestyle she, could compete in either Preliminary Test Track or Preliminary Well Balanced, but not both at the same competition.

Preliminary USFS Freestyle Test Requirements                 Basic Skills Competition Preliminary Test Track Freestyle Program Basic Skills Competition Preliminary Well Balanced Program
Jumps Jumps Jumps
Jumps: 1 . Waltz jump 2. Salchow 3. Toe loop  4. Loop  5. Flip 6. One jump combination consiting of the jumps listed above (not turn of change of foot between jumps) Jumps: Jumps with not more than one rotation (no Axels). Jump combinations and sequences are allowed. Maximum 5 jump elements Jumps: A well-balanced program consisting of: Jumps: maximum of 5 jump elements, one of which must be an axel/waltz jump-type jump . Must have passed no highter than U.S. Figure Skating
Spins Spins Spins
Spins: 1. One (1) foot back spin (minimum three [3] revolutions) 2. Sit Spin (minimun three revolustions) Spins:Two spins of a different nature, comination spins allowed. (Min 3 revolutions each, no flying spins) Spins: maximum of 2 spins of a different nature
Step Sequence Step Sequence Step Sequence
Connecting moves and steps should be demonstrated throughout theprogram

Steps: Connecting moves and steps should be demonstrated throughout the program Steps: one step sequence utilizing ½ the ice surface
  Preliminary free skate. Time: 1:30 +/-10 Preliminary free skate. Time: 1:30 +/-10

This is a pretty general overview. If you have more specific questions please ask!

Have you or your skater competed in either the Test Track or Well Balanced events? Do you prefer one over the other?

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Photo credit:
Balanced Rock at the Garden of the Gods: Jasen Miller on Flicker.com Creative Commons

  • Sk8nln

    My 9 yo daughter is competing in No Test well balanced and she is very happy skating there because she feels it give more flexibility in her program – although she usually has much older competitors. Due to skating in this level she has not tested any freeskates (which I am TOTALLY fine with) and will not until she gets closer to landing her axel. However, I often get parents commenting on her not testing. I can handle those comments, but I do not want them trickling down to her. Her coach and I have talked about it and agree on everything, but if you have any suggestions as to how to handle the questions I would love them.

  • icecoach

    What about telling them that your focus is not on testing right now? I could be wrong but it sounds like the main focus right now is working on the Axel. The “stupid” Axel as everyone knows takes a lot of focus, time, energy, commitment and money.

    It's sad that parents interject their opinion on skaters that are not their own. They have no idea what your skater’s intensions or goals are. They certainly don't know what you and your coach have discussed. Each skater has different goals and should test when he or she is ready and when their coach feels it is appropriate.

    Maybe your skater just loves competing and doesn't really want to focus on testing right now just bettering her program for the next competition. Maybe your skater’s goal is compete in Pre Pre Well Balanced, which goes hand in hand with learning the Axel.

    I currently have a skater similar your daughter, she has not tested any freestyle tests, skates Pre-Preliminary TT and is working on her Axel. There is nothing wrong with this, and we are planning to test soon but the primary focus is not testing it's learning the Axel and making her single jumps stronger. Hope this helps at least a little. Thanks for the comment!

  • Helicopter Mom

    I'm confused! Is the “well balanced” program only in a basic skills competition? I've never heard of it before. My daughter competed in ISI and then in USFSA regular competitions but other than one time when we signed her up for a Basic Skills free skate 6 (that no one else ended up entering), she's never done Basic Skills. I know that her coach kept her at no test until she could land her axel, then he put it in her program and moved her up to Pre Preliminary. Now she's skating Preliminary but she needs two doubles (salchow and toe loop) along with the axel to be competitive here. From your comparison in the post (which was GREAT, by the way) the Preliminary Well Balanced program sounded more like the Pre Pre free skate. We have a competition coming up with two entry forms, one for the regular competition and one for Basic Skills but I didn't see “Well Balanced Program” in either one of them.

  • angelfromalaska

    Test track isnt offered at every comp, so maybe yours is just well balanced.Its hard for small comps to offer both.
    Its hard to explain how an axle isnt on the test till Juv but pre pre kids have them.That is why they set up TT vs WB.They also want to keep in the kids that never get that jump but still enjoy skating!!

  • icecoach

    Well Balanced is a United States Figure Skating term.
    Well Balanced is synonomous with unrestricted and Test Track is synonomous with restricted.

    Test Track can only be offered at non-qualifying competitions. You could have a local competition that is not Basic Skills that offers the Test Track event (State Games for example).

    Well Balanced is not limited to Basic Skills Competitions. In fact the Well Balance program is for all levels Pre-Preliminary through Senior. Preliminary is the highest level in Basic Skills competitions.

    Here are the Senior Well Balanced Requirements as an example-

    Jumps Men: Maximum of eight (8) jump elements (one of which must be an Axel-type jump).

    Ladies: Maximum of seven (7) jump elements (one of which must be an Axel-type jump).

    Spins Maximum of four (4) spins, one of which must be a spin combination, one a flying spin and one a spin with only one position.

    Steps Men: Maximum of two (2) step sequences of a different nature. Ladies: Maximum of two (2) step sequences, one of which must be a spiral step sequence.

    The definition of a Well Balance program for a single skater is in the rule book section 3630-3634. Here are the first two sections

    3631- The free skate consists of a well-balanced program of free skating elements such as jumps, spins, steps, and other linking movements executed with a minimum of two-footed skating in harmony with music of the
    skater’s choice, except that vocal music with lyrics is not permitted.

    3632- Within the applicable well-balanced program requirements of the skater’s level, the skater has complete freedom to select the free skating elements,the sum of which will comprise the program. All elements are to
    be linked together by connecting steps of a different nature and by other comparable free skating movements while fully utilizing the entire ice surface (forward and backward crossovers are not considered to be connecting
    steps). Special attention must be given to choreography, expression, interpretation of the music, and intricate footwork and transitions between elements.

    Hope this helps. Glad you like the post!

  • Denise

    Does competing in only well balanced events make the scheduling of freeskate tests more critical? I have a pre-pre skater with an axel and 2 doubles but our coach hasn't scheduled a preliminary freeskate test yet (we are talking about it)–reasoning that she wants to be sure her skills are strong enough to allow her to be competitive at the WB preliminary level before taking the test. Does this sound reasonable?

  • icecoach

    No competing in only well balanced does not make testing more critical. And yes this is very reasonable :)

  • pghicemom

    Thanks for the discussion of TT programs. My skater focuses on testing — she prefers to be judged on her own rather than ranked against other skaters. But, the TT events have given her the chance to perform her program without the fear of being totally “out skated”.

  • icecoach

    That's the great thing about the Test Track event, and exactly why it was designed. Its like the compulsory program only as a freestyle event. You know what to expect out of the other skaters ahead of time and as you stated don't have to worry about being out skated.

  • synchmomto2

    I think your chart is incorrect- those look like the pre-pre test elements etc. to me- did you mean pre-pre?

  • icecoach

    I started to do Pre Pre and then changed my mind to do the chart on Preliminary but didn't change the Pre Pre elements :) Thanks for catching that I have corrected it.

  • Guest


    I find that sometimes not testing can give some skaters an unfair advantage in competitions because you can get a skater who has just reached that level and is preparing for that test and a skater who knows elements for the next level but hasnt taken the lower level test yet. They may not be able to use elements from the higher test in their program but they have an advantage over other skaters. I dont know the US system but I think test track comps sound like a good idea :)

  • Skatergirl7

    Just a random note I feel like adding for any who may stumble across this: Test Track is also designed for skaters to still compete as they work towards passing their freeskate tests. For example, a friend of mine wanted to be a gold medalist in freeskate by the time she graduated high school. She didn’t have her double axel or any triples though, so she struggled with wanting to compete and wanting to pass those tests. I remember her breaking down after not doing well at Novice, wanting to compete still, but disliking how she was landing double loops and other skaters were doing triple loops. She competed test track after it was created, and passed her freeskate tests (she passed Senior FS the summer after she graduated :D ). So test track also offers that for skaters.

  • NewbieSkateMom

    Thank you for this explanation – I was still a bit confused after the coach explaining it but now I get it!