New rules! New rules! ISU Comm. 1678 published to kick off 2011-2012 season

[Update: Since my first read-through of this in May, I’ve noticed a few items below that require corrections or clarifications. Revisions/additions are indicated with bold, italic text in square parentheses. (Oct. 12, 2011)]

Few things make true synchro nerds giddier than the release of the upcoming season’s rules and regulations from the ISU. I suspect I wasn’t the only person who spent my day trying to stealthily scan the contents of the newly published Communication 1678, in between stints of doing actual work. I haven’t had time to thoroughly dissect the new doc yet, but I thought I’d present a quick overview of some of the changes before my inspiration waned. (It is patio season, after all.)

The most notable changes relate to the Difficulty Groups of Elements, so I offer a summary of those below (with a couple nods to some changes to Features tossed in for good measure). I haven’t touched on every detail of every element, as I think it’s fair to assume my audience has a grasp of the basics–Blocks need to cover the equivalent of the full length of the ice, Circles need to rotate at least 360°, and so on. Ultimately, I’ve drawn attention to the items that stand out to me as either being different enough from last season’s rules that they’re worth mentioning, or important enough that they’re worth a reminder. I’ve also pointed out some instances where a change seems specifically “minor” or “major” to me, but those are not necessarily the only changes to the requirements for that element.

If previous years are any indication, it will be a number of months before the Summary of Calls outlining specific technical calls is published, and I expect there will still be at least one revision to this communication before that happens. In the meantime, we can pore over the current incarnation of Communication 1678, our bible for the 2011-2012 season, until we go cross-eyed. Let’s get started.


  • There is no longer a distinction between Simple and Difficult Variations. There are only Variations.
  • When turns are required as part of a Variation, they must be correctly executed for the Variation to get credit, unless otherwise noted. (Eg., for travel, the only requirement is that turns must be executed on one foot.) Note my emphasis: to get credit for the Variation, it’s not enough for the turns to be attempted. They must be correctly executed. Coaches–know your skaters, know their abilities, weigh their potential against the amount of time you have to work with them, and choreograph accordingly.
  • Changes of configuration and changes of rotational direction may be executed on one foot or two feet.
  • Crossovers are not permitted during changes of configuration.
  • Changes of rotational direction must be executed using backward entry 360° rotations.
  • Linking steps may be used during changes of configuration, but for some levels, linking steps that do not rotate are not permitted. (Presumably this refers to steps like chasses, and perhaps mohawks.) [Mohawks are considered a rotating turn. Chasses are considered non-rotating linking steps.]
  • Some variations may be executed concurrently, others must be executed separately.
  • Minimum ice coverage requirements don’t appear to have changed.
  • [Two cross-overs in a row ends traveling in Circle and Wheel, and pivoting in Line.]


  • Four levels
  • Change of configuration and pivoting are required for B2, B3, and B4.
  • [Pivot point may change ends for B2 and must change ends for B3 and B4.]
  • [If a change of configuration or pivoting is never attempted, B1 will be the highest call.]


  • Four levels
  • Change of configuration and change of rotational direction are required for C2 and C3.
  • Travel is required for C3 and C4.
  • C4 travel must be executed in a no hold.
  • C4 is complex: depending on what kind of travel is executed, a change of configuration and direction may also both be required, or only one of the two may be required.
  • Travel must include turns.
  • [If a change of configuration or change of rotational direction is never attempted, C1 will be the highest call.]


  • Four levels
  • All intersections with a forward preparation and approach are I1.
  • Back-to-back prep and approach is required for I2, I3, and I4.
  • Minor change: a hold is required until the rotation begins (unless skaters are doing backward-entry turns/rotations during the approach). I consider this change minor since the majority of teams seemed to be doing this anyway. [Only applies when attempting the back-to-back variation.]
  • Major change: during the exit phase, a maximum of 2 steps (one crossover and one more step) are permitted after the final rotation in order to regrasp. Previously, the only requirement during the exit phase was that the shape be recognizable–there was no regrasp requirement. [Only applies when attempting the back-to-back variation.]
  • Pi – in Collapsing/Combined Intersections (where skaters intersect at different times) from I1 and I2, there must be at least two rotations from the same level. In Collapsing/Combined (where skaters intersect at different times) from I3, there must be at least three rotations from the same level.
  • Pi – crossovers may not be executed between rotations.


  • Four levels
  • Change of configuration and pivoting are required for L2 and L3. [Same as Block: If a change of configuration or pivoting is never attempted, L1 is highest call.]
  • Turns are required during pivoting–two from any level for L2, and three difficult turns for L3.
  • Interacting and pivoting are required for L4. Major change: three difficult turns are required. Previously, two turns from any level were required.
  • [Turns during pivoting, and pivoting and interacting, do not have to be correctly executed but the attempted turns must be identifiable.]
  • Major change: For L4, pivoting must be clockwise OR counterclockwise, not a combination of both.
  • Minor change: For L4, the pivot point must change ends twice. I consider this one minor because it seems to me most teams were already doing this in order to meet the ice coverage requirements (for both the element, and pivoting). [After spending some time watching videos from last season recently, I retract my claim that most teams were doing this already. This is probably more of a major change for most teams.]

Moves in the Field

  • Four levels
  • Three fms must be executed, and none may be repeated.
  • One fm must be a spiral.
  • In the short program, edge changes must occur at the same time by all skaters.
  • Three different configurations, with a different number of lines in each, are required for MF2, MF3, and MF4. [If there are not three different configurations with a different number of lines in each, MF1 will be the highest call.]
  • One fm in a no hold is optional for MF2, and required for MF3 and MF4.
  • One mirror image pattern is optional for MF2, MF3, and MF4, in free skating only.
  • Major change: two of the three different fms must be executed on one foot. In other words, only a spread eagle OR Ina Bauer may be executed. Not both. [This is an option, not a requirement, for MF4.]

Movements in Isolation

  • Four levels
  • Senior may only use fe. Junior may use fe or fm.
  • All skaters must be skating.
  • Group Lifts have features that contribute to determining the level of difficulty. Eg., vaulting up and down, changes of position, balancing, and rotation in both directions.
  • For MI3 and MI4, the remaining skaters (not performing the fe/fm for credit) must attempt one different fe/fm from the same or higher level.
  • For the MI4 group lift, the lifting skaters must be approximately in one line.

No Hold Step Sequence

  • Three levels
  • Body movement is optional for NHSS1 and required for NHSS2 and NHSS3.
  • Extra features such as field moves and dance jumps are optional for NHSS1 and required for NHSS2 and NHSS3.
  • [To clarify “optional”: a body movement on one foot OR two different extra feature are required for NHSS1. If neither is executed, the NHSS will receive no value.]
  • A body movement and extra feature may not be executed at the same time. [A body movement and extra feature may be executed at the same time, but only one will count, as determined by the Technical Panel.]
  • Major change: 1/2 the required distance must be executed during a 1-foot series for NHSS3.

Pair Element

  • Three levels
  • Only pivots or spins are permitted. Lifts have been eliminated.
  • Pair pivots or spins may be executed for Pa1 and Pa2. Only a pair pivot [from Level 3, aka a death spiral,] may be executed for Pa3.


  • Three levels
  • Pair or individual spins are permitted for Sp1 and Sp2. Only individual spins are permitted for Sp3.

Spiral Element (Junior Short Program)

  • Three levels
  • There are two options for each level (eg., choices between changes of edge, or changes of position).

Step Sequence Element (Block and Circle) & Step Sequence Feature (for NHSS)

  • Four levels
  • For BSS/CSS: turns must be distributed over at least 3/4 (75%) of the chosen pattern.
  • For BSS/CSS: if the turns meet requirements for a level, but are not distributed across the required distance, the level will be lowered.
  • Major change: Four (three different types), five (four different types), and six (five different types) turns are required for BSS2/CSS2/s2, BSS3/CSS3/s3, and BSS4/CSS4/s4 respectively.
  • Change of rotation 360° OR a one-foot series is required for BSS2/CSS2/s2.
  • Change of rotation 360° AND a one-foot series are required for BSS3/CSS3/s3 and BSS4/CSS4/s4.
  • Three turns are required in the one-foot series for BSS2/CSS2/s2 and BSS3/CSS3/s3. Four turns are required in the series for BSS4/CSS4/s4.
  • A change of rotation 360° must only consist of turns from the level the team is trying to achieve.


  • Four levels
  • There must be at least three skaters in a spoke for W1 and W2, and at least four skaters in a spoke for W3 and W4.
  • Change of configuration and direction are required for W2, W3, and W4.
  • Travel is required for W3 and W4.
  • Turns are required during travel.
  • Travel may be done with or without a hold.
  • W4 includes optional travel features.
  • The wheel must rotate at least 360° in one direction (or a comparable distance) when both clockwise and counterclockwise directions are used.
  • [Same as Circle: If a change of configuration or change of rotational direction is never attempted, W1 will be the highest call.]

That took far longer than I anticipated, so I’ll leave things there, and add further thoughts if the mood strikes. Happy reading.


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