From the November/December issue of the Rinksider:

Classes and coaches help build skills and a love for skating

by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

Skating centers around the country have taught multiple generations how to skate. These rink operators understand the importance of developing skaters through low cost lessons: they are growing customers for life. While each rink has a similar goal, each takes a different approach on how to attract student skaters to the lessons, and keep them interested so they keep coming back.

Linda Moody, Artistic Roller Figure Coach at the Nampa Rollerdrome in Idaho started teaching in 1985. She joined the Nampa Rollerdrome in 1987. Moody makes flyers with info about classes that people can pick up at the rink. She talks to customers and gives 2 for one class passes. “There is a display window at the rink about classes. I have also put info online about classes through newspapers and TV stations community info. We have done a short skating demo during sessions. We also have had mini classes during school parties, she said. Moody added, “We usually find that skaters come to classes to learn how to skate for their birthday parties. Parents bring the children to enjoy something they enjoyed when they were younger and they can do it as a family. A lot of the skaters continue skate sessions once they have learned the skills to skate better in classes. They come up to us years later at the rink and say hi to us”

Classes at USA Skateland Mesa don’t have a start or end date; the classes are ongoing and each lasts an hour. Polly Parks, Coach and President of Mesa Roller Sports Club, has been offering skating classes at USA Skateland Mesa in Mesa, Ariz., since March 2006. She previously taught at other rinks since 1992. She started offering skating classes “to help teach and create Artistic skaters.” Artistic skating is her and her husband’s “passion and hobby.”

USA Skateland Mesa advertises the classes in a number of ways according to Parks. “The rink DJ advertises through announcements in the sessions and school parties; flyer handouts; and we offer lessons to birthday parties–also word of mouth from current skaters and telling parents in sessions.”

“In our beginner classes, we have different levels,” explained Parks. “Carpet Kids, Primary, Merit, One Star, Two Star, Three Star, Four Star (and Adult Beginners). The kids are promoted to each level with a certificate award that is announced at the end of classes. When they reach Star Three, we allow them to join the advanced class that runs the hour before. From there, they learn their RSA proficiency tests and are then offered to join the competitive club. We have two local competitions a year. We also started joining the California State Games Artistic Roller Skating competition in February with a show number that includes our advanced roller skaters.”

Kelly Curran, Skating School Director and registered USA Roller Sports Coach is developing the Skating School program at Skate Reflections in Kissimmee, Fla., with the support of co-director Tony Berger, an Advanced Certified USA Roller Sports Coach. He has been honored with the US Olympic Committee’s Roller Sports Developmental Coach of the Year award and multiple Southern Region Coach of the Year awards. He has traveled across the USA and abroad delivering seminars on skating and coaching techniques. Tony has also coached numerous National Champions and USA World Team skaters.

The Skating School program at Skate Reflections offers a Tiny Tot class for children 6 and under so they can learn safety and basic skills. ‘Learn 2 Sk8’ classes provide 45 minutes of instruction in the basics, like balance and posture skills, how to roll and stop. Once those skills are mastered students can sign up to learn intermediate forward and backward skating and beginner jumps and spins. Superskater classes introduce skaters to the skills needed to pass the RSA’s Superskater test, which takes place every six weeks. Learn 2Sk8 classes cost $10 per class and include the immediate following Saturday matinee session.

After mastering the Learn-2-Sk8 Classes, students at Skate Reflections can enroll in Skating School. Classes offered include Dance, Advanced Dance, Drill, Singles and Tiny Tot. The classes follow and enhance the basic fundamentals of the sport of roller skating. Advanced skating and conditioning skills are also taught, resulting in better concentration, coordination, self-discipline, and teamwork. Drill uses synchronized skating to create images in art and build teamwork. Dance utilizes the art of rhythmic movement on roller skates to create a unique and varied performance. Students perform for the public twice a year. Each Skating School class presents a choreographed group number in between solo and guest performances.

Beth Nolan, owner of Christiana Skating Center in Newark, Del., has offered skating classes since the center opened in 1979. Classes are promoted within the rink with announcements from the fun director and flyers. All advertising includes a mention about their learn-to-skate classes.

Christiana Skating Center’s ongoing classes are for all ages and they also offer a Tiny Tots class for ages 6 and under. Nolan revealed that class attendance is “light in the fall” due to students going back to school and getting involved with sports activities so classes are offered year round except in September. She also observed that about 30 percent of the students purchase skates from Christiana Skating Center.

Moody noted, “Skaters buy skates from all different places. They buy them from the rink. They buy them online. They buy them from other skaters growing out of skates. Sometimes they come to classes with skates they already have and sometimes they are not very good skates. We have a teacher who helps them know what to look for in a skate to better help them get the right equipment for their needs.” Parks commented, “We try to recycle used skates from the club skaters or then assist them with buying the proper skates from the rink. All of the advanced class skaters buy their own skates, many of the beginner class skaters buy skates if they continue with classes for a period of time.”

Both Moody and Parks offered tips for rink operators seeking to provide classes. Parks proposed, “Give a free lesson and session pass to all your birthday party participants. Offer a free lesson to the birthday parties that book on Saturday mornings that follow the classes. Have a free lesson and session coupon on school fliers. Have a good lesson plan. We run several groups at once on the floor, similar to the RSA Star Patch program.”

Nolan counseled, “Have enthusiastic teachers and preferably certified.” She believes the skating classes at Christiana Skating Center are popular due to the “enthusiasm of teachers who are good with kids. They enjoy skating and want others to enjoy skating.”

Moody advised, “Have a display at the rink that is very visible for anyone coming to the rink. But not so cluttered it is hard to read. This is to help everyone be aware of the classes and anything they offer at the rink. It is best to always have that info available at all the places people go in the rink such as by the skate counter, in the snack bar, by the drinking fountain, in the lobby, by the restrooms and around the rink.”

“A few years ago we changed the format of the class structure,” shared Nolan. “We offer a skating session that follows the lesson for free so students can stay and practice what they just learned. 99 percent of the students take advantage of that.” Classes at Christiana Skating Center are pretty full. On Saturday mornings, there are usually 40 to 60 students in each class. “I think it’s because they want to take advantage of the skate free offer.”

Parks reflected, “Classes are very beneficial to the rink owner; the class skaters have their Birthday parties at the rink, they buy their skates at the rink, they continue coming to sessions, they bring their neighbors and friends. “I can’t imagine a rink without a Learn to Skate program!”