Perspectives: Some local opportunities exist for figure skating wannabes

You have to march before you can glide. At least that is the advice Heidi Sowards, skating director at South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena, gives to beginning ice skaters.

“Really, don’t try to push side to side when you start. It’s more of a marching, picking your knees up to get used to it,” she explained.

When the Winter Olympics roll around, interest in ice sports really picks up around the arena, said Butch Buckley, Memorial Ice’s assistant director.

“We have a plethora of activities to get people started,” he said.

An Olympic-based “Learn to Skate” program is offered at the rink, with classes on Saturdays and Sundays, said Sowards.

“We offer classes for everyone from adults to tots,” she said.

Currently there are three to four adults in each of the rink’s two learn to skate sessions, said Sowards.

“That’s a fairly large adult class. We try to limit classes so we can give more individualized instruction,” she said.

The arena can also set up private skate lessons, she added.

The rink is home to the Charleston Figure Skating Club, which has competed nationally with a pair team and a dance team, said Sowards.

Everyone who skates at South Charleston is getting excited for the Olympics, she added. In fact, the Charleston Figure Skating Club will be hosting “Salute to Sochi,” an exhibition, on Feb. 23.

Bird Arena at Ohio University also offers “Learn to Skate” classes and private lessons, said Amanda Larson, Bird Arena office manager and a “Learn to Skate” coach.

“You have kids and adults of all ages do the program,” Larson said.

Beginner adults can work their way up through various levels of learning with other adults, she said.

“We’re currently in our spring eight-week session. We won’t have another one until next fall because we lose our ice at the end of April,” she said.

Bird Arena closes during the summer when Ohio University is not in session.

The eight-week group session consists of one hour-long class per week and costs $99 plus $15 if students need to rent skates for the duration of classes, said Larson.

Private lessons cost $7.50 per 15-minute block, she said.

If classes are too big a step, both arenas offer open rink times where the public can try out their ice legs.

The Ohio University Synchronized Skating Team also competes in the Open Collegiate division and performs at OU ice hockey games periodically, said Larson, who is vice president of the team.

“We have between eight to 16 girls on the ice at one time, all connected, all doing the same thing,” she explained.

Though not an Olympic sport, it has become very popular, she said. Charleston Figure Skating Club also has a synchronized skating team.

Besides skates, which most ice arenas have available to rent, there is no equipment needed to get started figure skating, said Sowards.

However, people who are not used to the chilly rinks should dress warmly, she added.

“Gloves, long socks-short socks are just uncomfortable-and a jacket,” said Sowards.

And for those inevitable moments when skaters start to lose their balance, Sowards has one other piece of advice.

“If you feel like you’re going to fall, bend forward and touch your toes. That will help balance you,” she said.