On Nov. 30, Hay River’s figure skaters got a taste of what it will be like to compete this season with the club’s first test sessions for Skate Canada’s new procedures.
“It’s just a preparation for the skaters going into competitions later in the season,” said coach Kim Wilkins. “It lets the kids get a feel for it in their own arena, with their friends and peers, and maybe gives them a little comfort going into competitions.”
The Star 1 group, aged between about seven and nine years old, took to the ice in two sections of four to test their individual elements, like toe spins, waltz jumps and spirals, followed by a short 30-second program set to music.
The older girls – four of whom will compete at the Arctic Winter Games trials in two weeks in Yellowknife – went through a similar simulation later that afternoon.
“Most of the ones at the Star 1 level haven’t competed before,” said Wilkins. “And this is a nice way to introduce them to the procedures so it takes a bit of the stress out of their first time.”
Wilkins said she preferred the new system of scoring for the age group to the old one. The former ranks a skater’s performance, and elements thereof, as gold, silver, bronze or merit, and the totals are tallied at the end, giving every competitor at least a merit certificate. It means that the skaters aren’t competing directly against each other, which, Wilkins said, at younger ages is a good thing.
“Just going out, learning and having a good time is what it’s all about when they’re this young,” she said.
While other skating clubs have run test events like this one, this was the first time it was done in Hay River.
Wilkins said the day’s activities were a good opportunity to get both the skaters and the coaches used to the new system handed down by Skate Canada.
“I’m nervous about competing, but this helps,” said Keira Coakwell.
Her fellow Star 1 skaters agreed that, while the preparation made them a bit anxious, it was all to the good and they would feel better about stepping out onto the ice in front of judges in the future.
“I found it exciting,” said Kynidi Robillard. “I feel more ready.”
With over 70 kids in figure skating this year, Wilkins and her fellow coaches have their hands full. Despite long hours in the chilly arena, Wilkins said it’s all worth it.
“Skating teaches them basic skills that can be used for all kinds of sports, like hockey, speed skating and gymnastics. It’s good for balance and co-ordination, but overall it’s just fun.”
While there is no doubt skating teaches kids useful skills, coach Heather Coakwell mentioned another aspect of the activity that plays a deciding role, explaining, “When the ice is in six months of the year, this is what you do in small-town Canada.”