By Emma Sutherland
Winter isn’t just coming, it’s here. Well, not really here, except in the state-of-the-art skating facility in Goleta known as Ice in Paradise.
As the seasons change and temperatures cool down, so do some of our after-school activities. To find one of the coolest programs around, you don’t have to look farther then Ice in Paradise.
Larry Bruyere, general manager at Ice in Paradise, talks about their skating program and what it offers during the school year.
Question: What is the name of your after-school activity and what is its mission?
Answer: The Ice in Paradise Learn to Skate Program, also called Skating School, is the introduction to ice skating activities beyond public skating sessions.
The Learn to Skate/Skating School runs in eight-week sessions and meets every Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. A later start gives families enough time to arrive, get their skates on, dive into Skating School and arrive home in time for dinner.
Our mission for the Learn to Skate Program is to introduce ice skating to an entire population who have largely never skated before, and provide everyone with the tools to learn how to skate — for enjoyment first, and then perhaps, to spur interest that develops into a rewarding lifelong hobby or sport.
Q: What is the age range for children to take part in your program?
A: The age range for our Learn to Skate/Skating School Program is from 3 years old to adulthood. We have classes for all ages and abilities. Children will be placed in smaller groups that suit their age and skating level.
Q: Describe the activities involved in your after school program.
A: We teach the basics of skating, as well as figure skating and ice hockey skills at higher levels. Our program runs year-round for eight weeks each session, which is the perfect amount of time for kids to develop confidence and the skills needed to advance from Beginner Levels (Little Folk, Tots, Pre-Alpha 1, 2, and 3, Alpha, Beta, Adult Beginners and Hockey Skills) through Advanced Levels.
Q: What can parents expect their kids to gain from participating?
A: By learning to skate, or skate better, children gain self-confidence and often discover an exciting new sport to participate and grow in, whether it be figure skating or ice hockey.
Learning to skate has a lot of benefits from the life-skills point of view, as well as from the physical and artistic side. We’ve found that children can relate more with skating than other sports because of the musical element, which enhances their creative side.
In the end, it’s really is up to them what they want to achieve. In addition to attending skating school classes on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the kids who are more competitive will often come to the rink daily during their free time.
Q: Describe what makes your after school program unique and worthwhile.
A: Learn to Skate school is unique for many students because ice skating is foreign to them. It is not unusual for a student to start a session as a virtual non-skater, and quickly develop into a competent skater with potential after eight weeks or even a few classes.
Ice skating opens up a whole new opportunity that challenges not only students’ physical acumen, but also their brain and social skills. We have students who decide to pursue hockey, and they then benefit from being a part of a team sport by developing a new side of their being and sense of self.
Q: When did the skating school first start and what was the inspiration for creating it?
A: We opened our doors in October of 2015 and immediately started our Learn to Skate Program. We have offered this program twice a week since then.
Our inspiration is to make Ice in Paradise a community center where people consistently come to ice skate, figure skate, play hockey, or observe from the comfortable mezzanine in our large rink or smaller studio rink.
We are excited to have an award-winning, non-profit ice skating facility, designed and built to bring ice skating to anyone and everyone in our community.
Q: Has any part of the program changed since it was created?
A: We developed a great group of professional instructors, many who have been teaching Skating School for years. We have Skating School pretty dialed in, so really the only thing that changes noticeably is the number of students in each session as the seasons change.
Some kids skate for pleasure, while others skate to ultimately compete. Their goals determine the level and frequency of their participation.
Q: What is the best part, in your opinion, about your after school program?
A: The best part is that kids of all ages truly enjoy ice skating. Seeing their improvement and smiles when they are in the rink is testimony to the love they develop for the sport. There’s nothing greater than seeing kids come to Ice in Paradise weekly or multiple times a week, because they fell in love with skating.
Q: Describe a favorite activity.
A: Whether it’s swizzle, a loop, or an axel, kids really enjoy learning something totally new! Depending on a child’s age and ability level, their favorite activity will vary.
Another thing kids love about our Learn to Skate Program is that we offer free ice skating during our Public Skating Session the day of their class. Many of our students come early to take full advantage of that and enjoy skating with their friends.
Q: In what ways is your program educational?
A: Ice in Paradise’s Learn to Skate Program is educational in many ways. Learning how to ice skate requires focus, listening skills, learning mechanics of one’s body (such as thrust and how the skate blade reacts to ice), experiencing improvement by way of practice, learning from a skilled and positive instructor and, of course, picking oneself up and skating on.
It’s really fine-tuning your body awareness, which is key to using the right muscles and staying healthy. All of the muscles we use in skating breed healthy living for later on in life, even if you don’t keep at it.
Q: Is there anything else parents should know when deciding whether to send their kids to your program?
A: Yes, It’s important to recognize that ice-skating is a very safe and enjoyable sport. Our Learn to Skate Program is very well supervised and kids do not need any prior skating experience in order to participate.
We do ask that parents come to Ice in Paradise to register their child for our Learn to Skate Program as we require a signature of a parent or guardian to participate.
For more information about Ice in Paradise’s Learn to Skate program, visit iceinparadise.org/skating-school or call (805) 879-1550.
This article first appeared on Noozhawk on Sept. 16.