Where are the new

skaters going to come from?

I don’t know of any skating “organization” who has ever created a single skater, be they roller or ice. So, who does this critical task? The teacher( or coach if you prefer). It is their responsibility. Want a skater? Go to a Saturday or Sunday afternoon session and find one. They’re all over the place. They’re everywhere in the building just waiting for someone to discover them. The rink is crawling with them.

They’ve always been there. Each and every Saturday or Sunday matinee. They come in all shapes and sizes. That’s how it was done in the past. THAT is how it must be done in the future if there is to be one.

YOU’RE going to have to find these new champions in among the mass of skaters racing around in the middle of that loud music. YOU’RE going to have to actually go up to them and “Sell” our sport. YOU’RE going to have to convince them that it would be fun to learn how to skate better. YOU’RE actually going to have to talk to their parents and get them interested in paying for class lessons. That’s your job. It’s really that simple.

I never said it was going to be easy. But, then again, $25 to $45 per hour isn’t welfare either. YOU’RE going to have to take this raw talent and teach them how to do a proper scissor step. YOU’RE going to have to teach this new skater how to stand up and simply balance on one foot. YOU’RE going to have to actually teach this child how to do a properly executed Outside Forward and Inside Forward edge. YOU’RE going to actually be forced to teach this future competitive skater to skate backwards without bending forward. YOU’RE going to have to teach them how to do a cross-front, a cross-back, a swing, a raised chasse, Mohawk turn and a three-turn. That’s your job.

YOU’RE actually going to have to TEACH them how to skate, instead of just doing the “polish work”. Because there are few skaters left to just polish. It is now the responsibility of every single teacher/coach in this country to commit to producing new skaters OF THEIR OWN! It is now YOUR responsibility to create a future for yourself and in turn create a future for this sport. Don’t have time? MAKE TIME. Want to get a job done? Give it to a busy man.

Perhaps someone can convince me and the rest of us out here, who just watched the National Championships in Omaha, that by not creating new skaters you are somehow contributing to the future growth of roller skating in this country. Perhaps you can explain to me where we can find some “American” sophomore men’s singles skaters next season so that the next National Champion doesn’t feel so lonely at the top of the awards platform.

Perhaps you can explain to the rest of us where we’re going to find enough skaters in the talent pool across this country, so that weaker skaters who are far from ready DO NOT automatically advance to the junior level simply because there are not enough entries to knock them out.

These are desperate times my friends. The Artistic National Championships at this point in time, and in many instances, has become a meaningless event under the present structure. One area of exception to this is the adult events, where the majority of our skaters compete. The adult events host some of the largest and strongest events at the Nationals. But, forgive me for saying so, these people can not go on forever. And the with so few skaters coming up from the younger age groups to fill the Junior and Senior World Class level, then who will be left to eventually move into these adult divisions in the future? So, the future lies elsewhere.

We need a full out, organized and intensive national program, that each and every teacher/coach signs into, to introduce new talent into our sport through the beginner and lower level class systems. If you are not willing to address this most serious problem then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Things that work in one place won’t work in others. Everyone has ideas on how this can be done. We need to share those ideas with each other now.

There is information out there. The R.S.R.O.A. used to have tons of it. Does the R.S.A. still have this material available? It was in the R.S.R.O.A.’s best interest to have this material available because a healthy class system in the rink always brought in dependable and repeatable business each and every week. Of course, that’s when this sport was healthy, and that’s why it was. Coaches were required to work the classes and to produce new business and by doing that the pump was continually primed.

Now, here is a point that is absolutely essential if there is to be a chance for this to work. Without it I just don’t think we can make this happen. Many of you already know this but it needs to be stated here clearly.

We CAN NOT do this without the support and partnership of our Operators.

It just can’t be done without this. Some of our Operators have been around for many years. They have seen the golden age of Competitive skating in this country. They know that Club skating can be a dependable, repeatable and profitable part of their rinks income. But sadly many of our Operators are somewhat new to the industry. They haven’t seen or had any experience in the area of club and competitive skating to understand what an important part of their business this can be. Skaters that learn to skate better will skate more often. Skaters who learn to skate better buy more skate products. Skaters that learn to skate better bring friends with them to skate.

Teachers and coaches are extremely willing to utilize the “Off” hours that your rink has to offer. They don’t need a lot of lighting. They don’t need a lot of air conditioning or heat. Ice Skaters seem to manage very well with minimal heating and what did we all do before rinks were air conditioned years ago? We learned to manage. We learned to cope. We learned to make due with what we were blessed to have and yes somehow we all survived.

There are some things that the teacher/coach does need. They do need some time on Saturday morning to build and create a class system to prime the pump. And they need some kind of at least minimal exposure during the Saturday and Sunday afternoon sessions so that the public can see the product they are trying to create. This would mean once, or better twice, during the session that they be allowed to run a dance set or perhaps a quick demonstration, or the time to run a quickie FREE introductory learn to skate better class. A dance set can take ONLY 5 minutes. A Free class can be done in ONLY 10 minutes. The teacher isn’t asking for the moon, but they do need a chance to show their product. How can anyone become interested in a product if they are never given the opportunity to see it or a chance to do it, as in the case of the short set of dances? it would only take about 5 to 7 minutes out of a 2 hour session! How about a backward skating only number during the session? “Can’t skate backwards?” “We have classes available here at ________, check with our Box Office for further information or contact one of our SRSTA Professional Skating Instructors/Coaches for class information.”

The teachers and coaches desperately want to become an asset to your rink. They want to become a valuable partner in business with you, not a drain on that business. And if you don’t have one that does I promise you that there are many out there who would jump at the chance.

We once had over 30,000 registered amateur skaters in this sport. They each skated in some Operators rink and they skated several times each week. They bought skates and boots and bearings and wheels and other essentials, and they bought them through your rinks sport shop. And since they skated so often those skates, boots, wheels, bearings and other essentials needed to be replaced much more often then the once a week transient skaters.

So, to our Operators comes this plea….. PLEASE give the teachers and coaches the opportunity to, at the very least, make their case to you. Give them a chance to show you what they can do for YOU. They just need some time and a chance.

To our teachers and coaches…. No matter what job or occupation you choose to pursue you must justify your position each and every day. We all have to do it. It’s a fact of life, and this is no different. If you want our Operators to invest some time in you then you have to justify their faith by becoming the best asset they have ever had. It is now or never. No second chances. Its too late now for that. You once were a competitor. You worked hard to get to the position your in now. You know how to practice. You know what is important and what is not. You know how to prioritize. NOW you have to learn how to market. You must first learn how to market yourself and your ability to become a revenue producing partner with your Operator. And by doing so you will have the opportunity to create something very special.

And this leads in to the second question.

What is Lincoln’s responsibility in this?