Steamboat Figure Skating Club builds success on teamwork
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Beatles song, “Come Together,” plays as the Steamboat Figure Skating Club takes the ice at Howelsen Ice Arena for practice.
The 22 girls assemble in a circle at the center of the ice where skating director Celina Taylor stands, instructing the girls on which warm-up to do.
Groups of four carve the ice in circles, facing forward at the start, then skating backwards for the remainder of the exercise.
“We started team training, which is kind of a Russian model, typically figure skating is very individualized,” Taylor said. “We don’t have a lot of ice time in Steamboat. Our mission was to make sure every time kids stepped onto the ice, they were getting some sort of training.”
As they progress into their jumps, each holds a guard control, which looks like a curved stick. As the skaters leap through the air, they’re supposed to switch the guard control to their opposite hands, which helps stabilize the arms and helps keep their chins up.
When Taylor took over as director of the skating club in summer 2017, there wasn’t much organization to it. Now, she’s one of three specialized coaches who oversee the daily practice.
As a former performer for Disney on Ice, Taylor specializes in choreography and technical instruction. Her husband, Jeremiah Jackson, coaches the jumps, while Courtney Gill oversees the basic footwork and moves in the field.
Her program is a team effort.
“We built youth development into our model once a week, working on team building, self-esteem and a little bit of community outreach, because figure skating is a highly competitive sport and you want to make sure your skaters feel connected and not isolated,” Taylor explained.
The Steamboat Skating Club makes do with the five hours of ice time it gets each week. The rest of the training is done off the ice, where girls train in ballet at 6:30 a.m. once a week at the Steamboat Springs Art Depot, while also spending time nailing their moves on the rubber matting at the rink near the ice arena’s beer garden.
That off-the-ice training is important for girls to gain confidence in their body movements and prevent injury.
Taylor and Jackson are also opening their own ballet studio in September, which will allow them more collaboration with the theater community to put on an ice show once a year.
Last year, the skating club performed a musical version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and this year, they will present “Mary Poppins.”
It’s another way to make skating fun and less about the competition.
But competitively, the Steamboat Skating Club saw its hard work come to fruition at the Vail Invitational. Seven girls competed, including five novices, and six placed in the top three.
“I’ve never seen a group of skaters go so far so quickly with such limited ice,” Jackson said. “I never thought they would be landing axels this quick. It’s a testament to how hard they work when they have ice — some of the best group of kids that I’ve coached, as far as who they are as people.”
Jackson, a former professional ballet dancer and skating performer for Le Cirque in Hong Kong, is a firm believer in the team model. It was something he experienced in his career as a skater and as a coach in Seattle, but he sees more of it in Steamboat.
“We are such a community-based city and county, and I think that spills over into the kids that grow up here,” Jackson said. “The better we all are together, the better we will be individually.”
The girls Steamboat competed against in Vail average two to three hours of ice time per day. Steamboat won every event it entered as a team, which has never been done before.
“It’s a gift to be able to teach this thing that you love with people you enjoy teaching with and kids you really like,” Taylor said. “It will be a challenge as we grow to make sure all the kids work well together. We’re hoping to really build relationships with our kids. At the end of the day, it’s just ice skating.”
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