A new regional Learn to Skate Program streamlines the process, and allows pre-school or school-age children to transfer accomplishments from centre to centre.
Oak Bay spearheaded the award-winning Active Communities Learn to Skate program. Specifically, Caroline Lawrence, sports programmer at Recreation Oak Bay, led the team that embarked on creating a standardized skating program in 2012.
They wanted to develop a simple recreational program similar to those offered at the adjacent swimming pool.
“We all had our own little skating programs,” Lawrence said.
Standardizing the program would raise the quality of instruction and offer residents across the region the opportunity to take classes at an optimum time, day and venue to suit individual family needs.
“We’re trying to create a quality program for kids to learn how to skate,” Lawrence said. “This benefits everybody.”
After taking some time to craft the program, they introduced it to seven Greater Victoria arenas in fall 2012.
The badge incentive program emphasizes the importance of comprehensive feedback through report cards. The skate team leader is on the ice during all lesson times and can answer questions about lessons and a child’s progress. For teens, the program improves their skating and offers opportunity to learn instructional skills to advance opportunities for later employment as a skating instructor. The skater-to-instructor ratio on ice ensuxres that the skaters will learn and improve their skating skills.
Promoting physical literacy is a common goal among recreational programmers across the region, so they opted to freely share the program online at no cost. All the information available for any programmer to peruse and utilize is online. The complete package includes everything from stickers and awards to instructor manuals and report cards.
In three years the program has doubled, now offered by 14 rinks from Vancouver Island to High Level, Alta. “We’re having interest now from Dawson Creek, Whistler and Delta.”
“We’re trying to get a larger governing body to take this over. It’s grown to a point where it needs to be adopted, and so it doesn’t die,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll just grow.”
An added benefit of the laid-back recreational program is it feeds other arena user groups such as figure skating or hockey clubs.
The Active Communities Learn to Skate program won an award last month at the 2015 B.C. Parks and Recreation Association Symposium held in Victoria. The program also received a provincial award.
“Just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean it has to be a shoddy program,” Lawrence said.