Winter Olympics motivates youth

LaHaye Ice Center’s Learn to Skate program experiences increase of sign-ups throughout Sochi games

LEARNING — Children practice skating techniques with their instructor during lessons at the LaHaye Ice Center. Photo credit Abby Kourkounakis

LEARNING — Children practice skating techniques with their instructor during lessons at the LaHaye Ice Center. Photo credit Abby Kourkounakis

After American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White won gold at the Sochi Olympics, the LaHaye Ice Center has seen a surge in numbers for skating lessons.

“Olympic years are the ones where the most amount of kids get involved in skating,” Captain of the Liberty University Synchronized Skating Team and ice-skating Coach Katie Scuilli said.

The LaHaye Ice Center offers ice-skating lessons through a program called Learn to Skate. More than 70 people have signed up for the skating lessons this spring, compared to the approximate 45 people who signed up during the fall sessions, according to Scuilli.

Head Coach of Liberty University Figure and Synchronized Skating Teams Tatiana Payne said the spring semester is usually busier than the first two sessions of the year.

“It’s not until after Christmas that we really see people wanting to ice-skate,” Payne said. “It is more of a winter-related sport, even though the rink is open year round.”

The LaHaye Ice Center offers four sessions a school year, according to the LaHaye Ice Center website. Scuilli said the third session is usually the busiest of them all.

“I still haven’t caught up with the registration, because there’s so many people,” Scuilli said.

Payne said the Olympics inspire people to want to get involved with skating.

“For little girls in particular, I think they can really relate to the pretty dresses and the crystals and the beautiful music and just the flowiness of it all,” Payne said.

Learn to Skate is a basic skills program run by the United States Figure Skating Association, according LaHaye’s website. The website states that the Learn to Skate program was designed to become “the best beginning ice-skating program in the world.”

“(Learn to Skate) is a program to teach kids how to skate whether it be for hockey players or figure skaters,” Scuilli said. “It’s just a starting point for everyone.”

Lessons begin with “Snow Plow Sam,” which helps young skaters get used to being on the ice, according to the Learn to Skate pamphlet. After that, skaters have basic skills lessons, which includes levels one through eight. The rink also offers an adult class for skaters 18 years old and over, according to the pamphlet.

Payne said when kids begin the Learn to Skate program, she thinks they have dreams of going to the Olympics one day.

“(The kids) definitely are watching the Olympics,” Payne said. “I think they admire what they see.”

Scuilli said Liberty has one of the most affordable skating programs compared to other rinks. She said the standard rate of personal coaching is $1 per

At the LaHaye Ice Center, one five-week session of group lessons costs $55 for the public, according to the LaHaye Ice Center website. Scuilli said Liberty students receive a discount and only pay $30 per five-week session.

The fourth and last session of the year begins March 17 and ends April 14. Learn to Skate lessons are held Monday nights from 6-7 p.m.

“If anybody wants an opportunity to see skaters that are at the quality, some of them, as what’s on the Olympics, it’s really fun to watch live,” Payne said.

According to Payne, watching ice-skating live is a great experience compared to watching it on television.

“It’s better to be at the rink live watching something, because you can hear the edges (of the ice skate blades) and the sounds of skating with the music,” Payne said.

Payne encourages anyone who is interested to give ice-skating a shot.

“If it’s something that (people are) interested in, they should definitely give it a try,” Payne said. “Worst thing that can happen is that you fall, and you get back up and you try it again.”

For more information on the LaHaye Ice Center’s Learn to Skate and other activities, visit

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