Speed skating provides kids with a positive environment.
Carl Hill’s daughter Phoebe, six at the time, liked to skate but wasn’t interested in hockey or figure skating. But she loved speed. Carl showed her some speed-skating races on YouTube. “She loved it,” recalls Hill, a fan of the sport since Gaétan Boucher won two gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. Hill contacted the local speed skating club and took Phoebe to watch a practice. “Wow, I’m in,” she said.
Despite her initial enthusiasm, it took a while for Phoebe to get comfortable with the technique and the specialized skates. “When I stepped on the ice, it was really weird. I tried a cross-over but I fell flat on my butt,” she recalls.
But she stuck with it, buoyed by the camaraderie of her fellow skaters and inspired by Christine Nesbitt’s gold medal performance at the 2012 Olympics. “Some switch just clicked in my head.”
Now in grade six, Phoebe is ranked third in her age group in Ontario. And her parents have caught the bug too: her mom, Dawn, is a coach and Carl is on the board of the Ontario Speed Skating Association.
Think speed skating might be a fit for you child? Here’s how to get started:
Sign up for classes: Hill says many clubs work with local parks and recreation departments to offer introductory classes. You can also find a speed skating club in your area with Speed Skating Canada’s Club Finder.
What you need: A hockey or bike helmet, shin pads and kneepads (hockey or soccer ones will do), a neck guard and gloves. Speed skates are different from regular skates and can be pricey. However, Hill says many clubs offer loaners for those trying out the sport and used skates may also be available.
Safety: “Speed skating may look like roller derby, but it isn’t,” says Hill. “It’s a very positive environment,” adding that contact isn’t allowed and there’s a strong focus on safety and sportsmanship.
Benefits: Aside from staying active, says Hill, speed skating has helped Phoebe learn about setting goals and being accountable to herself. “She dreams of going to the Olympics. I’m thrilled she has a goal and isn’t just hanging out at the mall.”
By Laura Bickle