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BASIC S KILLS WINDY CITY WONDER


CHICAGO-AREA PROGRAMS JOIN FORCES TO PROMOTE FIGURE SKATING by MIMI WHETSTONE


As the 2014 Olympic Winter Games ap-


proach, ice arenas nationwide prepare to embrace the on-ice membership increases that follow. Be- tween the spikes in interest, however, figure skat- ing directors are getting creative in growing their numbers in an uncertain economy. “Skating has changed tremendously with the


economy over the last few years, and the needs of people who were coming into the facility changed as a result,” Kerry Murphy, figure skating direc- tor at Skokie Park District’s Skatium Ice Arena in Skokie, Ill., said. “People want to get their mon- ey’s worth. Tey aren’t looking for skating lessons; they’re looking for a package. U.S. Figure Skating’s Basic Skills Program gave us that package.” In an effort to build her program, Murphy


joined forces with 11 other Basic Skills programs in the greater Chicago area to form the Chicago Basic Skills Committee, a collaboration that she says has helped her program with the difficult task of retaining students. “My skating school has seen longer retention


at the lower levels, which is vital to any program,” Murphy said. “It’s easy to get a bunch of skaters in for the first time, but once they’re in the door, it’s my responsibility to retain them. Trough the incentives we’ve implemented, I would say our retention rate has increased 35 percent for stu- dents Basic 3 and higher.” Murphy teamed up with programs based in


Crestwood, Crystal Lake, Glenview, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Pleasant Prairie, Rock- ford, West Dundee, Winnetka and Woodridge, Ill., along with the All Seasons Ice Rinks program in Naperville. All Seasons, under the direction of Dona Bengson, has retained more than 1,000 members since 2009.


Kids from Skokie Skatium show off their Basic Skills badges. Skaters from the Glenview Ice Center in Glenview, Ill., perform at the Hollywood Skate of Fame Show. “One thing that really holds us all together


is our support meetings,” Murphy said. “In the last three years, a representative from every pro- gram has been present at every meeting. When we started this strategy, we said we had to stay united and committed to the whole, not our- selves. Everything we do, we do together.” “When we all get together, we get going on


some great topics,” Dorie Cascio, figure skating director at the Glenview Ice Center, added. “We talk about different options to use in our pro- grams, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and


different ways to present things. Working with the other directors and programs really pushes me to keep my program at the top of its game.” Together, the program directors have pro-


moted events that encourage participants to get excited about figure skating, such as attending Disney on Ice performances through a partner- ship with Feld Entertainment, hosting skating Fun Badge workshops with local Girl Scout troops, contributing to the Destination Sochi $20.14 Program and annually hosting the Chi- cagoland Basic Skills Championships. Last year the Championships touted 200 competitors rep- resenting 23 U.S. Figure Skating clubs and skat- ing schools. “Working together gives us great opportu-


nities to spark interest in figure skating,” Cascio said. “When our kids do things together, they’re proud to represent their own rink among other programs, but they enjoy being part of the bigger picture within the figure skating community.” Trough the U.S. Figure Skating Basic Skills


program, the Chicago Basic Skills Committee has successfully supported its members in cre- ating new and unique group incentives to grow the figure skating community in addition to their own individual programs, a feat Murphy credits entirely to cooperation. “From the beginning we have focused on


teamwork,” Murphy said. “Everyone truly cares about their programs and we all have a great deal of respect for each other.”


30 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2013


PHOTO COURTESY OF DORIE CASCIO


PHOTO COURTESY OF IRIS LEVIN


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