The holidays are upon us, and one popular gift during the winter season is that new pair of ice skates. Kids get their skates, school is out …
“... and we get slammed,” said Tiesha DiMaggio, program director of the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich.
DiMaggio loves the activity, of course. And she loves setting people up in the right lessons and coaching plans to make sure they have fun and get the most out of those new skates or newfound interest.
It starts with introductory classes, or the Learn to Skate lessons. These are for kids as young as 3 up through adults who are learning or reacquainting themselves with the sport, and include group lessons or individual lessons.
For now, we’ll walk through the children’s lessons, though adults can follow a similar route.
After the Introductory Classes, children either stop because they’ve learned enough baseline skills, or they decide to continue and pick a track: figure skating or hockey. The rink offers seven levels in their introductory Learn to Skate program but kids usually choose a direction after they pass the first few levels of the program.
Figure Skating: Future Stars Program
DiMaggio admits to a soft spot for kids who love figure skating but are thwarted by the cost of private lessons and competitions. She was that kid who wanted to spend all of her time on the ice, and while she did get to take lessons, they were limited to twice a week due to the expense.
“We really work with people to manage a budget,” she said.
The Future Stars program is designed to give kids a middle ground between the group environment of Learn to Skate and the pricier 1-on-1 lessons.
The arena offers a class with 30 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes of supervised practice time with a coach on the full ice, and skaters get to learn a program set to their chosen music. They also have the opportunity to participate in recreational competitions or more formal competitions as they progress.
“It certainly makes it possible for budget-oriented people, that if they want to see their kids skate, they can have a wonderful time doing recreational competitions,” DiMaggio said. “It teaches planning; having a sport teaches so many things. You may not be the next Olympian, but it teaches time management, teaches work ethic … so many things.”
There are also private lessons for those interested in advancing to elite levels, and a competitive skating team that travels around New England, northern New Jersey, and the metro New York area.
The arena has coaches ranging from junior level coaches who are just starting out in their certification to DiMaggio, an international coach who has taken students to the Europeans and World Championships. That results in a wide range of prices to again give families options.
“I’m very proud of our Future Stars program, but I’m also proud of the fact that we have very high-quality coaches here,” DiMaggio said. “For a rink that’s in the middle of nowhere and not in a heavily populated area … right now we’re in a situation where there are six of us who could coach anywhere in the country.”
In this track, the progression is Hockey Learn to Skate, Learn to Play Hockey, and Youth League.
There are no sticks or pucks in the earliest phases of Hockey Learn to Skate - sorry, kids! But skaters do need to have a hockey-approved helmet, hockey gloves, and hockey skates.
They learn to modify their stance and get used to the striding motion. They learn terminology that they’ll need to know if they move up the ranks.
The idea is to learn how to skate properly before the puck is thrown onto the ice and everyone gets distracted by it. Skaters learn to skate forward and backward and how to stop while skating in either direction (of utmost importance). They can perform different types of drills.
Little by little, equipment is added. DiMaggio said it gets incorporated at a slower pace so parents aren’t inundated with all of the equipment at once -- which isn’t needed right away anyway.
In Learn to Play Hockey, stick and puck handling are added to skating skills and players learn to shoot and pass, and how to take the puck down the ice.
After Learn to Play, kids can join the Southeastern Connecticut Youth Hockey, which skates at RoseGarden and runs in-house leagues and youth instructional leagues.
For more information, check out the
Hockey Progression Page and the Parent Resource Guide on RoseGarden’s website, rosegardenicearena.com. Or call 860-892-2555.