On a recent evening, the lobby of the Eagles Ice Arena burgeoned with eager skaters waiting for their lessons to begin. Chattering children squirmed as parents laced up their skates, while others pressed their noses against the plastic, watching skaters skim across the ice.
But children weren’t the only ones preparing for ice skating lessons. Patty Mathias, 51, laced up for her third Learn to Skate class. Eagles offers group instruction for adult novice skaters as well as private lessons.
It wasn’t last month’s national figure skating championships that inspired Mathias to take to the ice – it was love. “My grandson signed up,” she said as she cautiously skirted the edge of the rink. “He wouldn’t do it without me.”
Mike Otis believes it’s never too late to learn to skate. He volunteers to teach adults at the arena. “The oldest student I’ve had was 72 and she loved every minute of it,” he said. “She’d always wanted to skate.”
That’s exactly why 54-year-old Malinda Asher signed up for the class. “I’ve wanted to do skating since I was little,” she said. “Now, I finally have the chance.” She demonstrated her forward-moving skills with a calm assurance. “Today she’s going to teach us how to go backward.”
“She” is skating coach Angela Au. According to Au, the difference between teaching children and adults to skate can be summed up in one word: fear. “Adults are older and wiser,” she said with a grin. “We know when you fall, it hurts!” Also, she said adults want to know the reason behind every instruction, while children simply follow her lead.
However, Molly Zammit, 54, believes fear is a choice. After years of watching her youngest daughter skate competitively, she recently became a figure skating trial judge. That’s when she decided she wanted firsthand experience with some of the techniques she’d been judging. “I knew the moves intellectually, but not physically,” she said. “Last fall I went to the Learn to Skate class. I decided not to have any fear.”
All those years of observation paid off. Zammit said to her surprise, she quickly progressed beyond the beginner level. She now has a coach and practices two to three times a week.
Likewise, Larry Muxlow, 47, spends a lot of time on the ice. He estimates he’s at the rink between four to seven days each week. Part of that time he’s coaching the Lady Fury hockey team, but the rest of the time he’s practicing his jumps and learning new moves.
When he was 35, Muxlow decided to take figure skating lessons. “I wanted to learn how to spin right,” he said. The attraction for him is simple. “It’s fun,” he said. “I’m old school. I like doing the big figures, like double figure eights. I like the big set patterns in the ice.”
But at the Learn to Skate class, Jim Logan, 55, wasn’t quite ready to tackle big patterns. His goals are simpler. “I want to keep up with my 9-year-old daughter,” he said. He signed up for the class because he got tired of sitting in the stands watching her. As Au introduced a new technique, he smiled and said, “It’s harder than it looks!”
Logan’s got his eye on the prize, though. “I want to learn to do some crossovers and skate backwards.”
And it’s the thrill of learning that keeps Zammit coming back. “It’s the most euphoric feeling when you realize, ‘Wait a second – look what I’ve done!’ ” she said. “I’m having so much fun.”