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How to Choose an Ice Rink To Match Your Figure Skating Goals and Needs

Before You Become a Figure Skater

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Choose an Ice Rink To Match Your Figure Skating Goals

Choose an Ice Rink To Match Your Figure Skating Goals

Photo by JO ANN Schneider Farris
Those interested in figure skating should be aware that not all ice arenas are the same.

Some ice rinks may be only for recreational skating or for ice hockey. Other rinks may be geared especially for figure skating and will have coaches on staff who are able to take an ice skater all the way from the beginning stages to the elite level.

This article is meant to help those new to the sport understand what to look for when choosing an ice arena to match their figure skating goals and needs.

Is the Facility's Office Staff Knowledgeable About Figure Skating?

Some ice arenas have a friendly staff that can help steer those new to figure skating in the right direction. If the person who first greets you at the facility is friendly and knowledgeable, that may be a good sign that the rink has serviced many figure skaters and is aware of their needs.

Is There a Figure Skating Pro Shop On Site?

If an arena has an experienced figure skate technician on staff or a complete pro shop (that is not just geared for hockey), there is a strong likelihood that there is enough business from the figure skaters in the facility to justify the shop's existence. This means also that the rink's figure skaters will not have to go elsewhere to get blades sharpened or to purchase ice skating apparel or equipment.

Take the Time to Look at the Credentials of the Coaching Staff:

Most ice arenas have a list available of the coaches that give private lessons. Take a hard look at the credentials of those on the rink's coaching staff. Some questions to ask include:

Find Out If Special Sessions Are Available Especially For Figure Skating:

  • Freestyle, ice dance, or pair skating sessions are special figure skating practice sessions. These sessions are different than public skating sessions. Usually they cost much more than public sessions and skaters must be able to skate at a "freestyle level" or first pass certain skating tests to qualify for the sessions. These special figure skating practice sessions sessions usually don't have beginning ice skaters on them.
  • Freestyle, pair, and ice dance practice sessions are usually 45 to 60 minutes long.
  • If a rink only has a few freestyle practice sessions per week, most likely the arena is geared for recreational skaters, and not for serious figure skaters.
  • If a facility offers freestyle practice sessions only in the early morning, before school, the rink still may be a good choice for those interested in competitive figure skating. Just be aware that eventually you may be doing all your figure skating training in the "wee" early morning hours and before school.
  • A recreational rink that does not offer many freestyle practice sessions may be great for young children and beginning figure skaters, but those new to figure skating should know that they will "outgrow" a recreational ice rink eventually.

Does the Rink Offer Lots of Recreational Ice Skating Classes?:

  • Unlike ballet, dance, or gymnastics, where learning occurs in a group lesson format most of the time, figure skating is mastered through private lessons. If many, many recreational classes are offered at an ice arena, there is a good chance that the facility is geared mainly towards recreational skating.
  • There is nothing wrong with a rink that offers many group classes, but if a skater's goal is to become a competitive figure skater, it may be wise to look for a facility that offers many freestyle practice sessions per day and has coaches on staff that teach private skating lessons to skaters on a full-time basis.

Is Hockey "Big" At the Arena?

If hockey gets preference or is "big" at an ice rink, and your goal is to become a figure skater, ask a lot of questions about the figure skating program. If the rink "just fits" some isolated figure skating practice sessions or public sessions around hockey programs, most likely the facility is not a place geared for figure skaters.

Does the Facility Have More Than One Ice Sheet?:

Rinks that have more than one surface of ice under one roof have an advantage. One ice sheet could perhaps be used for hockey and/or recreational programs while the other ice sheet could offer figure skating practice sessions.

Are the Rink's Figure Skating Practice Sessions Divided by Skating Level?:

If a facility offers freestyle sessions for certain skating levels or for adults only, that is a good sign that the rink has many levels of skaters training there. This means that the rink most likely has coaches and the facilities to take a skater from the beginning to elite levels.

Does the Rink Have a Figure Skating Club Based At the Facility?:

  • Beginning figure skaters do not have to join a skating club, but as a skater advances, there is a time when joining a figure skating club becomes necessary.
  • If there is no figure skating club based at an ice rink, that means those who train there will have to go elsewhere to take figure skating tests. The skaters will also have to go elsewhere for critiques or to participate in club shows.
  • A rink that does not have a club most likely will not have much of a figure skating program. Again, this does not mean the facility is a bad place to skate, but it may only be geared for recreational ice skating.

Are There Off-Ice Training Opportunities At the Arena?:

Today's figure skaters must also participate in off-ice classes such as ballet, jazz, modern dance, and strength and conditioning. If those opportunities are available on-site, there is a good chance the rink is geared towards making an "all-around" figure skater.

Are There Many "Open Skate" Sessions?:

An arena that offers many, many public skating sessions may be a perfect fit for those new to figure skating, but be aware that eventually a skater will outgrow a rink that only offers public skating. It's very difficult for figure skaters to jump and spin or do their programs on a session filled with beginning and/or recreational ice skaters.

Is the Rink a Happy Place?:

An ice arena can become a figure skater's home away from home. Be aware that a lot of time will be spent there. If the rink is cold and dark, or if the skaters and families don't look happy, be cautious. It's best, if possible, to shop around for a rink that will fulfill your skating needs.
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