"It's great to skate!"
This is the catch phrase chosen to be shared during January and a part of February through the vehicle that is "National Skating Month," a focal point to share the fun and healthful aspects of ice skating with those who, for one reason or another, have never - or seldom - found their way onto the ice atop a pair of skates.
I'm talking the original varieties of skating: figure skating and hockey. Area ice skaters are fortunate to have choices available - as some skaters over the years have enjoyed learning the basics of skating on figure skates and also on hockey skates.
The Wheeling Figure Skating Club offers nationally developed programs from “Snowplow Sam” classes for children through basic skills classes for adults, giving families an opportunity to learn the basics of the sport together.
The local hockey programs are centered at the Wheeling Park rink through the WAHA structure available to girls and boys, and for adult skaters as well. Information about their programs, as well as the "Learn to Skate Classes" offered on Friday afternoons under the instruction of Carolyn Ream is available on the web or through the main office at Wheeling Park.
The Wheeling Figure Skating Club is a winter season recreational club that has been around long enough to see three generations of a family take to the ice at the same time - each completely enjoying the opportunity to share the experience with the others.
The freedom of the sport made available through these nationally designed programs allows the individual skater to progress at their own pace through standardized sets of skills - each advancement brings a tangible reward.
The nationally developed programs, available through the Wheeling Figure Skating Club, give families an opportunity to learn the basics of the sport together - though parents are generally watching from the sidelines - leaving the instruction and care of the young skaters to the class instructors and their experienced helpers.
In this way, advancing skaters are able to support the club, often completing school community volunteering requirements or enjoying the chance to help beginning skaters while learning to assist an experienced class instructor in the hope of being ready to step up when future opportunities to get qualified as a basic skills instructor become available.
Through the Wheeling Figure Skating Club "Snowplow Sam" and "Basic Skills" classes are readily available at just about any point in the season.
The Snowplow Sam classes are being offered for the first time locally all throughout the winter. To register or for more information on them or about the local club's programs and activities call 740-381-8570 and leave a message with your phone number and a club officer will return your call.
This newly available venture provides opportunities for children as young as three years of age to start skating via a class environment based on personal attention and positive reinforcement for all their individual efforts.
Snowplow Sam's availability - and its lesser cost - are by design and in recognition there are often differing by figure skating experts to be the type of initial skating instruction program that will allow a young child to venture onto the ice and into their first few skating classes with a sense of adventure and a great feeling of accomplishment, during and after the classes.
Getting started in either branch of the sport is not something that has to involve any kind of major investment, unless you want it to. The sports equipment resale store of your choice is a perfect place to start venturing into gathering up the items needed for skating; or you can simply rent skates at Wheeling Park Memorial Ice Rink.
At the end of the skating season, a small club exhibition is held featuring the members of the Wheeling Figure Skating Club, and also programs skated by many of the club's coaching staff. This year's exhibition, which is always open to the public at no charge, will be held Saturday, Feb. 23, in the club's regular lesson timeslot of 4:30 to 7 p.m.
In addition to the club members performances, former Barnesville resident and lead coach at the local club, Kim Sailer, will skate a program with her pairs partner, Dave Garber. The two have several national championships to their credit and have taken top medals at Adult Skating World championship events in Germany as well.
Among others from the coaching staff at the club who will be skating at the exhibition will be the Wheeling club's synchronized skating instructor and "Snowplow Sam" class leader Giovanna Loccisano of Yorkville, who is herself a two time national gold medalist and former competitive synchronized figure skating team member and individual competitor.
All three, Sailer, Garber and Loccisano, have performed many times for local audiences who attended presentations of the holiday season mainstay at Wesbanco Arena known as "Symphony on Ice."
At the close of each season, skaters are presented with patches, ribbons and trophies recognizing each of their respective accomplishments.
Among the awards shared are those recognizing major commitments to successfully acquiring skills and testing them against the nationally accepted set standards, which brought special recognition to Belmont area resident and local figure skater Jamilyn Helms of Belmont, who is in the eighth grade at St. Clairsville Middle School. She is the daughter of Joyce and Dennis Helms.
Like many of the area's skaters, she is not only a member of the Wheeling figure skating Club but is also a well established member of the classes offered on Friday afternoons by Carolyn Ream.
Why look for opportunities to skate anytime there is ice available? It is just something Helms has enjoyed since first setting foot on the ice during one of the Friday afternoon classes at Wheeling Park at about age 3.
When do you know your child is hooked on a sport? For Joyce and Dennis Helms, their daughter's love of the sport was never more clear than during the many times she has asked her father to construct an ice rink in the back yard.
They stopped short of fulfilling that request, but have continued to provide her with access to group classes and private instruction because they have seen her flourish through the positive and welcoming environment at the local rink and the WFSC. They try to fit in opportunities for her to skate throughout the year when possible by visiting rinks elsewhere in the region where others from the Wheeling FSC continue their skating development during what is the "off season" for the local rink and club.
Her parents see her figure skating has a means to provide Jamilyn a unique niche where she can enjoy the company of friends old and new, have access to regular physical exercise, and can challenge herself to successfully learn new and ever more challenging skating skills, and can be recognized for her dedication to achieve individual and group goals.
Anyone interested in a guest skating opportunity during this season of celebration for the skating world is invited to contact the club by calling 740-381-8570.
Wheeling Figure Skating Club sessions are held weekly on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. Specifically the "Snowplow Sam" classes are held from 4:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.