Sharpening their skills
They say that if you want to learn how to do something right, then go to the pros. That’s exactly what many local grade schoolers did this past Friday at the Park City Ice Arena as they wrapped up the first session of the Youth Winter Sports Alliance’s (YWSA) Get Out and Play (GOAP) program by learning how to speed skate from former Olympians Derek Parra and Catherine Raney.
Friday’s event capped off a five-week skating program that exposed the children to all of the different types of skating including hockey, figure skating and speed skating.
"The kids learned all the basics of skating," said GOAP Director Kerry Morgan. The sessions covered all the basics, starting with adjusting to the feel of the ice and moving through all the different skate-related disciplines.
The GOAP program, which started 30 years ago as an after-school ski program at Park City Mountain Resort, has come a long way. What began as a program serving the only elementary school that existed in Park City back then now transports about 1,000 Park City youth to five different venues during the 20-week program. Besides skating, other sessions feature alpine skiing, snowboarding, freestyle skiing, freeride skiing and snowboarding, Nordic jumping and cross-country skiing all taught by some of the top instructors in the country.
According to Morgan, the program is designed to get children out of the house and moving after school. It also attempts to target children who might not otherwise be active after school because their parents work, they aren’t from families that participate in winter sports, or they can’t afford the costs associated with the sports.
"The value of this program is No. 1, getting kids off the couch and out the door to participate," Morgan said. "It has grown into what it is today only because of the 2002 Olympics. The vision is to get more kids into winter sports."
Speaking of the Olympics, the passion for the program is shared by Raney, the head coach of the Park City Speed Skating Club, who brings her experience from four Olympic appearances between 1998 and 2010. Raney and Parra showed the kids all the basics of their sport. She said that she could already see kids who had a natural talent for the sport as well as others who seemed determined to pick up the technique.
"Sometimes the kids who love it progress through the sport quickly," she said. "You don’t need raw talent to do well."
One of the kids who did show raw talent was 10-year-old Lindsey Woodbury. Already comfortable on speed skates, the fourth grader from Jeremy Ranch Elementary hopes that she can continue in the sport.
"I want to, because it’s fun and you can go really fast," she said.
Raney said she is thrilled that the kids are exposed to all types of skating. Her hope is that some will love one of the skating disciplines enough to sign up for more classes and get involved with ice sports competitively.
"To be a kid in Park City, you’re pretty lucky to try all these sports," she said.
And lucky to have Olympians living nearby to teach the sport.
"We had a lot people growing up who were influential in our success," Raney said. "It’s important to give back."
Eight-year-old Natasha Mayes, also from Jeremy Ranch Elementary, was thrilled with her speed-skating learning session.
"They are really good," she said. "I like them because you get to learn new stuff and it helps us learn how to skate."
The class included not only professional speed skaters as teachers, but also provided 20 pairs of actual speed skates for the kids to have an authentic learning experience. The skates were supplied by the Park City Speed Skating Club and the Utah Olympic Oval for the kids to use during the session. Morgan said that the skating program was just added to GOAP’s offerings this year, bringing the grand total of all sessions to 20 total weeks.
"A lot of people were asking for it," said Morgan. "Being that this is supported by YWSA, we really wanted to reach out and show the kids all the winter sports. Ice was the one discipline we hadn’t done."
More sessions on the snow will follow in the new year. The children come from four grade schools in the Park City school system: Jeremy Ranch, McPolin, Parley’s Park and Trailside. Any child in kindergarten through fifth grade is encouraged to attend. The children are transported to each venue from the schools to make it even easier for them to participate.
For more information on the GOAP program, visit http://www.ywsa.org.
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The Alpine Slide was a hit, so, why not try something a little more… extreme? Enter: Down The Tube.