When sharp, slashing cuts into the ice mix with a graceful jumping twist, sometimes topped with a landing lighter than the flight of a hummingbird, it must be figure skating season.
That was indeed the case at the Pomeroy Sport Centre as members of both the Fort St. John Figure Skating Club and a few Mile Zero Figure Skating Club skaters began work on their summer season and welcomed national level coach Steve Muff from Kelowna into the fold for the camp.
Muff has been to Fort St. John for the last several summers working with the girls and noted that what he really hopes for the girls is development of the building blocks they need to become top-notch skaters.
“I just try and come up here and share our stuff with these guys. They don’t have a lot of the same opportunities we do for ice time so we like to share some of the things that we do in our off-season with them,” he said.
From beginner skaters right on up to the veterans, Muff said that he always tries to emphasize ways to get the skaters more comfortable with new jumps, techniques and skills at this point in the year. In the morning there is a basic development of edges and drills, before moving into jumps in the afternoon.
“Just getting them more comfortable on the more difficult double jumps [and] all the basic foundation skills that they need for that,” he said. “The girls are working on double toes and getting them comfortable and committing to the jump. Safe technique.”
Over the years that Muff has been working with the group in Fort St. John the veteran coach explained there has been a significant increase in the cailbre of skaters from the north.
“This area of the province has actually developed a lot in the last couple of years,” he said. “Their coaches are very willing to learn here, they reach out quite often to me and other higher level coaches in the southern area. I think mostly it’s their willingness to learn. A lot of these kids travel out of town in the summer and work with some of us down south.”
Along with those learning opportunities has been success for the club at bigger competitions, something Muff is sure will only develop over time.
“I think this group has done really well with competitions, they have been showing up at our provincial competitions both in Vancouver and Kelowna. Just having exposure to that high level— seeing what they need to go home and work on,” he said.
Some of that success was experienced earlier this summer by Shaya Jeffery, who competed in a Summer Skate Competition and finished 8th after moving up to Pre Novice. She was also selected to the B.C. Prospect Team earlier this year.
Yet, still Muff believes there is room for improvement, and one certain advantage skaters have in other parts of the province is access to ice all-year round.
“I think one would be more ice time,” Muff said as a key step in the development of northern skaters. “It’s the key. In the Okanagan and the B.C. coast we skate 12 months a year. We don’t really have a set time off. Just having exposure to high-level coaching makes a big difference.”