The most common fear when anyone begins to skate is the fear of falling. We hear it everyday. Falling and hitting your head. Falling and hitting the ice. Falling and breaking something. Yesterday two boys asked if anyone ever “had their hand chopped off” from a skate blade (no). Without a doubt, there is a lot of fear associated with ice skating. And poorly run rinks exacerbate the problem by leaving uneducated staff to watch as new skaters fall repeatedly to the ice (it has become a liability to help). Pay your $10, get your rental skates and good luck.

At SDIA we despise this irresponsible way of doing business. There are many ways we can minimize the risks inherent to new skaters and we have a lot of new skaters in San Diego. The SDIA Public Session is based upon a concept called, “Ever-Decreasing-Circles” (P.L.). Which, despite how it sounds, is intended to quickly instruct everyone how to skate. It’s how we make sure that everyone learns to skate quickly in an enjoyable environment.

Ever-decreasing-circles begins with our scheduling. Each public session caters towards a specific skating audience. Teenagers come on teen night, adults on adult night, and kids on the family session. If we put rowdy teenagers on the ice with young children, we’re setting ourselves up for a major accident. By targeting our public sessions towards certain skaters and focusing, we can minimize the chance that someone will get hurt. Also, we can provide instruction styles to match the skaters learning style. For example, it won’t matter how many times we tell a three year-old to shift his weight slowly to transition in a hockey stop, he won’t get it. But, if we put a big fuzzy mascot in the middle of the rink, that same three year old is going to try and stop right next to him. Specific sessions for specific skaters get great results.

Here’s a list of our public sessions and how they all work (*note times and sessions are subject to change, see www.sdice.com for current information):

May 21st - May 22nd (93)-Morning Public 11am-2pm Mondays thru Thursdays

During the winter this session is quiet and specifically for adults and lessons. While anyone is welcome to come, there are only a couple staff on hand to help beginners. Wide open ice and a quiet environment lend it to skaters looking for something more peaceful and leisurely.

In the summer this same time changes dramatically. We host YMCA Summer Camps. It becomes inundated with children so the staff works in games, a live DJ, and visits from our mascot Mr. Ice Cube. Large groups of children are common during the season and staffing increases to help accommodate them. This session is best for small groups of children looking for something to do over the summer or overheated parents who appreciate relief from 100+ temperatures outside. The rink is always 55 degrees. ; )

-Skating School Afternoon Session 3pm-5pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays

This public session is tied directly to our group lesson program. It offers our students enrolled in skating school a chance to come and work on their skating skills. On some days the local recreation center will rent out a portion of the ice to conduct group lessons. Private lessons are prevalent during these times and beginning skaters have an opportunity to mingle with more seasoned skaters. Typically there are no games or DJ during these sessions, but there is a moderate amount of staff to help. This session is good for those who have the basics but are looking to take the next step.

-Tuesday Night Adult Session 7pm-8pm Tuesday nights

This session is for our adult skaters only. No skaters under the age of 16 allowed. Immediately after adult skating school on Tuesdays this public session time is setup to give adult skaters a chance to work on their skating technique. Note that this session is only 1 hour long. It provides a relaxed skate session for an older skating crowd. Perfect for pairs skaters looking to work with their partner or for skaters looking to shake off the rust.

-Friday Night Teen Meltdown 7:30pm-10:00pm

Just like the name implies, the Teen Meltdown Session is designed for teenagers. A variety of games keep teenagers engaged and entertained during the extended 2 1/2 hour session. The live DJ plays a prominent role in the session and the disco lights are used throughout. While any age is allowed in during this time, it is expected to be mostly high school age young people. Good for skaters who enjoy loud music, advanced skating games and a faster paced session.

-Family Session 1pm-3pm Saturday and Sundays

The Saturday and Sunday Family public session is our most “kid-friendly” time to come skate. “Skate Heroes” are everywhere to help any starter learn the basics. Skating games are run during the session and are designed to get even skaters moving away from the wall and into the middle of the ice. Visits from our mascot and birthday party programming make this our most popular session of the week. Expect a good size crowd with lots of children.

skate School 08So now that everyone understand how each session is designed to do a specific task, lets discuss a couple more strategies that SDIA uses to help skaters. First, use of non-verbal cues to reward skater progression.

“Teens, want to request your favorite song from the DJ? Better get the middle of the rink and ask. This means having to learn to skate and not just hold onto the wall.”

“Young children need motivation to get moving? Our mascot Mr. Ice Cube coming around.”

“Adult skaters need tips? Ask one of our professional coaches commonly found giving private lessons.”

Encourage participation through action, not lectures.

Next, the length of each session. Each session is a specific length for a reason. We’ve found that kids can only skate for around two hours before they get tired. Instead of leaving it to them to exhaust themselves and fall, we give them a break halfway on Saturdays and Sundays by bringing out the Zamboni to resurface the ice. The fifteen minute break is plenty of time to recoup and rest. Adult skaters, on the other hand, rarely need more than one hour since they tend to work on specific skating goals. And during afternoon sessions, coming to public before your class means you won’t ever have to worry about being late to class.

Finally, WALKERS. And we don’t mean the walking dead. We’re talking about “skate-seals”, “orange buckets”, “training bars”, etc.. We  won’t use them during our sessions, here’s why.

At SDIA we have one or two hours, at most, to get a total novice to go from nothing to doing basic skating. It is no fun for anybody to cling to the wall for two hours straight. Enjoying skating requires mixing it up in the middle of the rink and trying new moves. So the goal for SDIA is to get skaters off the wall and going in “ever decreasing circles” around the rink.

Walkers tend to bog down this flow of traffic around the rink. Normally faster skaters stay to the middle of the ice while slower skaters stick around the walls. Skaters with walkers go at a slow pace around the rink but have a tendency to drift towards the middle of the rink due to the our games and DJ. This can be become extremely hazardous to faster skaters in the middle of the ice. Think of a slow car in the fast lane on the freeway. There is nothing inherently wrong with going slow, but in the wrong place at the wrong time and you have a nasty accident.We can’t create incentives in the middle of the rink and give people training wheels to get there. We have to make sure that if a skater is able to get to the middle of the rink he or she is capable of the appropriate skating level.

IMG_4388When skating the person coming up behind the other is responsible for avoiding the person in front of them. At SDIA we can lower the risk of accidents if we avoid enabling slower skaters and prevent them from stepping into the fast lane. At times this seems harsh to not help, but its all part of learning how to skate. Ice skating is a skill that requires years of practice and discipline to master. Habits like looking to your right and left before you turn require practice to do them consistently. Its like driving a car. We would never feel comfortable sending a new driver on the road without proper training, yet we have to put new skaters onto the ice with no practice. By restricting walkers we can at least prevent new skaters from going too far to the middle of the rink.

Despite all these issues, we feel confident that if you attend one of our sessions at SDIA you will learn faster and enjoy skating more than at your average facility. It is our sincere hope that everybody can enjoy this wonderful activity.

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