Parents looking to enrol their kids in their first skating class will have to wait until the new year at the earliest.
Skate Canada, the group that sanctions skating lessons, is not allowing children who do not know how to skate on the ice to learn this year.
As a result of this, the program coined Pre-CanSkate – where kids aged two and up can take to their ice with their parent and learn to skate – has been temporarily cancelled in skating clubs.
“That’s per Skate Canada’s rule. No skating clubs across Canada are allowed to take brand-new skaters, unfortunately,” said Kami Harney, head coach of the Fort Smith Skating Club.
The restriction is designed to limit contact between coaches and skaters. New skaters can require a lot of hands-on assistance to teach them how to get comfortable on their own.
Harney says this year’s Fort Smith cohort instead consists of children aged four and up who know how to stand and walk on skates.
Clubs in the NWT say they hope to see the rules change after Christmas, if it is safe to do so.
Kim Myra, a coach for the Yellowknife Skating Club, said the city’s coaches are bound to the same rules as the Fort Smith club.
Myra described an incident where an inexperienced skater struggled on the ice. If that struggle becomes persistent, she said, the club may ask a skater to pause skating lessons until the rules changes and coaches can be more hands-on again.
‘They keep our club going’
Both clubs said parents looking to register young children have had to be turned away.
“We just hope parents understand that we’re protecting ourselves with what’s been happening with Covid,” Myra said.
It isn’t only the kids who lose out. Clubs will have no registration fees coming in from the classes they would typically run for younger skaters, in addition to running at a lower capacity for other age groups.
“Those CanSkate programs are what keeps our club going,” Myra said.
Harney worries about existing skaters losing the opportunity to hit the ice, but more so about others never signing up in the first place. That in turn may impact future programs, since groups of returning skaters could be smaller.
“We can’t invite new skaters, which is going to be a bit of a struggle for our club, I think,” she said.
“I’m also thinking we’re going to miss out on a crew of skaters that might not eventually get into figure skating.”
Other programs still running
A maximum of 25 socially distanced individuals are allowed on the ice under current restrictions. Those include staff, volunteers who assist with teaching, and students.
Fort Smith skaters will take to the ice on Monday while skaters in Yellowknife started up CanSkate programming earlier this week. Some figure skating had been happening since September.
Some programs have been split into smaller groups and run less frequently to evenly divide time on the ice, according to Harney.
“It’s not the best, but we’re waiting to see what registration brings us to see if we could maybe combine [classes] if we don’t get as many people,” she said.
Myra says the lack of contact between coach and skater means even some programs given the green light are difficult to navigate.
“We’re used to assisting the skaters – positioning with their leg, or their free leg in a jump, or something,” she said.
“So, we’re not physically touching the skaters as much.”