The Connaught Skating Club has turned to technology to try and bring some normality into the lives of about 120 of its young members.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought all community sports to a complete halt. Some like hockey and soccer were in the stretch runs of their campaigns, while others like baseball and field hockey had yet to launch.
For competitive figure skaters, there really isn’t a season but rather months of work that goes into peaking at regional, provincial and national competitions before almost immediately beginning the cycle again, typically to prepare for a higher level. It means being on the ice as often as five days a week, creating a family-like environment, between the skaters, coaches and parents.
Connaught’s competitive group had just gone into a rare week-long break when several COVID-19 safety measures were announced including the closure of all city-run recreational facilities for the foreseeable future.
For club’s director of programs, the immediate concern was the impact on kids that were used to so much structure in their lives.
“My first thought was this might not hit them for a week or so when they are supposed to be back in the classroom and back on the ice,” said Keegan Murphy.
To help their skaters progress at home, and, more importantly stay in regular communication with their mentors and teammates, the club has turned to the Zoom video conferencing platform to run its usual dryland sessions and more.
Thanks to the program and the technical expertise of coach Leah Warwick, about a dozen 45-minute classes are being conducted a week. They are being led by 10 different coaches and the skaters are able to see each other training.
Components of the sessions include jumping, yoga, palettes, flexibility and ballet. The coaches are providing instruction and feedback with accolades for different challenges to enhance progress.
“It’s important for us to be giving praise so they know they are getting better,” continued Murphy. “I’m super proud of our coaching staff and so proud of our kids. This is something we never thought we would have to do.”
Connaught’s spring component looks to be in jeopardy. It included a trip to Vancouver Island early next month for a competition and during the Victoria Day Weekend as well. The hope is everyone will be back on the ice for the summer day camp sessions.
The online training is also helping the coaches during what is a difficult time for everyone.
“It doesn’t matter what sport you are talking about, you are bringing structure and positivity into daily lives of the kids and you have a passion for it,” added Murphy. “It can be a struggle when it is suddenly taken away from you like this.”