The Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club and the WVU Figure Skating Club encourage families to learn to skate.

For Angela Barclay, figure skating is one of the most special sports there is. She has been figure skating for more than 20 years, but she still remembers her first single axel jump as if it were yesterday. She was 7 years old, and it was the first difficult jump she attempted. She practiced over and over and over taking off on one leg, jumping into the air, rotating one and a half times, and trying to land on one leg—but landed on two every time. It took her a year to get it right. “Finally, all I remember doing was holding my foot up and in, and I landed it! It felt amazing!” she says. Barclay will never forget that feeling of success.

As skaters balance on blades that are less than two millimeters in width, they work every muscle of their bodies to maintain balance and composure. The sport teaches determination and perseverance. “Skaters know how it feels to fail and to fall, but of course, we are even better at getting back up,” Barclay says. Today, she is a gold medalist in the Moves in the Field and Free Skating skills tests, and she shares her love and passion for the sport by co-directing the Learn to Skate program hosted at the Morgantown Ice Arena. The program welcomes anyone who is looking to exercise, learn basic skills for recreation, or just have fun.

Learn to Skate is a six-week program offered by the Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club and the Morgantown Board of Parks and Recreation. Participants take six classes approved by the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) to learn the fundamentals. “Often, young people don’t have recreational opportunities in the winter. The Learn to Skate program is a great opportunity to get community involvement in the winter sport,” says Mark Brazaitis, co-director of the Learn to Skate Program and adviser to the WVU Figure Skating Club.

The program focuses first on having fun. “Of course, part of the fun is learning new skills and achieving them,” Barclay says. “We play games and sometimes have theme skates.” For children ages six and up, the classes focus on basic skills. Coaches introduce children to the sport by teaching them the fundamental moves of skating. There are eight basic levels and, at the end of the six weeks, students are tested according to the official testing structure of the USFSA. Students who pass the test are ready for the next level.

The adult curriculum follows modified versions of the basic skill sessions. Classes teach teen and adult beginners proper skating techniques while improving balance and coordination. The six adult levels are also evaluated following the USFSA test structure.

The Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club gives participants the opportunity to compete or perform in seasonal shows. This year, the WVU Figure Skating Club choreographed the winter show.

Learn to Skate coaches are members of the Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club or the WVU Figure Skating Club. Some coaches previously skated as members of the WVU club—Barclay was its president while she studied at WVU. Coaching for the program and choreographing the numbers for the seasonal show helps club members as they prepare to skate for the first time as a Synchronized Figure Skating Team in the Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championship. It gives them the opportunity to grow and practice while encouraging Learn to Skate participants—possible future team members—to get into figure skating.

Caroline Leadmon and Terezia Galikova, president and vice-president of the WVU Figure Skating Club and Learn to Skate coaches, say that skating can provide lots of benefits that other sports may not provide. “Of course you have the physical activity to it, but skating provides balance and coordination. It is more like a mentally stimulating sport,” Leadmon says. The Learn to Skate program also encourages families to learn more about the sport and to become a part of the skating community. “Morgantown is very distinct in that it has a very inclusive skating community,” Galikova says. “Here we all like to support each other and it’s not as competitive as a lot of other places. We help and support anyone who is interested in learning to skate or in continuing with the sport.”

The first Learn to Skate session of 2018 starts January 14 and costs $115 per skater. To reserve a spot, mail in the form that’s offered online with payment. Coaches recommend gloves, comfortable and warm clothes, and perhaps helmets for children. 1001 Mississippi Street,, @morgantownfigureskating on Facebook