By Kathleen Alvarez
MIDDLETOWN – While most people pack up their winter clothes for the summer, dedicated figure skaters make the transition from flip-flops to winter socks every day.
And that’s exactly what the skaters at Middletown’s Ice World are doing this summer.
Ice World at the Middletown Sports Complex, located at 214 Harmony Road, is connected to the Middletown Swim Club. It houses the New Jersey Junior Titans hockey team as well as the Garden State Skating Club (GSSC).
The rink also provides a Learn to Skate program for beginner skaters, some even as young as 4 years old, which serves as a feeder for beginner skaters into either the figure skating world or the hockey world.
Adriana Ryan, board member and coach in the GSSC who serves as the director of Learn to Skate at Middletown, says that the place to start and get your feet on the ice is Learn to Skate.
“We have a competitive figure skating club, where kids can go from never having skated before and grow into members of the Garden State Skating Club,” Ryan says.
For figure skaters, joining the Garden State Skating Club is the next step after completing the Learn to Skate program.
The Garden State Skating Club is affiliated with the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA), and being a member of the GSSC allows skaters to test for their USFSA-ranking to determine at which level a skater would compete.
The levels start at Pre-Preliminary, which includes tricks such as spirals and waltz jumps, and goes through the Senior level, which is the level at which Olympic skaters compete.
The GSSC has more than 100 members of different levels, who are competitive and recreational skaters.
The club practices both at Middletown Ice World and Howell Ice World, which is located at 269 Squankum Road in Farmingdale.
Skating proves to be both a mentally and physically challenging sport. It combines the diligence of picking yourself back up after you fall down and waking up early to get extra ice time, with the physical components of balance, strength and flexibility.
Figure skaters have to be committed, and sometimes commitment means remembering to keep an extra coat and leg warmers in the car during the hot summer.
For many skaters, the love for skating begins the first time they set foot on the ice.
“My mom always tells me that when I started skating it was like a duck in water,” skater Emily Nesson says. “I had an instant passion, and I still feel that same passion and drive now, if not more so.”
The Olympics is not the only route for a figure skater, Ryan points out. “You can skate five days a week and be a competitive skater, but you can also skate only once a week and be in our annual holiday show or summer exhibition.”
Some skaters also take the teaching route. “We have a lot of girls who, once they turn 16, become staff coaches and can pass on their joy and love of skating to the younger generation,” Ryan says. “There are many different avenues to pursue the sport of figure skating, not just one track.”
The ice rink in Middletown is fairly new, although the Learn to Skate program has been very popular since the rink opened about a year ago. Classes are offered three times a week throughout the winter and once a week for the summer. The fall Learn to Skate session will begin Sept. 6.
The next time an Olympic skater takes to the ice, don’t forget, he or she probably started with Snowplow Sam 1 in a Learn to Skate class.
Additional information about the club can be found at gardenstatesc.org. Learn to Skate information is located on the Middletown Ice World website.