Club Spotlight: Qualifying Events: Welcoming Skaters a Top Priority
by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, special to U.S. Figure Skating
Regionals and sectionals are some of the biggest qualifying events on the skating calendar, and for host clubs coordinating these events planning not only includes ice time schedules and awards ceremonies but also hospitality for guest skaters, coaches and parents. A fun and joyful experience for skaters and coaches is the number one priority.
"We begin planning for regionals about a year out, but over the summer is when a majority of the organizing and coordinating occurred," said Enid Coughlin, chair of the New England Regional Figure Skating Championships.
For young skaters like Gabrielle Vesel, competing in her first regionals is a dream comes true, and an event she looked forward to participating in since she began skating. Vesel, 10, is a member of the Dupage Figure Skating Club and will compete in Upper Great Lakes Regionals as a pre-preliminary lady.
"I remember being at the send-off event that we have every year and wished I could go as a high beginner but unfortunately regionals doesn't offer any events under pre preliminary," Vesel said. "Now that I am finally eligible I am excited to see my friends in the higher levels and see what it feels like to be someone the younger kids look up to."
Vesel has been concentrating on completing a clean program with coach Mary Alice Antensteiner by her side. Regional and sectional planning committees strive to make their events run smoothly so skaters like Vesel can concentrate on their primary goal-skate a clean program and advance to the final round.
A first for most committees is finding hotels and accommodations for competitors that have all the comforts of home.
"When choosing hotels and places for the competitors to stay we consider price and value, proximity to the rink and nearby amenities such as shopping and dining," Coughlin said.
Although most competitors and families now have access to their own GPS systems, Coughlin has volunteers available to give directions to gas stations, local shopping malls and of course local restaurants, pretty much any place near the event venue.
For Vesel, attending her first regionals is an experience she won’t soon forget, especially as she looks back at her progress this past year.
"Knowing that I began competing a year ago I am shocked at the progress I made," Vesel said. "Last year I was doing waltz jumps. Now I am landing double Salcows and toe loops. I also feel accomplished for skipping No test and moving right to pre preliminary and regionals."
Organizing committees strive to make skaters needs a top priority. New England Regionals will take place October 18- 22 in Westborough, Massachusetts, at the North Star Ice Plex hosted by the North Star Figure Skating Club.
While skaters will concentrate on skating their best programs, Coughlin and her committee of many volunteers will concentrate on making their experience one they’ll remember and their stay as comfortable as possible. Hospitality is an important part of qualifying competitions.
"We hope that all come and enjoy our facility and take away great memories of competing at the 2018 New England Regional Championships," Coughlin said. "If there is anything anyone needs while they are visiting us or before they come into town all they have to do is ask. We are happy to provide assistance whenever possible."
Skater Gabrielle Vesel with Coach Mary Alice Antensteiner at the Skate the Lake competition.
(Photo courtesy of Mary Alice Antensteiner)