'The Sky's The Limit'

Children’s Health StarCenters thrive with Learn to Skate USA

From the Summer 2022 issue of Learn to Skate USA The Magazine.

By Mimi McKinnis

“If you love to be on the ice and you work hard, the sky’s the limit.”

When describing what skaters stand to gain on the ice, Cheryl Pascarelli spoke of values far beyond three-turns and two-foot glides.

“So much can be gained in ice skating,” Pascarelli, Skating Programs Manager at Children’s Health StarCenters in Farmers Branch, Texas, continued. “Time management, body awareness, great work ethic, self-sufficiency, sense of accomplishment, the path from having a goal to accomplishing it no matter how big or small; falling down and getting upin every sense of the word; how to handle failure and success at every level, friendships for life. Lots of life lessons are taught in the sport of ice skating.”

But in order to experience all that skating has to offer, it’s not enough for students to simply get on the ice—they need to stay on the ice, long enough to reap the rewards. In October 2021, Pascarelli’s network of StarCenters facilities transitioned to the Learn to Skate USA curriculum after running their own hybrid programming for the last 10-15 years. The decision, spearheaded by Pascarelli and StarCenters General Manager Andy Gibson, resulted in a 21 percent increase in unique registrations and a 53 percent increase in program retention by April 2022.

“Retention has been the biggest development we’ve seen,” Gibson said. “The program meets families where they’re at with an easy-to-see plan. It provides a simple framework that allows them to see what’s expected and how to advance. They can learn to skate with a sense of accomplishment while they celebrate achievements in skills and graduate through the levels, which allows them to get excited about their continued development.”

In addition to long-term excitement, the implementation of Learn to Skate USA has also helped to streamline information across StarCenters facilities, providing a reliable experience for every skater, no matter where their family laces up its skates.

“Before we switched over, it was a challenge to keep coaches informed on what to teach week to week,” Gibson, who joined the team in 2020, said. “I had seen other strong programs thriving with Learn to Skate USA, and I was excited for what it could do for our skating community.”

“All of our instructors were excited to change to this curriculum,” Pascarelli added. “It has provided more structure for the skaters and coaches. The progression of the curriculum builds on the previous class, which is helpful as [the students] learn the more advanced elements. The parents like the feedback they get from the report cards, and the kids love earning badges.  Overall, I feel that our skaters have improved at a faster rate with this program.”

While the program’s impact has already been seen through positive metrics, the curriculum switch came about at a time when ice sports across the country were balancing a post-pandemic landscape with a newfound Olympic excitement from the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. And while the Dallas Stars NHL franchise obviously plays a big part in bringing students through the StarCenters doors, Gibson and Pascarelli agree that each element of the Learn to Skate USA program works together to keep skaters coming back for more, even without the Olympic-sized hype.

“[Learn to Skate USA] has given families a pathway through the sport with different levels of achievement,” Gibson said. “The chief component in our switch has really been the retention we’ve seen.”

With goals clearly outlined, skaters who enter StarCenters Learn to Skate USA program can see both their immediate and long-term goals, along with a clear pathway to achieve them. What’s more, the program uses tangible milestones like badges and report cards to provide feedback and mark each success a skater progresses through the curriculum.

“Even our adult skaters like to get a report card,” Pascarelli said. “They get a stronger sense of accomplishment. And if the report card says they need to repeat the level, they have the information as to what elements they need to work on. The coaches teach the elements in a fun and challenging way, which also keeps the kids engaged and wanting to come back. The Learn to Skate USA program even gives lots of great ideas on incorporating some fun and games into our classes.”

When achieving your goals is both simple and fun, there’s no limit to where skating can take you. For the StarCenters new Learn to Skate USA program, Gibson hopes it will lead to bigger and better opportunities—ones that allow each participant to further develop their skating abilities.

“Now that we’ve transitioned successfully, in 2022-23 we want to provide more opportunities for skaters to compete and showcase their skills,” Gibson said. “We have a unique infrastructure in that StarCenters has eight twin-sheet facilities in the city, with Learn to Skate USA implemented wholesale across them. I’d love to build toward a tournament series with a city championship in the future.”