By Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz
The South Florida Compete USA (Basic Skills) Series recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
“What a milestone and such an incredible journey,” said Kent Johnson, skating program director at the Kendall Ice Arena in Miami. “It’s been extremely gratifying to see the smiles from so many skaters over the years. The joy of skating makes an impact on our lives.”
The series was started to promote arena cooperation and grassroots skating in South Florida.
“We noticed a lack of cooperation between ice rink programs,” Johnson said. “Participation at that time was low, and competitions degenerated into mostly in-house events. Everyone was eager to promote their own arena, but there was little incentive to attend other events.”
Johnson and his wife then contacted local arenas about starting a series and got an excellent response. Susi Wehrli McLaughlin, U.S. Figure Skating’s senior director of membership, gave the project the green light. Much like travel hockey, each arena agrees to participate, promote and send skaters to each series competition.
“The key to our success is using the same announcement for each series competition,” Johnson said. “All the dates, deadlines and competition rules are presented in one announcement. The series is actively advertised through social media and e-mail.”
An official website, basicskillsflorida.com, is the home base for all the information and results during the season.
“All of this ensures that the information is readily available,” Johnson said.
The series concept involves at least three host arenas. Events are scheduled approximately one month apart each year during the spring months. Events have progressed into large day-long events, with skaters coming throughout Florida. Competitions are scheduled on Sundays for ease and convenience of the arenas, judges, volunteers and coaches. Events also occur within one day, keeping expenses down for coaches and skaters.
“Skaters love medals and awards but seldom receive trophies,” Johnson said. “We created a participation point award system for competitors who skate at three or more competitions. All skaters participating in at least three series competitions are eligible to win a trophy with an overall trophy based on their accumulated points.”
Skaters must also enter and complete both the elements/compulsory and free skate events to count in the final tabulations. Additional points are awarded for interpretive, jumps and spins. The season ends with a final competitors’ placement point trophy ceremony and pizza party.
Although Johnson admits finding enough judges has been and continues to be a challenge, they try to recruit U.S. Figure Skating judges, accountants and trial judges for events.
“Adult skaters and skaters over 16 years have also been used for events,” Johnson said. “Many adults have been drafted into judging these competitions and have gone on to become U.S. Figure Skating judges. We are so grateful for the tremendous support from our judging community.”
Johnson said the series has certainly been a positive opportunity for the skaters.
“Many of our grassroots skaters got their start with the series and went on to higher levels of testing and competition, including regionals, NQS, sectionals, national and international competitions,” Johnson said. “It’s been a win-win for the skaters.”
Other successful series are taking place in Michigan, Illinois and Colorado. For information about starting a competitive series, go to firstname.lastname@example.org.