As the Winter Olympics approach, medal-winning heroes can ignite passion in young dreamers. The figure skaters of the games seem especially inspiring, combining both artistry and athleticism. Their graceful glides burst into phenomenal feats of aerial acrobatics. Onlookers gape in amazement. But those skaters had to begin somewhere, with an experienced coaching staff to help them achieve incremental goals and live out their dreams. Somewhere like Lake Minnetonka Figure Skating Club.
Established in 1977, LMFSC is housed at Minnetonka Ice Arena and is governed by United States Figure Skating (USFS). The club is also recognized by the International Skating Union and the United States Olympic Committee, and its talented staff has developed many state, regional and national competitors and champions, providing avenues for skaters to pursue individual figure skating, synchronized, freestyle and pairs skating.
Carol Timm has been a figure skating coach at the ice arena for 40 years and with the LMFSC since it began in 1977. She was a regional competitor with the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and earned her USFS gold medal in figure and freestyle skating. She loves coaching for many of the same reasons that she loves skating. “Skating teaches many life lessons besides learning new tricks,” says Timm. “It encourages goal setting, self-discipline and tenacity. Figure skaters learn confidence and poise from performing in front of crowds and panels of judges. I love watching kids develop and grow, and want to instill in them the love that I have for the sport.”
Although not all skaters compete, the LMFSC is for skaters who’ve learned the basics and feel ready to move into competitive skating. There is an official test structure that determines competition levels, and some skaters set goals to advance through the USFS test structure. Others test to advance in competitions. According to Timm, the ideal age to join LMFSC is 6 or 7 years old. “Many skaters can do double jumps by age 8,” says Timm. “Once in a while we get younger skaters [who can do that], depending on their development.”
Berit Cummings, now 10, learned to skate when she was 3 years old, and she likes to skate in shows and competitions. Though she says she doesn’t like the cold—“I wear three jackets to stay warm”—she likes everything else about it. “I learn new things all the time. I have lots of friends at the rink and I hope to make it past regionals and sectionals someday,” she says. “I also want to travel to cool places in the world for skating competitions.” Berit has already competed in Chicago and Iowa.
Though starting early helps skaters’ chances of advancing to higher levels of competition, not all successful skaters begin so young. Katie Yockey didn’t even learn to skate until she was 8 years old. That’s when her family moved to Minnesota, and Katie’s mother Colleen enrolled her in group skating lessons. Katie is now 16 and has been skating with LMFSC for 6 years.
“Katie has found her passion,” Colleen says. “She is very dedicated, and our entire family supports her. She never complains when I wake her at 5 a.m. for a 6 a.m. practice before school.” Competitive skaters like Katie practice two to three hours a day, six days a week. If they’re involved in synchronized skating, a team sport also offered through LMFSC, another six to eight hours of weekly practice can be added.
“I love the feeling of freedom while skating,” Katie says. “I feel most like myself on the ice, where I can express myself and not worry about anything else. Every day is tough but it’s never boring. There is always something more to work on. Skating pushes me and is harder than most people think. But I love it.”