Alison Mittelstadt is the Vice-President of the Potomac Speedskaitng Club (PSC). The Club was founded in 2008 by parents and friends of short-track speedskating in order to create a development hub for future champion skaters in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. flyburst asked Alison to anwer some common questions for parents who might be interested in learning more about the sport.
FB: What’s the name of your organization?
PSC: Potomac Speedskating Club at www.potomacspeedskating.org
FB: What’s your sport?
PSC: Short-track speed skating, the fastest sport on ice!
FB: How do you play?
PSC: Short track speed skating (also Shorttrack speedskating) is a form of competitive ice speed skating. In competitions, multiple skaters (typically between four and six) skate on an oval ice track with a circumference of 111.12 m. The rink itself is 60 m by 30 m, which is the same size as an international-sized hockey rink.
FB: What’s a good age to start playing this sport?
PSC: Ideal for ages 5 and up.
FB: What’s the proportion of girl vs. boy participants?
PSC: Roughly 60% boys, 40% girls but at many meets, there are more girls than boys in some age groups.
FB: What kind of kid would love this sport?
PSC: Kids who have played hockey and inline or roller skating experience generally transition faster to speed skating than those who have never skated before. We will take kids with no skating experience. We do get many referrals from coaches who say, “This kid only wants to skate fast (and can’t follow a puck)!” While most of our skaters do race eventually, some kids are content to train and never compete. It is more of an individual sport than a team sport, but there is a team relay event that we practice frequently and it gets kids of all ages and abilities involved in a team event. Our skaters promote excellent team camaraderie and we have many skaters in the 7-15 year old age group, both boys and girls. Speed skating is also excellent cross-training for bike racing! We have several kids who compete in both sports.
FB: What athletic skills will a kid develop through this sport?
PSC: On-ice training develops excellent cardio/anaerobic fitness as races and “sets” are short and fast. The form/techniques of short-track speed skating are very precise and take time to master. Flexibility, agility, good back, quad and gluteus muscle development is important. To supplement what we can do on ice, each ice session is preceded or followed by a 60-90 minute “dryland” session where we work on cardio fitness, stretching, skating “imitation” exercises, agility and flexibility training and intervals.
FB: Why would parents like this sport?
PSC: Siblings can participate together in this sport and practice and attend meets at the same time. We have families with as many as three children skating with us so it’s relaxing for some parents to have all three children engaged in the same activity. We have a wonderful group of parents—some of them also speed skate—but those that don’t spend hours at the three Maryland rinks where we skate and they are a diverse group of very interesting, engaged parents from Maryland, Virginia and DC. All three rinks also have free Wi-Fi so some parents use the time to get work done during the 90-180 minutes their kids are training.
FB: Is there a risk of injury in speedskating?
PSC: We’ve probably seen our skaters get more injuries playing school sports or just goofing around at school or home than at the rink! In speed skating, muscle strains and sprains are the most common types of injury for which rest is recommended. As a US Speedskating direct member club, we have the required safety mats (resembling twin foam mattresses) placed along the dashboards at the three rinks where we skate and these help protect skaters when they fall. In addition, we require that all skaters wear a bike, hockey or speed skating helmet, a neck guard, shin guards and gloves along with long-sleeved shirts and pants and a zip jacket or hoody, when they skate.
FB: Who is the primary coach? What is her approach?
PSC: Coach Hyun Jung Lee is our head coach. She has been coaching skating in Maryland for about 5 years. Coach Lee is a former member of the Korean National team and represented Korea in the short-track demonstration event at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. She subsequently became coach at the renowned Mokdong rink and Korea University before coming to the US. She is a US Speedskating Level II coach and has over 15 years of short-track speedskating coaching experience at the beginner, intermediate and elite levels of the sport.
As the mother of two children, a boy and a girl ages 13 and 10, Coach Lee is excellent with children of all ages and abilities. She understands what motivates one child is not necessarily the best approach for every child and she will adapt her training routine to address the needs of each skater. She is firm but patient and she does her utmost to encourage all of our skaters to keep going and never give up. We have a number of skaters with various learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, including one skater with a severe form of autism, and she has patiently worked with these skaters to bring out the best in them and they have thrived under her direction and all are passionate about skating.
FB: When do you play?
PSC: We skate six times a week from September through March, our key competitive season, and slightly less frequently during the April-August “off-season”. We usually substitute more dryland practice for ice time during the summer as conditioning and “form training” is vitally important during the summer. We focus on our beginning skaters more starting in April following the US National Short-Track Championships in March, which is the key objective for most of our more advanced skaters ages 9 and up each year.
FB: Where are the competitions?
PSC: There are annual competitions in DC, VA, PA and in upstate NY, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin each year. We either drive or fly to these meets. We hope to host our own race in Maryland during the 2011-2012 season!
FB: What are the approximate costs per year for this sport?
PSC: The first three sessions are completely free—we’d like skaters to try it out and see if they enjoy short-track speedskating. We offer a Learn to Speedskate 10-session package for $250, which skaters may enroll in twice. At that point, many skaters sign up to skate 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6 times per week and fees vary according to how frequently you choose to skate. There are discounts for families with multiple skaters. We have an inventory of rental speedskates to loan out but we can also refer skaters to a source for longer-term rentals of speedskates. Eventually most of our skaters buy their own skates.
FB: What else should kids and parents know about this sport?
PSC: There are only 2,000 licensed/registered US Speedskating members in the US—this means that compared to figure or hockey skating, it is not unusual for skaters to move up quickly in the sport if they are dedicated and committed to working hard. For example, 2e have a number of skaters who in their first year of competition will be participating in the US National Short-Track Championships. The earlier you start, the better though—5-9 are the “ideal” ages to begin, but we have a 14 year old hockey skater who just started this year and he’s going to the US Nationals in March for speed skating (he still competes for his hockey team too). We also have a number of skaters all from this area who have very real national team aspirations in the sport. Simon Cho, who earned a bronze medal in short-track relay event in the 2010 Winter Olympics, is from Laurel and got his start at the Gardens Ice House and the Wheaton Ice Arena rinks!
It’s not that difficult to skate fast but to skate fast and use the proper speedskating form (which is similar to the downhill racer “tuck” position) — can take time to learn. This is not a good sport for anyone with back or knee problems, so if your child is having any problems with either, this probably will not be a good sport for them. But if you have a budding speedster who has not shown interest in traditional sports and wants a new challenge that will distinguish them from their peers, this is an exciting sport to watch and a more thrilling sport in which to participate.
Beginners or new skaters may join PSC and participate at any time. Just contact PSC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-SKATE90 before their first session. Check out pictures from the Potomac Skating Club here.