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Success Story

 

 

New Team Forms in Ohio

 

Everybody’s got a story… here’s mine.

 

Let’s see… where do I start? On many occasions I have thought about starting a journal capturing my “speed skating” memoirs… you just wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve gone through. Perhaps, one day I’ll buckle down and write something worthwhile that may sell a book or two (yeah right) but for now, let me share with you what I consider a success story.

 

First, my definition of success as it relates to this website “Growing Inline Speed” is adding new members to the USARS Speed Skating roll books. By forming a new team, I have done just that.

 

It all started in May of 2004… A company based in the Cincinnati area had recruited me out of Florida. In the “real world” I work as a Transportation Director in charge of blah, blah, blah… not speed skating related so I won’t bore you. Once I arrived in Cincinnati I expected to locate a local speed team (I knew the Miami Redhawks operated in this area) and began practicing with them. I was going to concentrate on competing this year myself… just take it easy, work and train all year to see just how far I could make it. If only life could be so simple…

 

After attending a few practices, I felt as if something was missing… I couldn’t pinpoint it just yet but practice just didn’t feel right. We would have 8-10 skaters show for practice, I would run hard and many times after practice, I found I needed to drive to the place where I skated outdoors and finish my workout with another 8-15 miles. The team practiced just twice a week and that was not enough for me if I was going to achieve the goals I set for myself. (The team has since added practices and increased the intensity of their workouts though.)

 

I began looking around for other teams to practice with so that (selfishly) I could get more indoor floor time. The closest team was over an hour away… I was floored! In a city of approximately 2 million I just couldn’t believe there were only 8-10 speed skaters… I just couldn’t fathom it. Of the rinks I contacted that had speed teams within 2.5 hours drive time, none of them were skating yet (it was August now) and one of the coaches I spoke to told me “We’re kind of laid back.” Rest assured, I’ve never attended one of his practices!

 

I wanted to skate. I wanted the team dynamics I missed when I was a member of Team Florida. I missed coaching the 35 skaters I coached in Florida. And, I just could not fathom a city as large as Cincinnati with only a few speed skaters. In addition, I am passionate about growing the sport of inline speed skating. I decided the best thing to do was to start another team. My theory was, if I could start a team at one rink, branch off into other rinks in the area so that we had a “network” of teams under one umbrella, I could begin to train team leaders and coaches to succeed me at these rinks. That way I could continue to recruit new rinks, train new coaches and continue to spread “Growing Inline Speed” wherever life ended up taking me. If I end up transferring to a new state with my employer, I would have hopefully set the stage in Cincinnati for long-term growth and participation in the sport. In the mean time, I have to grow one skater at a time, continue to solicit rinks, and move towards a structured long-term growth strategy.

 

I developed a strategy for starting a new team. I sent introduction letters to 13 rinks within 2 hours of Cincinnati. I waited… one week, no response. I visited almost every one of these rinks during this week. The one common denominator I noticed between the majority of the rinks… they supported figure skating (at least sometime in their past) and only one of them even rented recreational inline skates. I was faced with a quad majority… something I’m not used to. The rink I ran had a 50/50 quad/inline rental ratio… all the latest information from RSA indicates inline skate rentals is one of the fastest, most profitable areas of growth… why don’t these rinks have inline rentals? Drive a few miles up the road and you’ll see Skatetown USA with a large number of new inline rentals on the shelves… watch the kids at a birthday party… most of them rent inlines, not quads! Personally, I believe these rinks are missing out on a target market. However, I respect the way most of the owners run their business and can respect their decisions on not carrying inline rentals… I don’t agree with them but I respect them.

 

The 2nd week after I mailed the letters rolls around and finally a call. Skyborn Skateland, home of the former Fairborn Ohio Flyers has an interest in starting a new team. I set up a meeting with the owner. When I arrive to meet the owner, it is during a senior skate session. When we walked into the building, it was as if you stepped back in time 50 years (yes I said 50!). There were 20 or so older figure skaters on the floor dance skating to organ music. The inside of the facility was reminiscent of a rink from back in the 50’s. The structure of the inside of the rink had not changed I assumed since it was built. The posters on the walls, the articles on the news boards…it was apparent this was a “figure skating” rink. We tested the floor… there was no grip left on the floor but it was something we could get started with and hopefully, later down the line we could coat it. The facility was very clean and well taken care of by the staff.

 

The owner and I put together a plan for a kickoff meeting and 2 weeks later, we kicked off the team. We continue to struggle with recruiting at this rink and have just a handful of skaters attending practice. Meanwhile, in the weeks that have passed since our kickoff, we have continued to solicit more rinks in the area via our website. We have added a 2nd rink to the program, USA Roller Skating Center located in Springfield, Ohio. The session dynamics associated with this rink are very different from Skyborn Skateland. The rink is more modern and updated, the floor is kept in better condition, and the area seems to support the rinks sessions well. Each practice yields around 20 skaters and with each practice that passes, we gain at least one new skater. This rink has been on board less than one month and shows great promise. Many of the skaters at this rink have never been on a speed team before… that means more “new” skaters on the USARS roll. We expect this rink will grow to 30-40 team members.

 

A 3rd rink just west 45 minutes has contacted us with interest in joining (it’s great to see the word getting out). We visited the rink and ultimately declined including their rink in our program. The physical condition of the rink just was not up to standard and we did not want a “substandard” rink under the Skyborn umbrella.

 

Good news this week… just 2 days ago we were contact by rink owners in Cincinnati and expect to be meeting with them in a few days to discuss adding their 3 rinks to our program. This is just the break we were looking for… right in the heart of Cincinnati.

 

Ups and downs… starting and growing a team is definitely a roller coaster ride but I’m confident our efforts will pay off. We’ll add more skaters to the USARS roll and more importantly, we’ll introduce skaters to a sport that has the ability to addict them for life.

 

So now we are traveling 4 days a week to coach, an additional 2 days a week to practice (I practice with Skatetown Speed… even though I coach 4 days a week I still need the additional floor time), outdoor twice a week (when the weather permits) and we are looking to add more rinks and skaters to our program.

 

We’re looking forward to kicking off a program in the heart of Cincinnati (hopefully it will transpire), we’re also looking forward to the spring when we can recruit outdoor recreational skaters at the local parks. Most of our skaters are transitioning to inlines from quads… another hurdle we didn’t expect so all you JO skaters look out… we hope to have a lot of “reckless” first-year inliners at the races this year!

 

Steve Legier

www.skybornspeed.net

 


 

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