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Ice Factory director trying to put figure skating on the map in Osceola | Insiders






Ice Factory director trying to put figure skating on the map in Osceola

Calla Urbanski works with a student at the Ice Factory.



Ice skating is a winter sport popular only in cold-weather states, yes? No!

 Many Osceola county residents whose primary exposure to ice sports is perhaps watching elite athletes on television, as they compete on the national and world stages may be surprised to learn that the sport, and all its facets, is available to everyone at The Ice Factory of Central Florida in Kissimmee.

Paula Wagener, director of figure skating at The Ice Factory, is working with the venue to get the word out that ice skating is a sport that is accessible – and affordable – for both children and adults, whether one aspires to compete in the Olympics, or is just looking for a fun and recreational way to escape the Florida heat for a while.

Wagener, a PSA (Professional Skater’s Association International) master rated choreography and style coach, hails from Chicago, and has been with The Ice Factory for two years, during which time she has been using her experience and expertise to build and expand its skating program.

She has a professional background in dance. As a child, Wagener was introduced to ballet by her mother, a ballet instructor, became a ballet dancer, and then a choreographer. Later, while working in gymnastics as a dance trainer and style coach with the Mid-America Twisters in Northbrook, Ill., she was introduced to a world figure skating coach who needed a ballet teacher for off-ice training for her skaters. This led to her being mentored by Evy and Mary Scotvold, who coached Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan. Wagener tells of how the Scotvolds taught her skating, and how to adapt her choreography to skating. She was later mentored by famed skating choreographer, Ricky Harris, whose clients included Olympic gold medalist skater Scott Hamilton. Thereafter, she worked for Advanced Arenas managing skating programs for several skating rinks. She is the author and creator of the Learn to Skate “Artistry in Motion” program, the U.S. choreography and style program recognized and used by U.S. Figure Skating (the national governing body for figure skating). She remains active with U.S. Figure Skating and commutes to New York to work with the Skyliners, a synchronized skating organization with whom she is on staff.

Since joining The Ice Factory staff, Wagener said she has been assembling a skilled and experienced team of skating coaches to help her expand the venue’s skating program, including:

• Calla Urbanski – PSA Level IV Master Rated Coach and 1992 U.S. Olympic Pairs Skater

• David Aretz – PSA Level III Rated Coach, U.S. National Coach, and International Pairs Skater

• Jean Claude Detre – PSA Level VII Ranking, Belgium Olympic Pairs Skater and Olympic Coach

Rounding out her coaching team is a group of up-and-coming coaches she calls the “next generation” that she and her colleagues are training and mentoring. These coaches are becoming PSA members and are pursuing continuing education, including participating in the statewide coaches’ seminar being presented by U.S. Figure Skating in March 2020, which will be hosted by The Ice Factory. Wagener said that this seminar will provide the coaches with instruction to help them hone their teaching skills for the Learn to Skate USA program.

 Learn to Skate USA is a core program at The Ice Factory. Wagener states that it is the only instructional program of its type endorsed by U.S. Figure Skating, U.S.A. Hockey, and U.S. Speed Skating. It is available to skaters ages 4 to adult. The program is offered in eight-week sessions for $125 (plus required $17 annual membership fee with Learn to Skate USA). This program has classes for skaters of varying abilities. The public is invited to come to the rink on Wednesdays, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. or on Saturdays, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for a free group trial lesson. No reservations are required. The hour-long class is comprised of 30 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes of practice. Wagener says the trial lesson is absolutely free and includes skate rental.

Whether learning to skate for recreation or competition, Wagener said all students will get high level training.

“Our goal is to build a really fine figure skating program here so that if you just want to take Learn to Skate for eight weeks, that’s great, but you are going to have top quality instruction!” she exclaims.

She added that all the coaches are involved with the Learn to Skate program.

“They all teach Learn to Skate. I want them in there in the beginning. In all my programs, I have always had my very best coaches in Learn to Skate,” she said.   

Wagener is also striving to make competitive training more affordable for more skaters. She understands that many cannot afford private lessons and coaching.

 “It’s too expensive. I get it,” she acknowledged.

To make advanced training more accessible, The Ice Factory has a bridge program where skaters can advance their skills in a group setting.

“Classes are taught by our high-level coaching staff and concentrate in moves in the field, spins, axel, jumps, harness, choreography, footwork, and presentation. Off-ice group classes include conditioning, jumps, and dance. This is a very affordable way for skaters to progress in our sport, and enjoy competing and shows without taking private lessons,” she explains.

The Ice Factory also offers instruction and leagues for hockey. They have the Learn to Play Youth Hockey Development Program, which is available to boys and girls ages 4-14 (also $125 for an eight-week session). There are leagues and clinics for both children and adults. For those who like the idea of hockey, but lack the equipment and, perhaps the skating skills, the venue offers recreational broom ball – the only equipment required are sneakers and a helmet. Or, how about speedskating? The Sunshine State Speed Skating Club meets at The Ice Factory on Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

It is important to Wagener that The Ice Factory is a family-oriented place. Some programs designed with families in mind are the School is Out Camp and the Home School Learn to Skate program. School is Out Camp is held on certain days that Osceola county schools are closed for major school holidays This one-day camp is for children ages 6 to 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parents are able to drop their children off at the rink for a day of skating, arts and crafts, games, and more for $25 per child. The Home School Learn to Skate program has group lessons on Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m., and offers seasonal recitals and parties.

“We want the children to feel they’ve got a place to belong, and a place to feel safe to be creative, and be themselves, and we just want it to be a happy place, too,” she said.

For more information about these programs and for all the offerings at The Ice Factory, visit www.icefactory.com.

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