May/June 2018 at Nottingham's National Ice Centre

We were looking for a new hobby for 9 year old Evie which wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg, would include some level of fitness and, above all, she would stick at and not complain about going every week.

A tall order perhaps?  The 6 week Learn to Skate Course at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre seemed to tick all the boxes and, at £54 for 6 x half hour sessions, it seemed like good value.

Week 1

A large group of rather excited children and a fair smattering of adults had gathered by the ice rink, ready for their first Grade 1 lesson.  Collection of our borrowed ice skates from the well-stocked Hire Counter was easy and the staff are friendly and helpful.  Apparently, they've got over 15,000 pairs of skates from child size 5 to adult size 15, so you shouldn't have a problem finding some that fit.

Set up and ready to go, Evie headed onto the ice and was soon being assessed by the Grade 1 coach. The group was split into those who were confident enough to leave the safety of the rink wall and those who preferred to take things more slowly.  Evie went into the first group and was soon scooting across the ice, often with rather more enthusiasm than skill but definitely gaining in confidence and absolutely delighted to have skipped straight through Grade 1 on the first lesson!  I was delighted too - this acceleration was going to save me £54!

Week 2

Evie couldn't wait to get her skates on again this week and build on last week's success.  The group had the benefit of 2 coaches, who were fantastic with the kids and also patient but determined to push them along and ensure that they reach their full potential.  The girls practised 'head, shoulders, knees and toes' on the ice and also learning how to fall down (gently) and then get up again - which isn't always as easy as it sounds.

Week 3

It's a miracle.  Evie is still keen.  We have to be at the rink by 10.00am, to get skates on and be ready for the 10.15 lesson and she's up and ready on a Saturday morning (unheard of) without being asked.  She's talking about getting her own skates, which is a bit of an investment but if she carries on with this kind of enthusiasm, I'd definitely consider it for her birthday in October.  The skates at the Ice Centre are great but you can't beat having your own.  The Ice Locker at the Nottingham Motorpoint Arena upstairs sells them, so we popped up to have a quick look.  The speed at which the group is progressing is very impressive and they have started learning how to skate backwards this week.  No signs of fear from any of the children.

Week 4

It's all about the Lemons this week.  If, like me, you have no idea what this means, here goes.  It's where you put your knees together to form a V shape, then push out on an inside edge, then inward to make the toes touch.  The end result is to leave 'lemon shapes' on the ice behind you. Apparently this is a good warm-up exercise for the knee joints and helps you to look more graceful when skating.

Week 5

One of the great things about skating is the social side. Evie’s group is definitely bonding, which means that they can have fun and make friends, as well as learning a new skill. It’s much harder to give up a hobby if you’ve made friends. The coaches seemed to constantly be assessing the group, as they practised a range of the skills they had learned during the course - forwards skating, backwards skating, lemons.  You can even see the competitive nature in the group emerging, as they try to be the fastest to get across the rink.

Week 6

This is the final week of the 6 week course.  The girls in the group are now firm friends and keen to spend as much time together on the ice as they can during this last session.  The group is confident, enthusiastic and the skating is looking much more graceful and composed than at the start of the course and, at the end, Evie was delighted to be told that she had passed Grade 2.

The girls stayed for the public skating after the lesson and enjoyed spending another hour racing around the ice together.  One thing I have noticed over the past weeks is how friendly everyone is. From the absolute beginner, to the coaches to the more advanced who come down for the public skating, the atmosphere is vibrant and happy and everyone seems keen to help.

The verdict?

This is a good value-for-money course which gives all ages the chance to, initially, learn how to get around the ice without the aid of the wall, as well as a few other nice little skills. Evie’s confidence has absolutely soared and from just ‘skidding around’, there is a definite level of skill. The fact that anyone taking lessons can stay on for the public skating session afterwards, at no extra charge, is a real bonus too. The coaching is excellent and the teachers definitely like to push the group to progress. It’s a great start and Evie definitely wants to continue through the levels.  The National Ice Centre has fantastic facilities and is a safe environment for children and teenagers to spend some time and expend some energy!

As well as watching Evie, I had kept a track of a couple of adults who had started the course at the same time.  Although their progress wasn't quite as speedy, it was fantastic to see them go from gripping the wall and, quite frankly, looking terrified in Week 1, to skating confidently in the middle of the rink by Week 6.  I had a quick chat with them and they told me how much they had enjoyed the course and looked forward to continuing through the grades.  This just goes to show that you can learn a new skill at any age and ice skating definitely isn't just for the youngsters.

If you'd like to more about how you can get involved, please take a look at the National Ice Centre's page on our website. You can book online for the skating classes - if you want to fast track your learning, you can even book onto an intensive 3 day course.

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