We had the chance to sit down with Tara Dowdles, CanSkate Coordinator at Skate Canada Brampton-Chinguacousy Skating Club to gather her insight on what it takes to make their CanSkate Program great!
Skate Ontario (SO): Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today Tara! It is obvious from visiting your CanSkate session that off ice preparation is integral to the success of your program. Why do you think organization off the ice is vital to program delivery?
Tara Dowdles (TD): There is a whole team of people involved in running a successful CanSkate program. By planning and putting in the time off the ice, we can keep everyone informed and are better able to focus on teaching and executing a smooth session.
SO: What are three (3) off ice tasks that you feel are imperative to successful program implementation?
TD: Keep each session as its own entity. We use different coloured bags depending on the day, but even something as simple as having a separate storage bin to keep your session clip boards, markers and name tags can be helpful.
Hold parent information session and meetings. This is a great way to keep communications open with parents and recruit volunteers to help with the CanSkate sessions. Parents can take attendance, help with nametag distribution and ensure that report cards, calendars and important reminders are received.
SO: In addition, it creates a positive environment and builds community within the club when everyone is involved.
TD: Exactly! Finally, having a bulletin board or whiteboard is a great place to post who your session coaches are, Program Assistant duties, a calendar of important dates and events and pictures of skater participation.
SO: All great ideas! What guidance would you give to coaches and/or clubs who may be looking to improve their program planning efficiency off the ice?
TD: Take the time, plan it out. It’s worth it!
SO: With more than 50 skaters on each of your sessions, you must require a great deal of supplies and teaching aids. How do you manage to keep everything organized and sorted?
TD: Everything is colour coded by group. For example, the Red group will have a red flag and the red bucket has pylons, small cones, bean bags, frisbees and more that are all red. This helps with a quick ice set up and makes the session more visually appealing. Our circuit cards match the colour of the ribbons for each fundamental area – Red for Control, Blue for Agility and Green for Balance.
SO: What a great idea!
TD: We are fortunate to be able to store our equipment in 2 cupboards – one is for buckets, flags and pylons and the other has signs, arches, flamingos and other miscellaneous teaching aids. At the end of each session, the Program Assistants are tasked with putting the equipment away and ensuring everything is in its proper place. I will go and double check.
SO: This is a great way to encourage responsibility and accountability among your Program Assistants which are important life skills to learn.
TD: For sure! Finally, our nametags are kept in a labelled, colour bag specific to each day and our award incentives are stored in two plastic containers: one for ribbons and one for badges.
SO: What inspires you to keep it fresh at the rink?
TD: Keep it FUN! I change up the music each year and incorporate new moves for warm up, group activity and cool down. We have theme weeks and fun days such as pyjama day or Halloween week and encourage the skaters to participate in our colouring contests. Most importantly, having enthusiastic Coaches and Program Assistants make all the difference!
SO: Sounds like you have an amazing CanSkate team at your club!
TD: We do indeed!
SO: Thank you for taking the time to share some of your best CanSkate practices with us.
TD: You’re welcome.
The Skate Canada Brampton-Chinguacousy Skating Club has achieved Advanced Standard in the CanSkate Excellence Program.
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