August 25, 2023 at 12:07pm
Article by Elena Ferrarin
Northbrook Park District
From their first tentative steps two years ago, siblings Tasso, 7, and Maria, 6, have had a great experience taking ice skating classes at the Northbrook Sports Center.
“I wanted them to learn how to skate on the ice and have fun,” said their mother, Trish Rogaris. “We love it.”
Now that the siblings have mastered the basics, Maria takes ice hockey and figure skating classes, while Tasso sticks to ice hockey.
“The ice hockey coaches were phenomenal. They took the time to work with Tasso and teach him how to glide and move on the ice. To see that as a parent, it’s been really nice,” she said.
Maria’s figure skating instructor was equally professional, Rogaris said. In fact, when Maria took a spill on her first day, the instructor’s reaction was reassuring, she said. “Just watching the teacher stay calm… I was like, ‘This is OK.’ And Maria just got back up and kept skating. I was very excited to see that.”
Rogaris is among parents who are enthusiastic about the quality of ice lessons offered by the Northbrook Park District, and are encouraging others to enroll their children.
The park district caters to beginners with ice skating school, which teaches fundamentals to children ages 3 to 18, said Northbrook Sports Center Manager Joey Sanchez. Once students have mastered the basics, they can explore different avenues: figure skating is the most popular, followed by synchronized skating, ice hockey and speed skating, he said.
“Everybody signs up for soccer. Everybody plays basketball. As you get older, there are few people you meet who know how to ice skate,” he said. “We have the unique opportunity to be able to do this at the Northbrook Sports Center.”
The ice skating community is tightknit and supportive, Sanchez added. “They have a family feel to it. Once you get involved in it, it’s a great community to be a part of.”
Northbrook became known as “The Speed-Skating Capital of the World” in the early 1970s after athletes who trained at the Sports Center became Olympic champions.
Sean Wang said his now 9-year-old son, T.J., really enjoyed taking a speed skating class in the spring. T.J. had begun to learn inline skating while the family lived in Taiwan, and speed skating was the perfect complement to that. There were no classes close to the family’s home in Chicago, and the drive to Northbrook was well worth it, Wang said.
“When he started the class, he was completely new to ice, and I think the coach did a great job. On the first class, T.J. was able to skate, and he picked up basic skills quickly.”
Eleven-year-old Mia Gipperich knew how to figure skate, but had been burning with the desire to take ice hockey lessons. She got her wish this past winter, when her parents gifted her an intro class at the Northbrook Park District as a Christmas present.
Mia said she loved learning alongside other children while feeling supported by the park district’s instructors.
“I always liked to watch hockey with my dad, and I always wanted to play it myself, and this class was a good way to learn,” Mia said. “Playing hockey to me, it feels relaxing. It’s, like, smooth … it flows, in a way, when everyone is passing. The coaches were always encouraging, and if I made a mistake, they would correct me in the nicest way.”
Her mother, Gina Gipperich, said she initially was concerned that Mia would be older than the typical beginner, but was quickly reassured to see the park district instructors skillfully manage learners of all ages and abilities.
“The instructors were able to work with all of them really well,” Gipperich said. “They were really wonderful with working with the group as a team, and individually help them improve. We got out of the class exactly what we were hoping: learning the fundamentals and basics of the game, and helping her progress to the next level. If she wanted to play on a team at this point, she might be able to.”
The Northbrook Sports Center is home to two year-round NHL-sized ice rinks, and also offers public skating, freestyle, cosmic evening skating, holiday skate and dance camps, synchronized skating teams, competitive figure skating teams, a speed skating club and special events.
Fall registration for ice classes is now. Visit nbparks.org/sportscenter or call the Northbrook Sports Center at 847-291-2993 for more information.