Members of the Sandy Shores Skating Club are feeling good again these days.
After struggling for several years, impacted by COVID and the loss of its head coach, the club is slowly building itself up again with hopes to restore it to its former glory.
“The club in the past has been of one of the most competitive teams on the Island,” said Robynne Shaw, SSSC president. “They fared very well in the late ’80s going into the ’90s. They did really, really well. And we would like to get back to the point again. We are so excited about starting again. It’s a slow start for sure because we’re basically building from scratch.”
The biggest boost the club acquired on their way back to recovery is hiring a new head coach, which they have been trying to do for two years. The club is pleased to have one of its former top skaters, Kristen Avis, come back to Parksville and take the helm.
“We are so fortunate to have Kristen, who grew up here and skated in this club,” said Shaw. “She skated around the same time as my daughter and we are friends on Facebook. She actually contacted me to ask what’s happening with the club. I told her this was the situation and she informed me they were moving back here in July and could help out for a year or so as it would depend on her husband’s job.”
Avis was coaching at the Connaught Skating Club in Richmond prior to joining her former club. She finds it surreal to be back in the place where she started her skating career.
“I never anticipated that I’d be back here in Parksville,” said Avis, who has been coaching in Vancouver and Australia during the last 12 years. “I have nothing but fond memories of my many years of skating in Parksville and it feels really nice to be home. I pretty much grew up at the Parksville rink and I’m glad that local skaters will now have the chance to skate at their local rink again. It was sad to see it wasn’t operating for a while so I’m happy to get it up and running again.”
Avis started her skating career with Sandy Shores when she was just six years old. She became a competitive skater and earned honours at provincial, divisional and national championships. She acquired her sixth figure test, Gold Skills, Gold Dances, Gold Freeskate and Senior Competitive Freeskate Test.
In 1998 she won the Canadian national championships in Pre-Novice ladies and was the Novice ladies national champion the following year. She was the British Columbia senior ladies champion and was nominated for the BC Premier’s Athletic Award. As part of the junior national team, she represented Canada on the Grand Prix circuit and North American Challenge series.
After finishing her competitive career at the 2004 national championships she began her coaching career at Burnaby 8-Rinks in 2005. She is Skate Canada level 3 trained/level 2 certified with more than 15 years coaching experience in both B.C. and Australia.
Avis specializes in the technical aspect of the sport and strives to develop quality skating skills including speed, power and aesthetic body lines in her students.
“My goal is to provide a positive environment for local skaters to learn, train and compete,” said Avis. “I want young kids to be able to learn to skate in a fun and safe environment while guiding competitive skaters to be their best and reach their full potential. I hope to get membership numbers up and hopefully recruit another coach or two to come join me.”
The club is currently recruiting more members, which will be a significant undertaking, said Avis.
“I expect the biggest challenge will be starting it up from scratch,” said Avis. “Unfortunately when the club stopped operating, skaters would have quit, skated elsewhere, or not taken up the sport. It takes time to build a foundation of skaters.
“Hopefully word will travel and skaters will find out they have a place to train locally again,” said Avis. “I’m sure the first term in September will be lower numbers than we would like, but when people come and have a positive experience they will want to come back and bring a friend, growing the number of skaters exponentially.
“I know it will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to it. I had a long and rewarding career in competitive figure skating which all began here at Sandy Shores so it feels great to be able to give local kids the same opportunity. “