CLINTON — It’s a tradition of community pride that’s almost 70 years in the making.
Since 1949, Clinton Figure Skating Club has offered youths of a community built on a hockey foundation the opportunity to learn how to skate, build skills and compete — making their time out on the ice at Clinton Arena like being with family.
With about 130 members, the club is one of the oldest figure skating clubs in the country and one of the largest on the East Coast.
Since its founding in 1949, Clinton Figure Skating Club has grown into one of the best skating clubs in the state and features some of the top local figure skaters in the area, said Board of Directors President Kevin Lloyd.
From “Snowplow Sam” skating levels to synchronized skate teams, young skaters first learn how to glide and pick themselves up from falls and then continue to build skills that prepare them for local and state-level competitions.
“They build all the basic skills they need to know,” Lloyd said, adding that the club will take registrations all year-round. The skating season usually runs from mid-September to the annual season-ending Ice Show held in April.
“We even have a program for adults,” he added.
Tammy Lloyd, Kevin’s daughter, grew up skating through the program and now at age 18, serves as one of the instructors. Tammy explained that as young skaters learn and build skills, they are moved up through different ability levels and even prepare for competitions. Lloyd’s oldest daughter, Amy, is also a coach.
“The ‘Snowplow Sam’ program basically teaches kids how to get up on their own and get across the arena,” said Tammy, who started skating at age 5. “Then as they build skills they learn spins and jumps and move up levels as they make progress. When I skated I basically did local competitions, but we’ve had people go on to Eastern Sectionals and even national competitions.”
Some individuals and members of the synchronized skating team have competed in the Empire State Games. And this season, at least five skaters will compete as members of the Special Olympics team, which will be held in Rochester.
Clinton Figure Skating Club invites girls and boys to join, with about a dozen boys taking part in the program. The youngest member is just 2 1/2-years-old, Lloyd said. Members who started with the club have been known to move onto youth hockey after learning basic skating skills as well, he said.
The club’s program is structured according to the U.S. Figure Skating standards. Programs include:
• Snowplow Sam — Beginners level, typically under age 3.
• Basic Skills — Any skater working in the Badge Program (Badge 1-8), typically age 5 and up.
• Advanced Basic Skills — Freestyle 1-4.
• Adult — Skater receiving group instruction during an Adult Session.
• Low level — Any skater who has passed USFS Freestyle 2.
• Middle level — Any skater who has passed the Preliminary Freestyle test.
• High level — Any skater who has passed the Juvenile Freestyle test and the Intermediate Moves in the Field test.
• Associate — A non-skating member.
Learn to Skate, formerly known as Basic Kills, provides a fun and safe skating experience, teaching the correct techniques of basic elements, encouraging skating as a life-long sport.
FreeSkating or Freestyle, as it is something known, is the most popular and
probably the best-known form of figure skating. Freestyle skating incorporates all of the technical aspects in conjunction with artistic content and various numbers of jumps and spins skated to a specified length of music. Moves in the Field Tests are a pre-requisite to testing the corresponding Freestyle Test.
Ice dancing is fundamentally a skating version of International Ballroom Dancing and like ballroom dancing consists of certain individual dances and exhibition dancing. The most common dances are the compulsory dances that are skated in a pre-determined pattern over the ice surface. Dances can be tested either solo or with a partner depending on the testing track the skater has chosen.
Moves in the Field:
Moves in the Field teach the skater the basic knowledge of steps, edges, and form, progressing through the level to Senior, where the skater must display power, extension, strong edge control and precise footwork. A skater must pass the corresponding level of Moves in the Field before he or she is eligible to take the Free Skating Test. However, the skater can advance to one or more higher Moves in the Field levels without taking the corresponding Free Skating Test.
Synchronized Team Skating:
Silver Stars — Open to any skater on Badge 7 and 8, Freestyle 1 and 2. The team will be registered as a beginner level team.
Shooting Stars — The team will earn the Learn to Skate Synchro 1-4 Badges and learn the fundamental skills of synchronized skating in a group lesson setting. Eligibility: Open to any Learn to Skate skater who has passed at least Badge 2.
Parent Michele Batson volunteers to work publicity for the club and Ice Show, and it was attending one of the annual shows that got her daughter, Ellie, interested in learning to skate.
“We came to see a show — someone gave us tickets — and we signed Ellie up the following Monday,” Batson said. Now 11, Ellie began skating at the age of 5 as well.
And later, Lloyd joked that the board “roped her in” to volunteering.
“I liked it here,” Batson laughed. “But seriously, it’s a great group of people and it’s like a big family. It’s a great way to spend your extra time.”
As members grow up through the program, “The older kids get to be great role models for the younger ones,” she said. “All the kids do their homework together and bond that way, and then they go out onto the ice together.”
Clinton Figure Skating Club also gets local schools and the community involved. For their 69th annual Ice Show in April, students from the technology shop at Clinton High School helped construct the torch for their Winter Olympic Games-themed performance. The school’s Advanced Placement art class is also working on designs for the 2019 Ice Show program cover, Batson said.
“And we’ve had the choir from Sauquoit school come and sing the National Anthem for our show,” Lloyd added.
As far as members, “We have someone from almost every town in the county,” he said.
The club has even featured a famous face or two in its Ice Show, including former figure skating great Jeremy Abbott. Not only has Abbott competed in the Olympics, he was also the 2008 Grand Prix Final champion, a two-time Four Continents bronze medalist, and a four-time U.S. national champion.
“Jeremy Abbott has been in our Ice Show twice,” Lloyd said. “He was wonderful with the kids. He even took pictures and signed autographs.”
Some figure skaters also got a brief moment of fame last year when they appeared in a small scene from the independent movie, “The Mountain.”
“We’ve even had a small group of kids in a movie,” Lloyd grinned. “Jeff Goldblum was here at the arena, along with Tye Sheridan, shooting some scenes for their movie. Our skaters got to meet them.”
He said, “We even had a skater interested in a career in movie production, and she more or less got a job shadowing experience. They put her with the sound crew, projection, and made her run through every aspect of making a film. Then she got the opportunity to go to Montana and shoot a movie with National Geographic.”
In the meantime, Clinton Figure Skating Club is practicing and gearing up for the 2019 Ice Show to be held at the arena the first weekend in April. Coaches and instructors are busy choreographing the performance and soon members and volunteers will be preparing the costumes.
Upstairs at Clinton Arena, what is referred to as the “third floor” or storage area, there is a room filled with about 70 years worth of skating costumes. From glow-in-the-dark tulle and shamrocks, to tie-dye, robots and even turkeys, Batson said the room has become a favorite spot to glean inspiration for new themed outfits and to come enjoy a piece of history.
“It’s just a fun place to check out, and I’ve even come across outfits that Ellie has worn for shows,” Batson said. “The history of the club is all right here, and being here just brings back some great memories.”
The theme of the 2019 Ice Show will be “It Takes A Village,” and the program will consist of routines that revolve around special central New York attractions.