Inclusive Figure Skating Programs: The New “Cutting Edge”

Nov 16, 2010
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Figure skating season is in full swing. It’s one of my favorite times of the year…a new competition to watch almost every weekend. Memories come flooding back in, and I always have a persistent urge to get back out on the ice. Figure skating taught me so many things physically, psychologically, and socially. As corny as it sounds, it has definitely shaped who I am. I think most importantly, for a girl who was sometimes shy, a bit self conscious, and often so wrapped up in her own thoughts, figure skating was a way for me to release and express myself.

Because of all that, it makes me so sad when I think about how many kids never even get to get on the ice. Let’s face it, it’s not a cheap sport. And the hours are crazy – lot’s of very early mornings. And you only get to do it if you are lucky enough to have a rink in your area or parents who have the time to drive you to the closest rink. Then there’s the matter of finding a coach or instructor and having access to the necessary equipment. These last two things can be particularly difficult for individuals with disabilities. From my experience, programs that have instructors who have the knowledge and experience working with individuals with disabilities and the adaptive equipment needed for these individuals are few and far between.

(In preparing to write this blog, I realized for the very first time that figure skating is not yet a Paralympic sport. How it took me this long to realize that, I have no idea!)

That’s why I get so excited when I hear about new programs that include those with disabilities – and they seem to be popping up more and more!

  • One of my good friends who I skated with in college volunteered with Gliding Stars and speaks the world of this organization!
  • And just by doing a quick search I found an organization called STARskaters that seems to be doing all sorts of great stuff with people with all sorts of disabilities in all sorts of ice sports.
  • And, of course, there’s Special Olympics – probably the most well known organization to offer sports programs for people with disabilities. When I went to their site to find out more about the specifics of what they offer for figure skating, I was so pleasantly surprised to find a coaching manual! I would argue that one of the most critical pieces of offering a quality, inclusive program is adequately educated instructors. This resource seems to be a huge step in the right direction…and one of the contributing authors is one of my old coaches…what a fun surprise!

I can only hope that more and more programs pop up, offering people of all abilities the opportunity to participate in a sport that is so near and dear to my heart!

Author: Carolyn



  • Kwiley01

    I really like your style of writing and the topics that you cover. I make a point to read your columns. Please keep writing the pieces that you do, educate the field, keep expanding what you naturally seem to know… e.g. More pieces need to be written about the capabilities of people with disabilities compared to their “vulnerabilities”. Inclusion simply means finding a different way (sometimes) of doing things.

  • Carolyn

    Thank you! I agree that education is so important for inclusion! I appreciate the feedback – if you have more thoughts or ideas I would love to hear them!