For the past 41 years, Joanne Macnair has been the driving force behind the Williams Lake Skating Club.
Currently the head coach, Macnair spent 10 years as a competitive figure skater while growing up in Vancouver before moving to Williams Lake to begin her coaching career.
“I love working with the kids,” Macnair said, noting in a small town setting like Williams Lake she sees “99.9 per cent” girls move up to the competitive level in figure skating.
“It’s a fun job. I’ve done it all my life, and it never feels like I’m going to work. It’s challenging and it’s rewarding to see the girls progressing and performing well with the skill set you’ve taught them. It’s just a huge part of my life, and it’s fun to go to work every day.”
She said each day is different, there’s no set routine, and there’s always something new or exciting happening with her students.
Being able to connect with young women and girls in the community, and passing along her knowledge of the sport, has been a rewarding experience, she added.
“The girls you work with for years, the competitive skaters, you get to know their moods, their personalities, but skating, I think, is very good discipline for all aspects of life,” she said. “I find the serious skaters — the majority of them are good students because they’re all high achievers. They have the discipline and the work ethic and they just seem like very well rounded individuals.”
A message she likes to pass along to her students is “skating is like life.”
“You win some, you lose some, you pass some, you fail some,” she said. “Over the years I’ve taught a lot of kids and it’s a very small percentage that go on to do anything with skating. But I’ve seen girls turn out to be doctors, lawyers, you name it. And that’s because they’re hard working.
“Skating is a hard sport, and skating is repetition, repetition, repetition, and you have to have the discipline and the work ethic to do that.”
In 2015, Macnair was the recipient of the Skate Canada Provincial Club and Recreational Coach Award, which goes to an individual who moves beyond coaching as a profession and truly contributes to the development of skating globally.
She was described by Canadian Olympic ice dancing medalist Tracy Wilson as someone who possesses the unique ability to draw out the individuality of each skater, while pushing each one to their highest level.
Macnair noted it’s also been special to be able to now coach young girls whose parents she coached when they were younger.
“It’s quite remarkable how much the sport has changed over the years,” she said.
“What someone has to do at 12 (years old) now compared to what they had to do 20 years ago at 12 years old is phenomenal, and to see how far the sport has come in that time is quite something. It’s come tenfold.”