One of the young Williams Lake Speed Skating Club skaters, Logan Destrey Kelly-Jalbert with his trophy. (Photo Submitted)

One of the young Williams Lake Speed Skating Club skaters, Logan Destrey Kelly-Jalbert with his trophy. (Photo Submitted)

ON THIN ICE: Williams Lake Speed Skating Club feeling impact of pandemic

Head coach desperate for help and struggling to keep up with it all

The Willams Lake Speed Skating Club is nearing collapse in the face of COVID restrictions.

After ten successful years, with club skaters having competed in the Canada Winter Games and the B.C. Winter Games, the club is straining under current conditions.

“If I step down, it’s over, we have to close it,” said team coach, president, equipment manager, and on-ice supervisor Tracy Beaton, who is looking for new skaters to join the club’s ranks.

She stepped up to take over as president of the club two-and-a-half years ago but has had to take on the other roles.

She said she is working hard to keep the team alive for the kids, along with the kids on the team who are also making efforts to keep things going.

“Kids are working together to support each other,” said Beaton. “They want so badly to hang onto their club.”

The team’s ice-time is paid for until the end of the season and she doesn’t want to lose what momentum they have.

Two older skaters, her son Henry and Leah Lauren, have been returning to help coach younger skaters, even though they are no longer skating because of work and other commitments.

The team advertised for a coach earlier in the season after the previous coach stepped down, and they had two parents who were stepping up to help.

But with the vaccine passport requirement which has since come into effect, those two parents are now unable to participate on the ice.

So despite not having a child on the team, Beaton herself is fulfilling the multitude of roles needed to keep the team alive.

“I’d hate to see 10 years of hard work for the coach go down the tubes,” said Beaton. “There’s a lot invested here.”

She hopes that the team can recruit new members whose parents might be able to fill in some of the gaps to support the club.

Beaton said the sport offers something different to a lot of kids who may not fit into the team sports mold but they love speed and they love to be on the ice.

Her own son wanted to be able to compete but wasn’t interested in the hockey lifestyle.

He made lifelong friends at the skating competitions he went to and enjoyed the speed and challenge.

“If I could show you a picture of the kids five years ago versus now, both mentally and physically, it’s crazy,” she said of the development she sees in all the skaters.

It teaches the skaters focus.

When she asked her son Henry how he felt with family members shouting at him from the sidelines, she said his response was: “Honestly, I don’t even hear him, all I hear is the swoosh of my skates.”

Two of the skaters on the team are autistic, but do well and thrive in the more individualistic sport. The club currently has skaters aged 6-14 years old and a total of about seven skaters.

“Two of our skaters have hockey-playing siblings and this affords them an opportunity to also be on the ice in their own capacity, challenging themselves while still part of a team,” said Beaton.

She is now learning how to coach, despite not being a skater herself, while also fulfilling the president’s role.

She does lesson plans in order to make practices happen but relies on the help of the older skaters.

Meets aren’t happening at the moment due to COVID-19 and Beaton said many other small northern clubs are facing challenges, due to the restrictions. Once more volunteers come on board, and the restrictions caused by the pandemic adjust, she is positive meets can start up again.

Here is some of what her skaters had to say about their love for the sport:

Kayden Age 14: Loves speed skating as an opportunity to challenge himself in a way he normally wouldn’t. He is proud that he was able to make his provincial times in 2019 and to qualify for the opportunity to participate in the BC Winter Games.

Preston Age 14: He had never been on skates before learning to speed skate. Learned from the ground up and continues to fine-tune his skill set on the ice. Tournaments such as the Coyote cup in Kamloops are his most favourite things to participate in. He likes that you make friends from all over and get to see them at each meet.

Logan: Age 6: He likes being fast and breaking his own BP Times. He has brought home the monthly trophy for best personal improvement several times in one season.

Bhoomake Age 8: He loves speed skating so much. He is always ready for practice days and loves to be with everyone on the ice. He has developed his focus, confidence, and self-esteem.

Read More: Williams Lake speed skater qualifies for Canadian Western Speed Skating Championships

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