Skating Events Get Their Own Tournament
The inaugural Skating Championships will be held on Feb. 19-20 in Romeoville at Canlan Ice Sports. The facility has three full sheets of ice, two of which will be utilized for the figure skating and speed skating competitions.
Special Olympics Illinois made the decision to move the sports from Winter Games to assist in attracting more interest and participation in both sports. Figure skating and speed skating are considered “At Risk” sports within the Illinois program. Participation numbers needed to provide quality competitive experiences have decreased over the years. Changes need to be made to increase interest and participation in these sports.
“Special Olympics Illinois did not want to just arbitrarily cut these sports before trying to implement options that would help increase interest and grow numbers,” said Tracy Hilliard, Vice President of Sports Training & Competition. “Ideas need to be identified and implemented that will allow for growth in the next few years or these sports may be cut.”
Volunteers are needed for both days of the event. Speed skating needs timers and escorts and figure skating needs escorts. Special Olympics Illinois also needs volunteers with experience as announcers for both of these sports. Please contact David Shindley if you are interested in volunteering.
View Skating Championships fact sheet. More specific event details regarding hotel information, the final competition schedule and meals will be shared soon and also posted to the website.
The first step in helping grow the sports was to move the event to a more accessible location. Relocating the tournament closer to where athletes compete locally may help increase interest. Some families and groups that are not participating have shared that the Galena/Iowa location is problematic and they would become involved if the venue were more accessible.
Some agencies have also asked that a Young Athletes figure skating program be introduced. The new venue has the space and time frame to allow for a Young Athletes component to be implemented in 2015. Special Olympics Illinois staff will work with personnel from these agencies to create the appropriate program and format for the Young Athletes transition component for future events.
In future years, the location and availability of ice time at Canlan Ice Sports will allow skaters from other states to participate in the event. Other states are also experiencing low participation numbers in these sports and some have even eliminated the sports. By working together, states may be able to increase interest in the sports and provide better quality competitive experiences to athletes.
On Wednesday during the event, Special Olympics Illinois will host a brainstorming session with coaches, family members, volunteers, athletes and anyone else with an interest to discuss reasonable ideas that can be implemented to increase awareness and participation in both sports. The session will either be conducted at Canlan Ice Sports from 2-3 p.m. or at the hotel during the dance. The goal is to work together to develop viable options to increase participation in both of the sports.