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  • Jeff Schober

Learning to skate: a photo essay

Skate Great teaches people of all ages how to navigate an ice rink,

and we have the photos to prove it...



Skate Great has been teaching people to skate since 1997. Founded by the late Janice Smith, the company was taken over by Jessica Roswell seven years ago. During winter months, Skate Great runs 20 weekly programs at five Western New York rinks with more than 50 part-time employees, many of whom learned to skate through the program. Baby Blades, the youngest students, may begin instruction at 18 months. All ages are welcome, including adults.

“I love the learn to skate program,” Roswell said. “We teach so many diverse people. It’s rewarding when students come back and say they’re playing college hockey or that they’d love to work for us.”

Photographer Steve Desmond, whose daughter Zoey is an instructor, spent a week in February traveling to Holiday, Leisure, and Hamburg rinks to assemble the 25 photos here.



In the hidden caverns at Leisure Rinks, Greysia Cartonia, 6, of West Seneca, laces her skates.

Children line up to enter Holiday Twin Rinks in anticipation of their evening lesson.

Coach Jessica Roswell offers a hand to Hunter Wass, 4, of Hamburg.

Caden McCabe, 5, of Hamburg, learns simple exercises to help build balance so he can leave his sled behind.

Skating instructor Holly Avery rewards Averyana Frommer, 3, of Cheektowaga, with a high five.

Coach Caitie Berndtson holds a discussion with Dylan Melnyk, Joey Coltoniak, Delaney McKeever, and Harry Vahling.

A typical session may include 50 students and teachers on the ice at once.

Grace Gibbons, 4, of North Tonawanda, chats with her coach after a fall.

Others, such as Maison Mazzo, 3, of West Seneca, wait after a fall for a coach to pick him up.

Coach Dima Naudzuns has fun with a young skater before helping her regain balance on the ice.

Coach Emily Beckman helps Bo Vastola, 4, of West Seneca, with the proper fit and feel of his skates.


John Lee, 5, of Hamburg, searches for balance after taking a dive...

...And along comes coach Jessica Roswell to help John regain his composure.

After a fall, Cayla Courteau, 9, of Hamburg, considers her next move.

Some skaters, like Colson Spina, 4, of Orchard Park, enjoy observing activities around the rink.

Future hockey players include Rayan Griffin and Jonny Whiting of Depew.

Fashion is everywhere! Keegan Valencourt, 3, and Sam Hacic, 3, both from Hamburg, sport different helmet styles.

Coach David Cian instructs his advanced students.

Coach Ryan Hennigan spends time with young skaters teaching balance control.

Ethan Babcock, 7, of Hamburg, remains focused during his lesson.

Mason Rhodes, 3, of Cheektowaga, is almost ready to skate independently.

And they’re off! Macey Romano, 3, of Williamsville, is up and skating on her own, while Hannah Kusak, 6, of Cheektowaga, decides to play follow the leader with her friend, Swann Haynes, 6, of Lancaster.

At this age it’s all about the prize. Coach Zoey Desmond rewards her skaters with helmet stickers.

Graduation day follows a six week session. Mai Baker, 5, of Lancaster, shows off her “Snowplow Sam 1” patch.

all photos © 2019 by Steven D. Desmond



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