For Raymond Naismith, figure skating as a male in a predominantly female-dominated sport afforded him opportunity to compete at a very high level.
Naismith competed at the national level and did very well. He is now bringing his figure skating talent to Grand Forks where he is taking over as head coach of the local figure skating club. He is hoping not only to help improve the skill levels of the skaters, but bring in more young males.
“I’ve been coaching for about 25 or 30 years,” he told the Gazette. “My background is in figure skating. I have my international gold in singles. I’ve competed at the senior Canadian level. I have a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in dancing from York University.”
Naismith was introduced on Friday at a special afternoon skate around at Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. He was joined on the ice by about 20 young figure skaters, who went through some figure skating basics with their new coach.
“The skaters seem really enthusiastic,” he said. “One skater, Kayla Tiller, is really enthusiastic. You have to really love this to succeed. She did some skating in the summer. They’re off the ice for about five months and it takes some time to get used to the ice again.”
Naismith said he wants to help build up the club and build up the membership and implement some programs.
“I want to get more boys involved,” he said. “It’s not easy to get them involved with this culture. Being a male myself, I get a thrill out of doing jumps. That’s one thing that really kept me interested in figure skating: the jumping and the athleticism it demands.”
Naismith said there are more males involved in large centres such as Toronto and Vancouver. He also pointed out to the success of the TV show Battle of the Blades which features former NHL players figure skating.
“Even Don Cherry himself said that he was amazed these NHL hockey players are able to do these tricks in figure skates on ice,” said Naismith.
Naismith said that the Grand Forks club mainly consists of newer skaters who will learn through the CanSkate program. He said many will move up and transition into testing for SkateCanada. He added that some will also compete against other skaters in competitions throughout the Kootenays and Okanagan.
“It’s pretty exciting for them to go out and compete,” said Naismith. “It gets them involved in the skating community. Kayla (Tiller) competes and we’re going to be working on a solo for competitions later this year.”
Tiller has been skating for 10 years and enjoys competing.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I like accomplishing new things like landing new jumps for the first time. This year I want to pass some of my gold dances and my gold skills.”
Tiller also helps coach the younger skaters as a certified assistant with CanSkate.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s really fun. I like the kids. Sometimes they goof around but they’re kids. I’ve been doing it for a few years.”