KURT BROWNING SKATER DEVELOPMENT SEMINAR
The Vancouver Island Seminar was a huge success. 102 participants had the opportunity of a life time when Kurt Browning led the annual event.
Below is the article that appeared in the Parksville Qualicum News.
When Skate Canada Vancouver Island organized its annual figure skating clinic at Oceanside Place Arena last weekend, it bypassed the hiring of a head coach.
Instead, it brought in a legend.
Kurt Browning, the four-time world champion and three-time Canadian Olympian, held a sell-out crowd of 100 young skaters rapt while headlining his first appearance at the local clinic Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m not one to get star-struck, but I do appreciate how fortunate we are to have him here,” said Micia Kanstrup of Victoria, who brought her daughter and two other members of their skating club to the clinic. “He’s signed autographs for the kids and really engaged them. We’re so lucky to have him here.”
Browning, 50, claimed the men’s figure skating world championship four times in a five-year stretch from 1988-93 — and placed second the other year. The flag-bearer for the Canadian Winter Olympic Team at Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994, Browning turned professional that year and remains active as a skater, choreographer and a CBC commentator.
But he attends only “two to five” clinics a year of the type held last weekend in Parksville.
“Kurt Browning is not a professional coach at all; he doesn’t actually coach like the rest of us who make our living from coaching,” said Elizabeth Kines, a longtime North Island skating coach. “But he has some incredible ideas, breaking down skating back to the basics of the running edge. And giving his love of skating back to the kids.”
While not officially a coach, Browning last weekend earned high marks from skaters, parents and coaches for his approach to young skaters across a variety of ages and skill levels.
“My seminars tend to be a little more casual,” Browning admitted. “They’re a little bit more fun, and oriented toward making sure they appreciate their own skating and know how to analyze their own skating from a realistic point of view.”
Tyler Bidnyk, director of skating for the local Sandy Shores Skating Club, agreed Browning’s approach was less “serious” than skaters would typically get from a professional coach in a clinic setting. But he said that approach had plenty of value — for both skaters and coaches.
“Part of what I was watching was his teaching tactics, and seeing how can I deliver a lesson better,” said Bidnyk, who served as one of the clinic’s three coaches.
“So it was kind of inspiring for me to see him naturally adapt to these younger kids and do stuff they can do. If he’s not a coach, well, he delivers very well. Everyone’s loving it; he’s hilarious.”
Clinic organizer Matt Willis, director of skating development for Skate Canada Vancouver Island, said the turnout for this year’s clinic brought “record numbers.” It actually sold out its maximum available 100 slots and left a waiting list of skaters wishing to attend.
“When I got the email, I’m like, ‘I’m signing up for this now,’” said Olivia Bau, a skater from Nanoose Bay.
Skating with and demonstrating for groups of skaters, Browning kept up a constant stream of patter — much of it humorous.
“There’s stuff about jumps and spins, of course,” he said. “But a lot of what I’m trying to give the kids is about their self-worth. There’s a lot of opportunity, if they have the right attitude, to come out of this sport with a lot of confidence and a lot of tools to tackle life away from the arena.”
While local skaters like Bau and teammates Tabitha Devaughan and Indianna Berg of Parksville said they knew of Browning before the clinic, he was not a household name for all the young skaters.
“My daughter didn’t know him. We had to Google him,” Kanstrup said with a laugh. “But then they were impressed.”