Learn to skate

Portrait of a woman standing in an ice rink.
Mt. Lebanon’s Learn to Skate program coordinator Keri Holton credits the work of the coaches and the rink staff with making the enrollment size highest in the state and 35th in the nation.

“I love doing logistics and planning, I love doing organization,” says Keri Holton. Learning that about Holton might not be a surprise, considering that she is the coordinator of Mt. Lebanons expansive Learn to Skate (LTS) program. However, while Holton loves to skate and has been doing it nearly all her life, she also enjoys being able to help others follow that same path.

Holton plans the schedules for the LTS program, working with coaches and junior coaches to determine their availability, and then formulating a schedule with that information. Classes are for ages 3 through adult.

“We have classes seven days a week, morning, afternoon and evening, depending on coach availability,” said Holton. “I like to have a ratio where the classes aren’t so big that the coaches can’t focus some time on individuals.”

The skaters’ fees include membership in Learn to Skate USA, so Holton is responsible for inputting each skater’s information into that organization’s system. In addition, she and other coaches evaluate the kids at the end of a session to determine whether they have developed the appropriate skills to move up to the next level. “We keep track of all of that in our system so we know where the child should sign up for the next session.”

She admitted it is a lot of work and can sometimes be a challenge. “But [the organization part] is something I excel at and enjoy doing. I love the enthusiasm of our coaches and our families. I love seeing the kids continue to come back and progress through the levels, and seeing their pride in their accomplishments.”

Holton started skating at a young age. “My mom and grandparents used to take me when I was 3 or 4 years old; they always loved it so they would take me. We would go to public sessions, but when I was 6 or 7 I saw a flyer for Learn to Skate and said I wanted to take lessons.”

She learned about the Mt. Lebanon opening while coaching at a rink in Delmont, and took over as LTS coordinator in November 2021.

A woman and children in an ice rink.
Coach Kim Barnhart teaches kids how to recover from a spill in the “Snowplow Sam” class.

Since then, the program has increased in numbers. With 840 students enrolled last year, it was the largest program in Pennsylvania, moving up from third the previous year, and jumping from 75th to 35th in the nation.

Holton attributes part of the success to the fact that the program had been down for almost two years because of COVID-19. “I think people were eager to get back on the ice.” More importantly, she credits the coaches and the great support from the Skating Club of Mt. Lebanon. “A huge part of our success is the support we receive from the rink staff. We wouldn’t be as successful if it weren’t for everybody pitching in and helping. I also believe that the reputation and results of our program speak volumes.”

While Holton loves to skate, she doesn’t do much of that as coordinator. “I don’t coach any Learn to Skate classes unless I need to sub,” she said. “I try to make sure I’m available to answer questions of the parents, or if the coaches need anything. A lot of times I’m there to help fit the kids for skates, but I do sub if a coach is not able to be there for a class.”

However, Holton has no problem with that. “I kind of designed it this way, because I want to be there for the kids and be available. We’ve got so many great coaches and only so much time, but I always have them all covered. Customer service is very important to me in this program. I guess right now I feel I have a pretty good balance. A lot of people wouldn’t like this but I thoroughly enjoy doing the planning.”

Photography by Marilee Kline