Instructor stays frosty at Crown Center
Figure skating coach Melissa Smoler has skated at the Robert Crown Center in Evanston since she was 5. She's seen backstage at the annual Nutcracker performance. | Karie Angell Luc~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 6:17AM
The Robert Crown Center in Evanston is a second home to those who spent their childhoods sharpening skills on the ice. For Melissa Smoler, a figure skating coach of nine years, memories of her youth there remain crisp. We caught up with Smoler, a Chicago resident, backstage at December’s Nutcracker on Ice performances, a much-loved Evanston tradition.
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I grew up 10 minutes away from Robert Crown Center in West Rogers Park (and attended) Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center in Chicago
Q. Where did you attend college?
A. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign undergrad, bachelor of arts elementary education. Concordia University Chicago, master’s degree, master of arts educational technology.
Q. What’s your favorite skating skill?
A. My favorite skating skill is a layback spin.
Q. What skaters did you follow as a student?
A. Tara Lipinksi and Nancy Kerrigan were role models growing up. I’ve always had an affinity for Kurt Browning, as he always puts charisma and enthusiasm in his skating and is a great performer.
Q. Any trends you see in skating?
A. Synchronized skating is becoming very popular, more and more skaters are expressing interest in competing and performing in local shows.
Q. Explain why it’s so cool to be an ice skating instructor (literally!).
A. It’s cool to be an ice skating coach because I can truly say I get to do what I love everyday. Skating is my passion in life and it completes who I am as an individual. I also love the satisfaction of students learning, understanding, and mastering skills in skating ... It always makes me smile when I teach them and they “get it!” An added bonus is that I get to work with the students and their parents, and each one of them is very special to me.
Q. Proper skating techniques?
A. Posture is very important, as is good balance. A good knee bend is crucial as well ... it is commonplace to hear coaches nagging, “bend your knees!” Most importantly a skater should also have a smile on their face to complete the package.
Q. Advice to skaters of all abilities?
A. Give it a try, you will probably love it! It’s easier than it looks. If you can stand on 2 feet, you can skate.
Q. Are you a summer or winter person?
A. Summer person, go figure!
Q. Any skating memories being a smile to your face?
A. Recently, when I was coaching a group number in a skating show, I was skating backwards and very engrossed in the progression of the number, and before I knew it, I had crashed into the boards behind me. Yes, even coaches fall.
Q. What is special about the Crown Center?
A. I consider Robert Crown Ice Center a “second home.” I’ve been skating there since I was 5 years old. Skaters are treated with kindness and respect, everyone looks out for one another. It truly has a family feel. Also, have you seen the facility?! Super cool 1970s decor in maroons and browns, and a cool skylight area in the lobby with hanging plants.
Q. What’s on your iPod?
A. Always possible songs that could be good for my skating students’ routines such as: Katy Perry, One Direction and Rachmaninoff. In my personal arsenal, Jimmy Buffett, Colbie Callait, and the Beatles.
Q. What’s up for January for Melissa?
A. Skating Competition Season begins for my students and I.