Stability is what Tamara Ward has been taught all of her life and has taught her own children. Some may say it’s an oxymoron of life for the Prince Rupert Skating coach, given how unpredictable the ice underneath her feet can be as she twirls and jumps, pushing off on her picks landing on the slippery frozen surface.
But stability is exactly what she teaches the young skaters with the wobbly ankles and uncertain strides. They can carry those skills knowing how to land safely throughout their lives.
Born and raised in Kitimat, Tamara came to Prince Rupert more than 25 years ago to marry her husband, Kelly, and start a life. Before Prince Rupert, she had lived in Prince George for her time at hairdressing college and started a job in Haida Gwaii after graduation, but family comfort lured her back to the area.
She lived in the same house in Kitimat growing up with her two sisters and parents. Her parents still live in the house they purchased in 1969. Tamara has lived in her own house for more than 20 years, with her husband and two kids, now 19 and 22.
“It has taught me stability. Just knowing that [my family home] is actually still there. I can go back anytime I want … My room is still there. My kids stay there. It’s just become a family go-to.”
That stability has carried through to her own family.
“[My kids] can always come home. There is always a spot for them no matter what. My daughter’s room still has her stuff in it, even though she has her own house now.”
Tamara said as children, they were encouraged to become involved in sports and activities. Her parents were always involved in what their girls did, and that’s where the skating coach first learned the value of volunteering.
One of her favourite activities was Ukrainian dancing. A friend called her one day in elementary school and invited her to come along. She became involved for a little more than five years.
“I went and tried and loved it. I loved the outfits with all the ribbons and the flowers. Lots of bouncing,” she said. The group of many cultures would dance at various events and the Aluminum City Telethon to raise money for the community.
While Tamara and her sisters were involved in many activities and sports, they became a skating family. Tamara skated from a young age all through high school. She took a hiatus from the ice to raise a family and start her career.
When her daughter was seven, she caught the skating bug. Within a month of starting Canskate, she was in private lessons with coach Sherry Pringle and had moved up to skate with the older students.
“I would go and watch. In watching it, I realized it was just Sherry, and she had no help,” she said. “Sherry found out I used to skate and asked if I was interested in doing the coaches training course. I told Sherry I would love it.”
Tamara’s sister, Cynthia, who is the Kitimat skating coach, encouraged her to sharpen her blades and return to the ice.
“And there I was back on the ice was after 20 years of being off the ice.”
She laughed at the analogy, “I can’t say it was like riding a bike. It was a little bit hard, but after a while, it was like riding a bike. You go on, and you just go.”
The skating coach course is ongoing as there are different levels. It consists of bookwork, video work, online work and in-person classes, which have to be travelled to. Tamara is a certified regional figure skating coach.
She said it’s difficult for her, at the moment, to level up her coaching certification because that requires coaching a skater of certain abilities and skill levels, of which there are non currently in Prince Rupert. This is for many different reasons, she said. Skaters get older and move on with their lives, they move away, give up the sport, or take up another sport.
“It’s not really a competition between the sports. Kids like their certain sports. And you know we have two dance studios, hockey, gymnastics which is huge, swim club. So no matter what, you are trying to get new members and keep the kids engaged.”
Coaching skating for now more than 10 years, Tamara balances more than just being on her silver blades with a full-time nail salon business, which she transitioned to after hairdressing and running a home-based daycare.
“I’ve got a fabulous clientele,” she said. “I’m very easygoing and good with missed appointments because I know my clients. I think that’s why I have the clientele I have because to me, they are my friends. They are just great.”
She puts full effort into her business and making her clients happy with her artistic work beautifying their hands and nails. She rebooks return appointments for them before they leave, she said.
“Basically, I come here at 8:30 in the morning, and I’m here till I need to leave. I don’t really have hours. It’s whatever my bookings are.”
Tamara doesn’t work weekends as that’s when she escapes to her trailer outside of Terrace. Her husband works full-time, her 19-year old son lives at home, but life is still busy, she said, especially with their two dogs.
Axel is her ‘old man’ dog. Yes, just like Axel Rose and is a six-year-old Shepard Rotwieller cross, she said.
During COVID-19, they adopted a puppy from the SPCA they named Porter.
“He is now a year and a half and is a black lab mastiff. He is going to be massive,” she said. They love going to the trailer with her. The dogs need downtime too.
“Weekends are our time where we get to decompress and breathe.”
“Life is chaotic and crazy. But I learned from my parents that’s how life is, and that just keeps you going. It keeps you busy. Life would not be life if I wasn’t busy,” she said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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