Jackie Brenner Coaches
In a few weeks, people the world over will be dazzled by the grace and beauty of figure skaters competing at the Olympic Winter Games in Torrino, Italy. Undoubtedly, some viewers will be captivated by the athletes and want to take to the ice. That’s how it started for Linsey Stucks.
“I was watching the Olympics and Nancy Kerrigan inspired me to start skating,” Stucks said. That was 12 years ago. Now you can find the Edmond native working out on the ice every morning at Arctic Edge Ice Arena.
Stucks wrapped up her skating season in November, finishing in eighth place at the Midwestern Sectional Championship, competing against skaters from nearly two dozen states. Her competition schedule starts again in April.
In the meantime, Stucks stays in top form by skating three hours each day. She follows that with an hour and a half exercise routine at the Edmond Athletic Club to strengthen her cardiovascular endurance.
While some may dismiss figure skating because of the sequined costumes and musical accompaniment, excelling in the sport requires the athleticism of a football player combined with the grace of a ballet dancer.
Gone are the days of Dorothy Hamill when skating precision could win a gold medal. To compete, skaters must execute daring moves requiring phenomenal degrees of strength and agility.
“Now they have to be an athlete first and a skater second,” said Jackie Brenner, Stucks’ coach and the skating director at Arctic Edge. “This makes it more physically demanding.”
The physical demands of the sport can pose a challenge to keeping the athletes motivated, but Brenner knows this happens with almost every endeavor.
The first year or two are the “romance years” – an athlete learns so much initially and the learning and accomplishment are fun and rewarding. Once the athletes reach a certain level, they begin to plateau and the triumphs arrive in smaller increments and only as the result of extreme dedication.
“It can be a challenge to keep them excited and motivated,” Brenner said.
But Brenner excels at meeting that challenge. In 2000, her peers selected her as the Developmental Coach of the Year for the Professional Skaters Association. The national award recognizes coaches who take skaters from the basics of learning to skate and train them through all levels of competition.
Brenner herself was once a national competitor. She grew up in Michigan and started skating when she was 6 years old.
“I’ve always had a passion for figure skating,” Brenner said.
Later, she trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. While there, she met and fell in love with an Air Force Academy cadet. After his graduation, they married and he was later transferred to Vance Air Force Base.
In 1990 when the Brenners moved to Oklahoma, there was virtually no figure skating in the state. Instead of being discouraged by the absence of the sport, Brenner was excited about introducing the Sooner state to figure skating.
“I’m making more of a difference by bringing skating to a community that has never experienced it,” Brenner said. If she’d stayed in Michigan, she’d be one of many master-rated coaches. In Oklahoma, she is the only master-rated coach in freestyle.
Brenner now works with about 30 athletes, ranging in age from 3 to adult. Though she has always loved skating and enjoyed her years competing, she knows she has found her true calling as a coach.
“I have more of a passion for coaching,” she said. “It is great to share a gift with someone.”
Although one might expect Brenner’s reinforcement to come from seeing her skaters win medals or master a routine, it is something more philosophical that keeps her coming to the rink every day.
“Watching the children learn to become responsible for their work and their lives” is the best part of being a figure skating coach, she said.
Brenner works with the athletes to set goals and learn how to achieve them. She said the people who excel in figure skating are the ones who make it happen through passion, desire and long-term commitment.
“They have to be able to handle the ups and the downs, both the successes and the failures,” Brenner said. “Children learn more from the bumps in the road than from the gold medals.”
As spring competition nears, Stucks will be extending her training schedule, adding another hour and a half, every other afternoon, to her morning workout on the ice.
“I have big goals in my life,” she said. “Nationals, possibly the Olympics.”
Arctic Edge offers skating instruction for all ages and levels of ability. Jackie Brenner heads a staff of 18 coaches and teachers who provide both private and group lessons. The international staff includes Russian, Canadian and American ice dancers and medalists.
“If anybody wants to learn, they can do it,” Brenner said. The only required skills are balance and the desire to skate.”
Some people may think it is too late to start ice skating, but Brenner said that really isn’t the case.
“I had a gentleman in his 70s call me and he wanted to learn to skate,” she said. “Now he comes out for public sessions and is proficient.”
Ideally, people who want to be competitive skaters start by their ninth birthday, Brenner said, but skaters who begin later can still excel. She said there is now a track for those who start in their late 20s and early 30s and want to skate competitively. Parent and tot classes, adult beginning classes and classes for children are all available.
“Whether your goal is to skate at Rockefeller Center and not fall or try out for the Olympic team, we’ve got a class for it,” she said.