Former Glovertown skater lands coaching gig in Harbour Grace
It was the same step she took many times, but when she took it on the evening of Jan. 31, it was as a coach and not as a pupil.
That small step took Leah Doucette from the floor of Glovertown Gardens to the ice, and in front of her were members of the Terra Nova Tornadoes Figure Skating Club, ready to learn from someone who was in their place not too long ago.
Doucette graduated from the club last year, but it didn’t take her long to find her next adventure in the world of skating — synchronized skating.
It was something she decided to try while attending Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.
“I skated in Corner Brook for summer camps, so when I was there one of the coaches was doing synchro. So, I tried out for the synchro team, and did that for a year,” said Doucette. “You’re used to doing everything by yourself skating solo, but in synchro, you have to do everything with a group of girls. So, I had to make sure my footwork matched that of the partner next to me, because if I mess up mine, she’s going to mess up hers. There’s a lot of teamwork to it.”
Doucette later left the west coast and headed to St. John’s, where the next chapter in her figure skating life was about to begin — coaching.
Actually, that coaching job was in Harbour Grace with the Conception Bay North Figure Skating Club.
“My aunt (Sherrie O’Keefe) is really good friends with one of the people on their executive, so she was telling my aunt that the club was looking for a coach. I did my Level 1 coaching course, sent in my resume, and they called me over the summer. I started in January,” said Doucette. “I work with CanSkate, and I also work with people that just moved up from CanSkate, so it’s almost like a Star 1. We’re doing the basics, so we’re getting them into their spins and their jumps, and starting to work on a program.
“They’re great kids, and they’re so funny with the stuff they come up with. They fall all over the ice, and they just get up and laugh and keep going.”
Doucette was back in her hometown of Gambo over the Jan. 31 weekend, and headed up that practice in Glovertown.
Stepping on the ice in Glovertown brought back a lot of memories, and the majority of those memories are of the relationships formed while skating for the local club.
“My favourite memories would be the friendships. I formed a lot of good friendships here,” said Doucette. “Also, my coach, Claudia Drover. I had a real good connection with her. Another would be the ice shows. I loved the ice shows. It gave people an idea of the types of things we were doing in the club, and it also gave us a chance to show our talent.”
Drover not only coached Doucette as she came up through the ranks with the Terra Nova Tornadoes, but she also mentored the young coach while she was completing her Level 1.
Drover has had a big impact on Doucette, who uses the knowledge she learned from Drover to help her skaters in Harbour Grace.
“I’ve done a lot of mentoring with Claudia. When you do your Level 1 and your CanSkate you have to do 50 hours of mentoring, so I came back here and did my 50 hours with Claudia,” said Doucette. “I can call her with any questions I have while I’m out in Harbour Grace. Claudia is always there to back me up and help me.”
“I can call her with any questions I have while I’m out in Harbour Grace. Claudia is always there to back me up and help me.” — Leah Doucette
Doucette loved every minute of skating with the Tornadoes, but they weren’t always the warmest memories.
The 19-year-old suffers from Raynaud’s phenomenon, a condition that left her with such cold hands and feet, she couldn’t stay on the ice for an entire session of skating. The condition can cause pain within the affected extremities, discoloration, and sensations of cold and/or numbness.
“I get really, really cold, and it gets to the point where I have no feeling in my hands or my feet, and they turn really, really white. It gets to the point where I can get off the ice and just cry… it just burns,” said Doucette, adding she wears Hot Pads in her mittens to keep her hands warm. “There’s not much room to put anything in my skates with my feet in them, but I found an insole that’s battery-operated and stays heated for five hours. I’m going to try those and see if it works.”
As a skater, it was something she had to deal with. However, no matter how tough you are, trying to jump off of the ice with feet and toes that are so cold they’re numb is quite the painful challenge.
“I had to get off the ice early, so I could never stay for a full session,” said Doucette. “My toes would get really, really numb, so I couldn’t do any of my jumps because I never had feeling in my toes. I had to get off the ice, get warmed up as fast as I could so I could get back on. It was annoying.”
Leah Doucette (left) is a graduate of the Terra Nova Tornadoes Figure Skating Club in Glovertown and now a coach in Harbour Grace, helps her sister, Jenna, during a recent Tornadoes’ practice.