Not many years ago the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club was one of the top club’s in the province.
The club consistently had 80-90 skaters registered, including several of the top athletes in the country.
Those numbers have slipped of late with 30 kids registered this season, including 10 newcomers.
“You could say we’re in a regrowth stage,” said Lions head coach Shawna Pearman, who understands why the numbers have dropped.
“Kids nowadays have a lot of other options open to them . . . there’s so many sports that a lot of kids try something and then move on to try something else. I’ve talked with people involved with other sports and they say the same thing. It goes in cycles.”
Pearman, who has been involved with the club since 1999, finds a lot of the older skaters, in the 14-17 year-old age group, moving on.
“You find that in every sport,” she said. “I know a lot of our kids are involved in more than one sport. Some kids play hockey and skate, or others are involved in indoor soccer.”
Although the numbers have dipped of late Pearman likes what she sees this year, especially among the younger group.
“We have 10 new skaters and a group of enthusiast parents, which is a good sign,” she said. “As well with the Olympics coming up I expect the interest to continue to grow.”
The Lions Club will hold a couple open camps in March following the Olympics and prior to the opening of their short track season.
While the club is younger, there’s still a number of outstanding skaters, including the three Pearman sisters — Brooke, 16, Maddison, who will be 14 on Saturday, and Tess 11.
All three are leaders on the club with the older sisters expected to do well at the Canadian championships.,
Brooke, who’s getting into more Olympic style skating, and Maddison also spent time training in Edmonton last fall, because of a lack of older skaters with the club.
“They were only skating against each other here and they were bored with that, so they travelled to Edmonton once a week just to train with other kids their age,” explained Shawna Pearman.
Two of the Pearman sisters — Maddison and Tess — will compete in the annual Alberta Open outdoor championship, Saturday and Sunday at the Golden Circle Oval. Brooke, who’ll compete in a major event in Saskatoon the first week of February, will take the weekend off.
Two other top skaters for the Red Deer Club are Kiera Fujimoto, who is the top midget in the province, and Ben McKinnon, both 12. They’ll both compete in the Alberta Winter Games.
The club will have 19 skaters involved in the meet, which runs Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.
The meet is a bit smaller this year as skaters from B.C. and Saskatchewan have their own major meets this weekend.
“Because of the Olympics everything is being pushed together, but we’re still expecting a good turnout of Alberta skaters,” said Pearman.