When United States Figure Skating (USFS) named its first "outstanding basic skills director" in the nation, they turned to the leader of one of the top programs in the country.
Kerry Murphy, who has run the Skokie Park District's figure skating program for more than 28 years, received the award at SkateFest, a recent USFS event at the district's Skatium Ice Arena. When Murphy walked out onto the ice at the instructional clinic, she believed that she would be presenting an award to Olympic bronze medalist Jason Brown. Instead, Brown turned the tables on Murphy, handing her the inaugural award recognizing the best figure skating director in the United States.
Murphy was cited by the national figure skating governing body and her nominators for her creativity, adapting the program for children with special challenges; inspiring new skaters and cultivating the sport; making the ice rink feel like home for skating families; and creating an environment where children feel safe, confident and develop a sense of accomplishment.
Murphy's basic skills figure skating program, which routinely enrolls between 800 and 1,000 skaters, is generally regarded as one of the more prominent of the nearly 1,000 skate schools in the country. But she credits her staff for the Skatium's success.
"We are very blessed to employ some of the most skilled professional figure skating instructors, anywhere," said Murphy. "Through their expertise, patience and attention to detail, Skokie figure skaters get to learn from the very best. The entire Skatium and park district staff is also top-notch. I am very lucky to be given nearly everything I need to run this program.
In addition to bringing recognition to the Skatium, Murphy has also been instrumental in switching the majority of Chicago area rinks to the basic skills program.
"Every area (of the country) would benefit from having a 'Kerry' to motivate and inspire them to work together like we do here in Chicagoland," said Kim Johnson, president of the Greater Chicagoland Basic Skills Committee and skating director of Crystal Lake's Crystal Ice House. "We are all very lucky to profit from Kerry's ideas."
Among Murphy's innovations over three decades include the formation of the Skatium's 'Theater on Ice' program, the introduction of the "wear your patches proudly" program, organizing discounted outings to Disney on Ice for all Chicago area rinks, coordinating tailored programs for scouting and homeschool groups, creating numerous holiday special events and ice shows, and managing the outdoor rink at Westfield Old Orchard Mall in Skokie.
Over the years, Murphy has also brought in dozens of national, world and Olympic champions, who have generously showcased their talents for Skatium crowds, including Scott Hamilton, Evan Lysacek, Kurt Browning, Sasha Cohen, Paul Wylie, Yuka Sato, Todd Eldredge, Kimmie Meissner, Johnny Weir, Ryan Bradley, Irina Slutskaya, Ilia Kulik, Ashley Wagner, Tanith Belbin, Ben Agosto, and many more.
Jason Brown, who presented the award to Murphy at SkateFest, was joined at the Skatium instructional clinic by Mirai Nagusu, Alissa Czisny, and several other Team USA Olympic competitors.
Established in 1921, USFS is a member of the International Skating Union and of the U.S. Olympic Committee. It is one of the strongest and largest governing bodies within the winter Olympic movement, with more than 176,000 members.
For information regarding Skatium Ice Arena skating programs in Skokie, call (847) 674-1500, ext. 2900.