Professional Skater Coaches Aberdeen Kids
by Tom Hanson, Anchor
February 12, 2013 10:42 PM
The Ice Capades, Disney's World On Ice, The Ice Follies and Holiday On Ice. They are all part of a South Dakota man's life as a professional skater. Now Walter Stevenson is using all that experience to teach young skaters in South Dakota.
We caught up with him as he worked with two teenage girls, his voice echoing in the Odde Ice Arena.
"If you step into your spin with this shoulder here you are in trouble" Stevenson said as he demonstrated the move.
It’s clear Stevenson knows how the body moves on ice. After all he lived the life of a professional figure skater, rehearsals, costumes, traveling from city to city and working with some of the biggest names in the business. From Peggy Fleming to darling of figure skating, Dorothy Hammil.
"I said Dorothy come over here, she came to my side and put her arms around me, they came up to my knees, so I was towering way over her"
A tribute to his abilities, Walter was skating on stilts for the part of Gargamel from the Smurfs, one of the many characters he played over the years, which included Big Bird, and the lion in the Wizard Of Oz. He even met the real Wicked Witch of the West from the movie, actress Margaret Hamilton.
"She said you make a very good lion when she came backstage" said Stevenson.
As a youngster it was a twist of fate that led Walter to figure skating. A dog ran off with one of his hockey skates, and mom replaced them with figure skates and lessons
"My teacher was from Germany, and so she was very strict arms had to be stretched, legs had to be stretched, head had to be held up, shoulders back and its helped me through regular work to be self assured and to be confident in myself.”
Stevenson says he tries to pass those same lessons he learned along to his students.
After skating, his business career and personal life drew him to South Dakota, He lives in Conde and drives to Aberdeen to teach skating for the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department.
I enjoy watching the kids face when they learn something for the first time and they finally realize I did it!
Some of Walter's students realize that having someone with his experience and unique abilities in Aberdeen is something pretty special.
Christian Berbos, a 13 year old who glides over the ice like she belongs on it, says she enjoys her coach’s positive attitude. “He just knows more and he knows exactly what to tell you, said Berbos.
Fellow student, Julia Barnett agrees, “He's very helpful if you're doing something wrong, and he shows you the correct way to fix it.”
Walter says teaching kids the basics at a young age is the key to later success.
He hopes to eventually have some of his students compete in sanctioned events.
Bystanders at the Odde Ice Center might notice something different about Walter’s skates. The blades are gold plated. At age 58 Walter says this is his last pair of skates and he wanted them to be special.
While his performing days have come to a halt, Walter still finds joy on the ice. However, instead of applause from the crowd that joy comes from the smiles of young skaters discovering that they too, can make something incredibly hard look amazingly easy.