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Coaches not part of rink's 'new direction'

March 25, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Changes to the figure skating offerings at the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex have prompted parents of young skaters to seek the reinstatement of coaches who were dismissed earlier this week.

Toni Koenigsberg, the rink's assistant manager, said skating director Jennifer Kaszubski was let go as part of the rink's "new direction" for the program.

Erin Benedum, a skating coach at the rink for more than five years, said she was dismissed Monday and given 30 days notice.

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"I was just told they were going in a different direction, but they didn't say what that direction was," Benedum said. "I was in complete shock."

Benedum said Thursday, while in Boston with youth skaters she teaches, that she requested to pay the rink a "guest instructor fee" to continue working with some of her longtime students. Benedum said she is waiting for a response to that request from rink officials.

Manager David Brandenburg, reading from a brief statement provided by board of directors chairwoman Kristy Pottol, said the rink changes are a result of being "charged by the city to be profitable; we're doing everything we can to make that happen."

Koenigsberg and Brandenburg declined to provide specific details on future changes to the program.

Several parents said they were upset and disappointed at the lack of details on the changes and especially at the firings of Kaszubski and Benedum.

Tracy Nelson, whose daughter has skated at the complex for five years, said there are about 50 students who were taught by one of them. Nelson said more than a dozen skaters were training with them for upcoming national competitions, and replacing the coaches is not an easy task.

Hagerstown residents Nelson and Ginger Pembroke, parents of a local skater, said there is a special bond between a skater and a coach that often takes years to develop.

"It takes a long time to get the trust level between a student and coach to where kids are willing to try these difficult, somewhat dangerous maneuvers," Pembroke said. "You're asking them to take a leap of faith."

Debra Shepherd of Martinsburg, W.Va., said Pottol told her that "we could always go to another rink," and suggested they try the one in Frederick, Md.

"You see them on crutches, with sprained ankles, with broken hands, with broken jaws. These kids work hard," said Shepherd, whose daughter has been a student under Benedum for four years. "All these children are asking is, 'Please let us have access to our coach.'"

"I wish they would stop and look at who they're hurting," she said.

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