Club Figure Skating finds success in inclusivity


Anthony Scilla

At a hockey game, the Kent State Club Figure Skating members perform after the first period on Jan. 20, 2023.

Leah Shepard, Staff Reporter

Kent State Club Figure Skating took home silver and pewter medals last July in the U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships, but members say that they value the inclusivity and community that their club provides before any titles or awards.

Club Figure Skating, which was acknowledged as an official university sport last spring, has nearly tripled in size in the last five years, said senior International Relations major Austin Brewster.

“Kent State’s team is unlike any other collegiate team that I’ve ever encountered,” said Brewster, who earned a pewter medal at nationals last July. “We value inclusivity and teaching over scores and placements and medals.”

Brewster joined Kent State Club Figure Skating in 2018 as a high schooler when she first enrolled at Kent for College Credit Plus classes.

Brewster met a member of the team at an open skate, who invited her to join the club. As a 15-year-old, she was the youngest member at the time. She said although it was strange at first, the club quickly became like a second family to her.

“Instead of out-casting me, it developed into this big-brother, big-sister sort of thing,” Brewster said. “So it felt like I just had twenty older siblings. It’s really interesting because I started out as the baby of the team, and now I’m the artifact because I’ve been there for so long.”

Club vice president Alexa Hewitt, who has skated since she was in fifth grade, said that the Kent State Club Figure Skating is the most inclusive skating environment she’s ever been a part of.

Hewitt, a sophomore digital media production major, said that skating communities she’s been a part of in the past have focused more on skill than on community or passion.

“There was just a lot of pressure,” Hewitt said. “Everyone was working so hard, and you had to have certain things done to be on a higher level. It wasn’t very fun to deal with.”

Hewitt said the Kent State team is more welcoming to different types of people.

“Skating is known to gate-keep a lot of things, so it’s nice to see all sorts of people with different skating backgrounds, and different backgrounds in general, different sexualities and things like that,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said the only way that practices have changed since nationals has been to accommodate more skaters, as the club has grown exponentially.

Brewster said part of what makes Club Figure Skating so unique is that they encourage both novices and experienced skaters to join. The club doesn’t hold auditions and accepts everyone–even those who have never stepped on the ice before.

Club Figure Skating president and senior anthropology major Sydney Marksberry echoed her sentiments.

“I was overwhelmed with support the moment I walked in,” Marksberry said. “What we’ve tried to do is we’ve tried to open up our sphere to a more broad, diverse group of skaters. We welcome anyone to come skate with us.”

Marksberry has been president of Club Figure Skating for three years and won silver at nationals last summer. She said that Club Figure Skating was recognized for their efforts of inclusion by U.S. Figure Skating, the national governing body for figure skating in the U.S.

“In the past, figure skating has not always been very accessible, so that’s our goal: to make it more accessible,” Marksberry said.

Marksberry recently gained a following on TikTok. Her account, “squidneyskates,” has over 100,000 followers.

A video her mother took of her skating in a public rink while on a trip to Chicago earlier this month amassed 17.7 million views and caused her account to grow by nearly 70,000 followers in two weeks.

“I’ve always wanted to do something with my skating to provide something that hasn’t been seen before,” said Marksberry. “Even though I’m not in the Olympics, this is how people can still be successful in skating.”

She said that it’s her dream to use her account to reach more people and be an “advocate” for skating.

Club Figure Skating plans to compete in competitions across the Midwest this spring before returning to nationals this summer, including the upcoming Bronco Cup February 3-5 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Leah Shepard is a staff reporter. Contact her at [email protected].