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Fox Valley Ice Arena skating director's past includes international pairs figure skating

Fox Valley Ice Arena skating director Rockne Brubaker, a member of the U.S. national men's figure skating team, is eager to rekindle the program in Geneva.
Fox Valley Ice Arena skating director Rockne Brubaker, a member of the U.S. national men's figure skating team, is eager to rekindle the program in Geneva.

Fox Valley Ice Arena skating director Rockne Brubaker mostly maneuvers around the past while teaching others his craft.

The one-time international pairs figure skater brings more relatable experience than he thinks.

For instance: Even elite athletes struggle. Just ask Brubaker, 28, who clearly recalls fighting his formative skating days in Algonquin.

"I threw about a 10-minute temper tantrum from what my mom told me," Brubaker said, "but then I got up and she said I was pretty much immediately skating all across the ice."

Fluidity remains the eventual goal for any skater, but Brubaker certainly knows there are many stepping stones to get there.

He took the reins of Fox Valley's skate school in March, not far removed from falling short in his qualifying bid for the U.S. team at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Fox Valley manager Paul O'Dacre, who encountered Brubaker at Leafs Ice Centre in Dundee in years past, made sure to allow some time to pass before presenting a new opportunity.

"It's been great joining forces and seeing what he has in store for the program," O'Dacre said.

Brubaker organizes classes and events both for basic skills skaters and those with more competitive endeavors in mind, whether in figure skating or hockey.

Spending much of his youth and adulthood in rinks lent itself to meticulous observation, arming Brubaker with plenty of ideas about how to approach his new position.

He begins, naturally, with fundamentals, which sometimes means re-evaluating the technique of those who have skated for months or years. How a skater places his or her weight on the blade effects body positioning, and even a slight tweak can make moving much easier.

"Explaining these things at a young age helps them to understand it earlier on," Brubaker said. "I tell them I know I sound like a broken record, but my goal is to remind them one million, maybe two million times, so maybe one day that light bulb will go off."

There's a wide age range in the beginner's classes, which meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the summer before adding a Saturday component for other seasonal sessions.

Brubaker's students are as young as 3, but there are several adults sprinkled in, many following up on the interest of their own children.

"It's never too late," Brubaker said, referring both to skating and registration. For more information, call him at the arena at 630-845-0132.

As for his own career, Brubaker said he's unsure about his future international pursuits after a handful of misses at Olympic qualifying. He is engaged to Stefania Berton, who was part of Italy's Olympic pairs skating team at Sochi.

In early May, Brubaker, Berton and Brubaker's younger brother, Collin, also a U.S. figure skater, were part of the creative team behind "Blades Beyond the Sea" a figure skating program at Fox Valley.

"I've had some bad luck in competition, but that is life and I've still been lucky in all the other opportunities I've been given," Brubaker said.

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