Something I have always wanted to do well but never mastered is to ice skate. As close as I get to it now is watching Olympic figure skating and ice dancing on TV.

Thanks to information from Andrea Wills, a parent volunteer with the Columbia Figure Skating Club based at the Columbia Ice Rink, I had an opportunity to interview a skating expert there; watch her teach skating; and see some young skaters dress rehearse for their then upcoming spring production, "Movies and Minions on Ice." The Columbia Figure Skating Club is a nonprofit member club of United States Figure Skating.


The interviewee, Patricia "Pat" Muth, is a "seasoned" citizen, skater, instructor and artistic director for ice shows. She gives private skating instruction, teaches in the Chesapeake Skating School's Learn to Skate program and is artistic director with the Theatre on Ice.

Pat adores figure skating. You can tell the minute she starts talking about it. Her mission is to get her students to love figure skating as much as she does, so that they will want to be there on the ice to learn. She sometimes uses magic markers to draw fun things on the ice, which children would like, such as cats or dogs. She wants them to relax and enjoy the experience. She teaches them how to fall down on the ice and get up again. They need to learn not to be afraid of how slippery the ice is.

She has her own way of doing things, which comes from years of figuring out what works and what doesn't. Pat said, "Ice skating is the only sport where you don't have shoes on." Skating on blades can be intimidating, but can be overcome in time with practice.

Born in Cambridge, England, Pat came to the United States with her parents and brother in 1949, at the age of 9. Her father, a neuropathologist, couldn't find a job in England after World War II and was fortunate to be hired by the National Institutes of Health.

Pat said that she first learned to ice skate at a rink in Washington, D.C. Over the years, her skating pursuits were sporadic, depending on where she was living. Some locations had ice rinks; some didn't. She even tried to teach herself but she said that didn't work. She had to unlearn what she had taught herself when she started working with a skating instructor. She never skated competitively but has prepared and sent many skaters to competitions. Since 1970, she has taught an average of 200 skaters per year.

A resident of Columbia since 1970, Pat and her husband moved to the Wilde Lake/Oakland Mills area in the early days of Columbia, because her husband worked for the Rouse Company. She didn't realize until they moved that the Columbia Ice Rink was located just down the street. She began to get more involved in figure skating and co-founded the Columbia Figure Skating Club, which is almost 40 years old. In the beginning, she was the club's jack-of-all-trades. She painted the rink, took tickets, taught ice skating, made repairs, did whatever was needed. That was before volunteers.

Between the Gardens Ice House, in Laurel, and the Columbia Ice Rink, Pat currently teaches skating seven days a week. Her students range in age from 3 to teenagers. The Wednesday I visited the Columbia Ice Rink to interview Pat, I watched her teach three back-to-back, half-hour sessions for the Chesapeake Skating School's Learn to Skate program. I could tell that she enjoyed working with these very young students who looked to be 3 and 4 years old. With one class, she used a large ball to teach them balance and encouraged them to move around the ice. The children all wore warm clothes and helmets on the ice.

Pat has a 3-year-old student at Gardens Ice House. She recommended to the student's parents that they buy her a warm outfit and ice skates. At the next lesson, the little girl came dressed in leggings, short skirt, warm jacket and white ice skates. Pat told her that she "looked so cool, like a real figure skater." The child was so proud of herself. This is a prime example of the special rapport she has with her young students.

During my visit to the Columbia Ice Rink, I also had the opportunity to see Pat in action as the artistic director for the "Movies and Minions on Ice." It was the first night of dress rehearsals and whenever she saw something in the program or with the skaters that needed to be tweaked, she would skate out to talk to the skaters about corrections.

As artistic director, she is in charge of costumes, design, sets and did much of the original choreography for the show. She is also responsible for tickets, programs and scheduling. Pat expressed her gratitude to the skaters' parents, especially the fathers who put the set together, the highlight of which is a movie reel with a long stream of film.

The instructors in the Learn to Skate sessions wear red jackets with Learn To Skate on the back. Pat's jacket is special. Hers says Learn to Skate and underneath that is printed The Miss Pat. She is the go to person for skating advice and lessons. Pat said, "People come to me."

A 2009 inductee in the Community Sports Hall of Fame in Howard County, Pat says that once you learn how to skate, skating is something you can do the rest of your life. Pat is a perfect example of that.