The first time Darlene Joseph stepped into an arena – following closely behind her parents, who were taking her brother to hockey – she knew this was going to be a place where she would end up spending a lot of time.
Just how much time was quickly determined when the young girl took up figure skating.
After years of competing – even beside her friend and fellow figure skater and Olympic silver medallist, Elizabeth Manley – Joseph toured the world, performing in Holiday on Ice and Disney on Ice before coming home to Ottawa in 1984.
But retiring from competitive and performance figure skating wasn’t the end. More than 50 years from the first time she entered an arena, she still shows up – only these days it’s as the director of skating for the Gloucester Skating Club.
Joseph realized her dream and began coaching aspiring young skaters to be everything from a kid who wants to twirl to one who makes it all the way to the Olympics.
A rare coaching opportunity came up, and Joseph said she jumped at the chance – the rest, as they may say, is history.
“I always knew I would be a coach,” she said.
This year Joseph is celebrating 31 years as a coach at the club – something most young figure skaters might not dream about, but in fact, it was something Joseph said, early on, she recognized could be her strength.
“Being away from the sport in a competitive manner (Disney on Ice), I have a better perspective coming back – I was more mature. Understanding that kids are kids, and they can achieve things at their own speed.”
Over the years, Joseph’s love for the sport has never waned – in fact, she has only come to love it more.
“Our sport – although at times can seem harsh, it builds resilience and determination. And that gives me the motivation to be the best coach I can be. I mean, I have a career that I get paid for and it’s something I love. How great is that?”
And the best part?
“The kids. I do this for the kids,” she said. “It is so rewarding to watch them make that first jump or first triple axel. The fact that I am able to be a part of that journey is rewarding.”