Howard University To Debut First HBCU Ice Skating Team

The intercollegiate skating team will face the University of Delaware in its first competition.

Howard Univesity made history by establishing the first ice skating team at an HBCU, WIJA reports.

Following several months of strategizing and recruiting, the team held its first practice in October at the Herbert Wells ice rink in College Park, 10 miles from campus. 

Although not affiliated with the Howard athletic program, the team will skate in intercollegiate competitions. Their first competition takes place this weekend against the University of Delaware.

Because the school doesn’t have a rink and  D.C.’s only indoor facility is currently under construction, the team held outdoor skate sessions at the Canal Park ice rink near Nationals Park during the week.

Co-founded by  Maya James, a junior psychology major, and Cheyenne Walker, a political science senior, the new team wants to inspire the generations coming after them to fall in love with the winter sport.

“Honestly I would really like to see other HBCUs do figure skating teams as well. Get more black and brown boys and girls on the ice, be their representation for them,” James said.

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“So I’m from Shaker Heights Ohio, and in Shaker Heights, everyone skates. I’ve been skating since I was like 2 years old,” said Toni Smith, a member of the team. “Friday night skating was a huge deal there.”

Diversify Ice, a non-profit in Largo, MD that provides mentorship and scholarships for underserved figure skaters, has been instrumental in the team's launch.

“Our entire team is really invested in this,” said Joel Savary, the organization’s founder. “Of course, the historical opportunity, but also it’s an opportunity to break barriers to get a brand new team up and running as a lot of challenges.” 

Out of all the sports, ice skating is among the least diverse. According to the latest data, only two percent of figure skating fans are Black Americans. Many factors for the lack of Black Americans connecting with the sport includes the expensive cost of participating and the lack of exposure to Black communities. Additionally, only a few Black skaters have competed in the Winter Olympics.

Ariel Clarke, a senior community development major from New York and the community service chair for the team, spoke about the need to bring ice skating to aspiring Black athletes.

“There’s definitely a lot of lack of diversity in the figure skating world, and it’s something that isn’t often marketed to young Black individuals,” Clarke explained.

Despite the barriers, the team at Howard couldn’t be more excited about the prospects of their new team.

“It’s definitely exciting. Sometimes it can be like wow how did we get here,” Walker said.

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