John Jerich glides effortlessly over the smooth asphalt of the practice area near the new in-line hockey rinks at Caloosa Park in Boynton Beach. Pushing off first with one foot, then the other, he ignores the few shallow puddles, water from which leaves trails from the wheels of his skates as he gains momentum. Nearing the edge of the asphalt, he leans to the left, shifting his balance from the center to the outside edges of the wheels of his left skate. He then crosses one skate over the other a few times until he's completed a fluid 180-degree turn.
The crossover turn is just one of many techniques Jerich will teach in the intermediate and advanced in-line skating skills clinicsoffered at Caloosa Park August 14 and 21. Skaters who've moved past the wobbly beginner's stage are his target students. "Until you get out there with other people and realize that there are other ways and styles to skate you might be missing something that could take your skating to the next level," Jerich says.
The 28-year-old Illinois native was a top-level skater long before in-line skates became the trendy mode of transportation they are today. He began ice skating at the age of four, and ice hockey soon followed. Seven years ago, when he was playing semipro with the Knoxville (Tennessee) Cherokees, he came across in-line skates for the first time. They were introduced to Jerich and his fellow players as tools for cross-training during the offseason.
Jerich gave up his physically punishing job on the ice two years ago, and in April he and his wife, Wendy, moved to Delray Beach, where they've set up a company called Skate With Us, Inc. Along with a small staff of instructors, the Jerichs offer skating lessons and in-line hockey clinics for kids and adults all over South and Central Florida.
Learning to skate correctly is important, according to Jerich, who believes that making use of precision turns and stops is crucial when skating on roads or sidewalks that are heavily traveled. Trained skaters also get better workouts than novices, he says.
Skating backward, for example, comes in handy whether you want to challenge an in-line hockey player for the puck or just give your hamstrings a workout. Whatever a skater's intentions, Jerich says that, by taking a class, "you can add a lot to your skating arsenal -- utilize the skates for all they're worth."