Franklin Park Speedskating Club is the May Feature Club of the Month

by Caitlin Moyer

May’s Feature Club of the Month is Franklin Park Speedskating Club, a small but versatile speed skating club located in Franklin Park, Ill. 

Though the club has just 14 current members, amongst those members are three current (and three former) figure skaters, three hockey players, a high school badminton captain, a cross-country runner, and a couple of basketball and volleyball players. 

Franklin Park intentionally keeps its coach-to-speedskater ratio low in order to ensure that all skaters receive the attention they need to develop their natural talents and continuously improve their speed skating skills. The club prides itself on differentiation by tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. For example, their small short track club consists not only of short track skaters, but also active long track skaters, figure skaters and hockey players, so the coaching is sensitive to what each individual is looking to gain from short track speed skating: be it becoming a faster short tracker, conditioning for long track, a more powerful/efficient hockey player, or strengthening the muscles needed for jumping in figure skating. 

All workouts are designed to engage the athlete in their current skill level, or emotional and intellectual state. For instance, children at the club are given lots of specific games to play which, often unbeknownst to them, are helping them develop skills for speed skating in a fun, low-pressure environment whereas intermediate skaters are given individualized instruction and focus points specific to them before launching them into the workouts; advanced skaters are supported with complete off-ice training programs to supplement the work they do on the short and long tracks.

Several of the club’s skaters have reached the elite level of the sport, including National Champions and Olympians including alum and current two-time Olympian Emery Lehman; Assistant Coaches Brandon Molenda and Elise Brinich, both multi-time National Champions; and Head Coach Steven Penland, who is highly respected and loved by skaters and parents. 

During the 2020-2021 season, 15-year-old Natasa Gakovic was selected to the Long Track Junior National Development Team and in January, three of the team’s skaters represented Franklin Park at the USS LT Junior Championships in Milwaukee. 

The club also celebrates off-ice achievements, such as last year’s graduating senior Brianne Molenda’s designation as a 2020-2021 Illinois State Scholar.  

Thus, overall, Franklin Park is teaching its skaters life skills that makes them better students, better workers, and just all around good human beings. These skills include: empathy; perseverance, goal-setting, hard work and dedication. The skaters are learning that the way to get better is to invest themselves in the task at hand and the lessons they learn at the club are transferring into their other sports, activities, and even their school work.

To learn more about the Franklin Park Speedskating Club, click