USA Roller Sports


Get 2 Know

with Speed Committee Chairman, and Multiple Champion Coach – Harry Stuart

Get 2 Know? You likely already know him – he has been in the sport for over 50 years! Coach and Speed Committee Chairman, Harry Stuart sat down with us to talk about how he got his start in the sport, and so much more!

He started his skating career in juvenile dance, figures, and freestyle moving on to speed and hockey from there. Over 50 years later, Harry is still making his mark on the sport of speed skating.

Here are some words directly from Harry on his tremendous skating career.

I began skating in 1963 for Charles and Sue Wahlig at Riverside Rollerdrome in Riverside, New Jersey. I started in juvenile dance, figures and freestyle and soon graduated to speed with Charles and George Grudza as coaches. Our club alone was over 200 skaters and I learned a lot about the sport and coaching from two of the greatest coaches this sport has ever known. I began skating hockey and found that this was my true love. I skated hockey with Riverside at Nationals in 1967 and 1968 and then in 1969 I followed my friend and coach, Skip Estes to Franklinville N.J. to play hockey for the Delsea Devils. We came within 35 seconds in the semifinal of making the final (which we would have won) against Burlington, Washington, but lost and ended up in third. Burlington went on to win in the final 8 to 0 against Olympia. Coming that close to being a National Champion fueled my fire to become one myself and in 1970 Idrove from New jersey to Burlington, Washington where I played defense for the loggers for a little over two years. In that time we finished third once and second once, but never reaching my goal of being a National Champion.  For financial reasons I was forced to leave Washington and come to Florida where I began skating rink hockey for the Tampa Bay Suns. I played for them for two years and although in my second year we made it to Nationals in California I couldn't attend because of financial reasons. I was out of competitive skating for the next seven or eight years until I received a call from my old friend Skip Estes who knew of a rink in Fort Pierce, Florida owned by Emil Steele that needed a manager and a speed coach. I took over Skatetown USA in January of 1984 and began my coaching career.  When I began no one knew who I was and much of the established team at my new rink left for another club leaving me with six skaters. I fell back on what I learned from my coaches in Riverside and a burning desire to be a National Champion coach since I never accomplished that as a skater. In my third year I took over the South Florida Speed League from Marguerite West and ran it for the next 15 years. With the help of a VERY dedicated group of parents and skaters we established one of the most unique invitational races in history when we began the Treasure Coast Challenge.  During its ten-year run many people would say it was the best meet ever.  We concentrated on being different than other meets and offering skaters a very unique experience. Some things that are done today were begun at the Challenge i.e. 100M time indoors and Champion Jerseys. We gave away a minimum of $12,000 in prize money yearly at the four-day event.  My real claim to fame came in year three of the Challenge when Doug Glass representing Hyper showed up and asked permission to compete in these funny looking skates he called "inlines". We all laughed at him and said sure, and the rest is history. The Challenge and my little rink in Fort Pierce, Fla. thus became the first indoor competition in the WORLD that had an inline skater competing. By the way he kicked every other Senior’s butt. During my 34 years, my club varied from just under 50 skaters to as few as one. That one skater (Jenny Wood) practiced the entire year by herself and won Novice Nationals. In 1994 I finally achieved my goal of seeing my first elite skater win Nationals when George Beck won Master Men and a few years later we finished second to Piedmont in high point at Novice Nationals. Although we have had numerous National Champions over the years, I will always remember the first when more than a few tears flowed. My first World Team member came along in 2012 when Corie Grzech made the Junior Team. Corie, along with her sisters Chelsea and Hannah won numerous indoor and outdoor national awards and still hold the Senior Two Mixed and one of the three Tiny Tot records. One of the most spectacular things that ever happened to me as a coach came about when one of my former skaters (Lisa Dachelet) who had moved to Georgia, called me and asked me to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day because her father was deceased. I wouldn't trade that experience for 100 National Champions or World Team members. It was truly one of the greatest days not only on my coaching career, but in my entire life. Today I am very proud to say that I coach for Team Florida out of Orlando. My rink was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September of 2017 and that was the end for the South Florida Blades, however I hope to continue helping all skaters in this sport both as a coach and in my position on the Speed Committee. I believe the future is bright and I intend to do everything in my power to help that future become reality as long as I can.