Roller skating, a fun sport for a rainy day, or any day

On an overcast Sunday afternoon eight-year-old Madison Mathews Martin, wearing a pink baseball cap with gray sparkles, whizzes around the Roller Odyssey in Medford on black in-line skates. Clutching the side when she feels out of balance, Madison, who lives in Ashland and is in third grade at Walker Elementary School, is pink-faced and breathless, giggling as she practices new moves and joins hands with her friends.

From Ashland it's about a twenty minute drive to the Roller Odyssey (Tel.: 541-772-1400 Web site: /rollerodysseyhome.html) , which is located at 2425 S. Pacific Highway in Medford. As the cold weather hits the Valley, more and more families are finding roller skating a fun activity to do together.

"We're trying to keep roller skating happening in the Valley," says Roller Odyssey rink co-owner Sheldon Masterson. When he was the same age as Madison, Masterson, who co-owns the rink with his wife Cheryl, went to a roller skating rink for the first time. He liked it so much a year later he was skating competitively.

Masterson and his wife, who live in Medford, met in a roller rink and they put their own three children (who are now 28, 18, and 12) on roller skates before they were three years old.

Each 2.5 hour skating session includes games, which skaters of all ages play together. "Red Light, Green Light" is a game where you start at one side of the rink and try to get to the other side first. You may only move when the announcer calls "Green light." If you move when he cries, "Go!" or "Green lantern!" you're out.

Another popular game is "the Corner Game," where on the announcer's cue, you skate to one of four lighted corners. Then he spins a wheel to pick a color. Either your corner is a lucky corner, and you continue in the game or you find yourself in the unlucky corner and you have to leave the floor.

Expect to hear lots of familiar old music, from the Village People's YMCA song to the Rolling Stones's "I can't get no satisfaction." And to see some old time skaters, white T-shirts with the sleeves rolled up, in tight fitting blue jeans and quad skates, practicing the moves they've been doing since seventh grade.

Masterson says keeping the rink viable has been an uphill battle. He and his wife have been running it for sixteen years and some people are surprised they're still in business. Masterson points to in-line skating, which isn't as good for indoor rinks, as well as the popularity of video games, the internet, and extramural sports, for the declining interest in roller skating.

One of Masterson's favorite things to see is people who don't know each other making friends at his rink. "It's a good place to be," he says. "As a kid I lived in an area where there weren't a lot of kids. When I got involved in the indoor roller rink, I had friends."

Roller skating, which is aerobic exercise that also teaches kids coordination and balance, is a great way for parents to be active with their kids, and to spend time together as a family. The rink also has video games (which some stumbling youngsters seem to find more compelling than the small practice area where beginners can learn to skate off the main rink) and a snack bar with pizza, bread pretzels, hotdogs, corn dogs, and Icees.

"The last two or three years have been tough and we're fighting to stay open," Masterson admits. "But in the last few months I've noticed that some families have started to come back."

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