I was mesmerized as I looked onto the ice. All of the skaters were highly-competitive - the older teens who earn medals and wear the officially sanctioned Team USA jackets and have their pictures in the magazines. Coaches followed skaters around the ice, barking orders. This was clearly their dedicated ice time. Serious ice, serious coaches, serious skaters. Not wanting to ruffle any feathers, I wouldn't get on the ice until Dmytri skated over to get me. Dmytri thought this was unnecessary. Then things got good.
It really is amazing to see these skaters up close - beautiful extension, deep edges, impossibly fast. Watching them compete on a computer screen, they make everything look effortless. On the ice with them, you see just how much strength and power is involved. They are fantastic athletes.
"I feel like I have to work extra hard to earn a place on their ice," I explained, nodding to a particularly talented couple.
"They don't see it that way," Dmytri said. "It's just ice, we skate on it."
As I looked around, I decided he might be right. There was no special treatment, good or bad, for the adult skater. I didn't get any strange looks or patronizing comments. They focused on their skating, largely ignoring each other, except to avoid collisions. And they largely ignored me, except to avoid collisions. Intentionally or not, they made me feel like I belonged there as much as they did. Maybe it's because I was wearing their uniform...all black.
Having such talent whooshing around me was at first intimidating and then extremely inspiring. I put real effort into everything. Dutch Waltz was at tempo, crossrolls were a mess. I started to become more comfortable with the speed of the ice and better able to jump into the fray with the others. I'm not sure if Dmytri could tell, but I began to enjoy the intensity.
Other skaters would come barreling toward me; to me, near-misses, to Dmytri, plenty of room. And when Dmytri asked why I screwed up a swingroll I had to admit it was because I got distracted by the cool thing another couple was doing. I refocused on my own skating. Serious ice, serious coach, serious skater.
At the end, Dmytri and I compared calendars and he identified an opportunity for my next lesson.
"I don't know. Might be longer," I admitted. "I'm not sure I'll be able to practice. No sense having a lesson if I can't practice between now and then."
"Practice," Dmytri demanded. Serious ice, serious coach, serious skater. "Text me."
Now I'm highly motivated. I'll practice. I'll text him. If I skate with the competitive kids again, I'll wear all black and I'll get on the ice by myself. We'll share the ice, we'll share a coach, we'll ignore each other. And even though I'll be working on things they mastered in kindergarten, I'll be working hard right along with them. Very cool.