Thursday, July 10, 2014

Best Lesson Ever

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.


  1. Yep, I agree. Most Freestyle sessions, due to the quality of skaters, can be both inspiring and a bit daunting. My partner tends to freeze up if we get what she considers too close to a fast moving wiz kid. That tends to throw us off pattern. My take is I don't want to collide with or impede another skater in program and I do want to follow general Freestyle rink etiquette (common sense safety) but since I am a low level FS skater that means I have the minimum ice cred to be out there during those sessions--and we've all paid the same money. Skaters at that level have the chops to avoid each other--a major selling point for the extra cost compared to a public session. Having said that I'm not going to get too close to a skater doing double or triple jumps, back spirals, flying camels, etc. There is such a thing as "not looking for trouble".

    In a public session, our rink limits what good skaters are permitted to do, even so last week, during a lightly attended public, I saw a small kid with an EZ-skater contraption come right up to a girl in the middle of a fast single foot spin. I guess he wanted to see what she was doing and didn't think through the process. No contact occurred but it scared her badly. I took Mr. EZ-skater aside and gently pointed out the dangers and told him to please not do that again! No parental units were on the ice or even in sight. No doubt they were at the snack bar in the lobby.

    I generally don't bother with FS sessions (mostly because of the cost) unless I'm out there with a coach. In a public session I limit myself to what the traffic will bare. What gives me the willies is sharing the ice with fast pairs skaters. Fortunately most rinks have dedicated sessions with strict population densities for pairs skating.

    1. Yeah, like you said, "not looking for trouble." The only time I've ever been on freestyle is with a coach. We have dance sessions that I'm comfortable on, not a lot of people, not very fast, typically all adults. But most of the time I can hit fairly empty public sessions, which is much friendlier to the figure skating budget. The ice I was on for this lesson was different in that it was only for the competitive skaters. I was able to be on it with Dmytri, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been welcome had I stayed and practiced. It was a great experience though, seeing them skate, hearing the coaching, seeing up close how they train. Just wow!

  2. Glad you were inspired by the high level skaters! It can be really fun to watch the elites. And yeah, we all pay for the ice and we can all use it.