Learning to skate


For the past few winters, I’ve been teaching my kids to ice skate.  Above is my son Theo at hockey practice a few weeks ago.

At a certain point along the way, I got the bug and realized that skating was awesome and hockey was a beautiful sport.  So for the past year or so, I’ve been playing adult rec hockey through an great program here in Boston called StinkySocks.

The thing is, I’ve never played ice hockey before, and am only a so-so skater (maybe above average for regular people, but way way below hockey quality).  So it’s been a steep learning curve.  What’s been so illuminating about it is the combination of how hard it is — meaning, how unnatural some of the moves are at first — and how quickly progress does happen with enough practice.

I played last night — my third game of this season — and realized that while I’m not all the way there yet, I’m much much more comfortable on the ice than I was at the beginning of last year.  I’m skating backwards, making hard turns, and just generally keeping good balance most of the time.  Reflecting back on the past year, it’s really satisfying to feel those changes sink in, and what it’s pointed out to me is how much change is accomplished by a series of small steps, rather than a single big bang.

This whole process has also been a great exercise in learning online.  Turns out that YouTube is full of video tutorials on the minutia of ice skating.  For example, check this one out, on “backwards crossovers” (the skill I’m working on right now):

It’s just so great to be studying something — whether that’s law or chemistry or programming or ice skating — and be able to benefit from such great resources.  It continues to amaze me how much time and effort people will invest in building educational resources online for others.

As with a lot of things, the trick here seems to be developing a habit and a routine.  Since my son started hockey lessons in November, we’ve been going skating every Saturday afternoon, and for the past month I’ve been playing every Wednesday evening.  Getting on the ice twice a week, even just for an hour, has done so much to develop my feel for skating.  This is true for lots of other things, and has been a great reminder to me how much routine and patience matter when building any new skill or habit.

Finally, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my Uncle Gerry who passed away over Christmas.  He’s the one I credit with teaching me to love winter sports, skiing and skating included.  He was 87, and in his day, was a monster hockey player, including an NCAA championship win in 1957. Here’s a picture of Gerry on the ice during his youth:


So perhaps part of why I’ve been so into this lately is the way that Gerry was fading, while my own son was growing up.  And part of it was wanting to get that feeling into my legs that I know he knew and loved.  It’s been a fun journey and I’m hoping I can keep the practice going.