8:00am on a rainy Saturday. I pull into the rink parking lot and see only a few of us are there. Two other adult skaters, both of whom are WAY better than me, are working with their coaches.
I get laced up and start skating around and around to warm up. Dan the Man is practicing a dance which is mostly backwards and fun to look at. He’s an experienced dance skater and glides around looking elegant–well, as elegant as a guy in an “Atari” t-shirt can–which is his case is pretty darn elegant. At one end of the rink, Frosty works with another experienced skater, a brunette around my age in a spangled dress who I will call Serena. She is one of my favorites, and possesses a great combination of devotion to skating with a sense of fun, and always with a warm smile.
We all pass small talk as we pass. “”I am working on my three-turn and it’s driving me crazy.” “Looks like the rain is keeping folks away.” “Nice crossover.” Just another Saturday morning at the rink.
Seeing these two made me think of all of the experienced skaters in the club, who have been nothing but encouraging and helpful to me as I learn this sport. It’s very clear on the rink when someone has less skill, but there are never the sideways glances or exasperated sighs one encounters at the gym. Skaters with years of experience go out of their way to praise a basic Glide Waltz or to offer suggestions when asked about beginning moves. They made room for my first shaky forays into skating backwards and later noticed when I began to do better. A brother and sister pair of team skaters take time out of working on a complicated routine to take a look at my sticky wheels. These are the people who watched when I did the Progressive Tango when my mom was visiting, and then surprised me by breaking into applause.
Technically, this is an individual sport and we are all competing with each other. In reality, though, we all compete with ourselves to get better. Maybe because of that, we skaters are free to support and encourage each other. And we do.
As I left the rink today a dad was bringing his little daughter in for kid’s skate class. I leaned over to her “I hope you have a great time skating today!” I said.