Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

Ice time II: the Power Skating clinic

I knew when I signed up for the four-day/ two-hours-per-day Power Skating Clinic, that I'd be skating with people younger than me, but my expectations fell somewhat short. Very short. The other skaters turned out to be... very short.

When I arrived at the rink, I checked in for the clinic with one of the instructors.

"A grown up!" he said. "You must be Oscar. That's my name too. You know, I learned as a grown up."

Swell! It turns out that I was the only grown up enrolled in the clinic. Let's set the scene here. I was not the biggest skater. That was Mikey who reported to the instructors that he's six feet tall. (Mikey is fifteen, but only a young fifteen would let himself be called Mikey.) I'm guestimating that of the 20 other skaters, all but four were 12 and under. I'm pretty sure I was older than all of the parents. In fact, one or two of the moms were kind of hot. Not that I'm recommending this as a pickup venue, since the parents tended to eye me suspiciously, as though only a pervert would put himself in a position to be skating with their kids.

But I jump ahead. Let's go backtrack a few minutes, to when I got to the locker room, and saw half a dozen boys ranging in ages from about 9 to 12 suiting up. A couple of them eyed me anxiously, and I knew exactly where they were coming from: a bigger male in the locker room is intimidating, a feeling I still remember well from my first gym class in 7th grade. Boys are genetically programmed to feel inadequate, and they then spend the rest of their lives finding ways to compensate for that. Most unpleasant male behaviors are sociopathic strategies for dealing with that locker room feeling.

I wanted to reassure them: "you have five times more hockey experience than me!"

One of the boys – about 12, I'd say – was winding tape around his chest protector to anchor it more securely to his mid-section. He looked like a pro -- scary, but for the fact that he was about five feet tall. And far less scary when, five minutes later, his mom came in to lace up his skates for him. A couple of other boys had their moms come into the locker room to lace up their skates and I thought how nice it would be to have -- well, not my mom, but a female personal skating assistant.

I suited up and left the locker room. I had this extra name sticker (I still have a piece of masking tape that reads "Oscar" on the front of my helmet from a two-hour clinic several months ago), so I taped it around my stick. The head instructor came up and said, "Your name tag will be hard to read taped around your stick like that."

"Oh, I already have one on my helmet," I said, pointing the end of my stick to my forehead.

"I know," said the instructor. "I was just kidding." Imagine – a master ironist like myself to miss irony! This could prove to be a long two hours. In fairness, he sort of slipped it under my radar by using his "this-is-how-I-talk-to-ten-year-olds" voice.

When we'd all suited up, the instructors gathered up all the kids and parents into a semicircle for an introductory talk.

"My name is Martin," said irony man. "I'm the head instructor today. I've been teaching power skating for nine years." By my estimation, that would mean he started teaching at age 12.

"Now, parents, this isn't a conditioning camp," Martin said. "Don't be concerned that your kids aren't all sweaty when they're done." Martin was assuring the parents that they would be getting solid training in form, rather than a major workout.

That was all well and good, but I was pouring sweat after the warmup drill.

There were only three girls in the group, and the girls were the most disciplined skaters of the whole bunch. At 13 or 14 years old, they were pretty much the oldest kids, plus no doubt more mature than boys their age. They were the most likely of the kids to make a serious effort to work on their skating form. And when we gathered up into a circle to get the lecture- demonstrations, the three girls would come to attention, one knee on the ice with the stick resting on their raised knee, as if in a soldierly formation. The boys, easily bored, got increasingly raucus and gradually developed an informal competition about who could come to a stop in the lecture face-off-circle after making the coolest wipeout. "Stop sliding into the circle!" Martin kept saying.

By day three, the boys in the locker room had also developed a strategy for dealing with the oddity of "an old guy" among them. They just pretended I wasn't there. This gave me a rather amusing "fly on the wall" perspective. Hey, parents, do you want to know what your 11-12 year old boys are saying in the locker room? Their version of trash talk of course:
"Shut up."
"No, you shut up."
"I love saying ‘shut up,' but my mom hates it."
"You have a girlfriend, and it's your mom."
"I don't have a girlfriend."
"Well, then you're gay."
"I'm not gay."
That's about as raunchy as it gets. Then the talk turns to money.
"Does somebody have a quarter they can give me?"
"I wouldn't give you a quarter even if I had one."
"I wouldn't give you a quarter if I had a million dollars."
From there the conversation focuses on "a million dollars" – what to buy if one had a million dollars: a huge house, a "300-foot yacht"; whether a 300-foot yacht could be had for a million dollars, or would it be necessary to scale down to a more modest 100-foot yacht. (There is such a thing as a 300-foot yacht, by the way, but it would probably be one of the world's largest. Oh, and it would go for about $100 million.)

In case you're wondering, the skating clinic was excellent once I got over the self-consciousness of feeling like a rare zoo animal. The instructors were not, as I'd feared, shy about coaching me. Although far from the best skater out there, I was not the worst, and I learned a lot. And it was fascinating to watch kids trying (or not trying) to absorb instruction. When the kids did what the instructors said, you could see their form improving before your eyes. But more often than not, they (the boys, anyway) were much more inclined to do things the way they already knew how, and were not able to slow down enough to focus on form. Maybe the instruction is some kind of seed in their minds that will fruit later.

The clinic ended on a Thursday, and the next night, I was practicing the power skating techniques I'd been taught -- at the Friday night disco skate, of course. A 13ish girl broke away from one of the teen-flirting clumps and skated up to me.
"Hey were just at a hockey camp?" she asked.
"Uh, yeah." I said.
"I was at the same one."
"Cool." And feeling something more was required, I said, "I just really need to practice this stuff to get it."
"Okay," she said. "Bye." And skated off.

Comments:
Thanks for the laugh. That 13 year old girl was totally hitting on you.
 
My two sisters took up ice skating as adults and loved it! They got up to the double or triple lux (sp?) before they quit, I think. There were a lot of younger kids in the classes, but I think they also found some classes geared toward adults. I hope you have as much fun with it as they did.
 
Figure skating is cool. That was my backup plan if I couldn't get access to hockey.
 
A thirteen year old girl acknowledged your existence?! This confirms my thesis that you are the coolest law professor known to humankind.
 
Okay, folks, let's not give Oscar a big head. Sure, I agree, he's a great person, a good friend, and a good (but not terribly cool) law prof.

But, I think that we may be stretching things a bit if we tell him that a 13-year-old girl was hitting on him. It's been a long time since I was 13-years-old, but I do know that NONE of my friends were interested in men older than our dads.

Maybe it would be better for Oscar to redirect his attention back to Missy.
 
Oscar, I'm going through a similar age thing, but in a much more nerdy venue: the only person even close to my age in tha "all ages orchestra" is the conductor.
 
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