First steps into skating
Every fall, I do the same ritual. I pack up all my information about being active, programs we’re running at our recreation centre and how to get involved. I cart it over to our local community centre and help set up our annual Registration and Information Fair. For the first few years, I was the information provider. I could tell you everything you wanted to know about swimming lessons, bouldering classes and babysitting certification.
You can imagine my absolute delight this year when one of my children was finally old enough for me to register them for sports. I carefully discovered all I could about the programs in advance. I talked to a few parents I knew that had put their children in it. I had a few conversations with Mr J to find out what sport he wanted to be involved in.
The answer was clear, he wanted to play hockey, just like Daddy.
Before You Can Run, You Gotta Walk
Hockey requires skating skills. Before you can play, you need to be able to skate.
We started Mr J on skates, as any good Canadians would, soon after he could walk. We took him out to public skating, and skated with aides and that great hockey player, Daddy. He loved being on the ice. His grin would light up the rink with his enthusiasm.
Skating also teaches many of the basic fundamental movement skills that kids need! Skills like learning how to balance on your skates, fall without injuring yourself or pushing and gliding.
First Steps: Skating Club
We signed up Mr J with the local skating club to attend the once a week, 30 minute PreCanSkate program. Skate Canada developed the program based on Sport Canada’s long term athlete development program. What it means for you as a parent is they have taken the child’s age and physical capabilities into consideration. The program is fun, and teaches balance, control and agility skill that are applicable to any other skating sport (eg. ringette, figure skating, hockey, or speed skating).
The first week was awesome. Mr J got out on to the ice, was taught how to get up after a fall, and practice gliding and pushing skills around a square on the ice. Each child wore skates, helmet and warm outdoor clothing. The club gave them each a name tag so they could call them by name.
Then the trouble began.
Second week, he got out on the ice and got cold. I hadn’t dressed him as warmly as before. After about 10 minutes he was not willing to continue. The third week, he refused to even leave the players bench. He wouldn’t step foot on to the ice even with gently coaxing from the program assistants. On the fourth week, he took 2 steps on to the ice and then just dissolved into a puddle of tears. We couldn’t figure out what the problem was.
My husband and I racked our brains for solutions through our utter frustration. Each week, we tried something a wee bit different. Maybe a snack before we left, maybe mom and not dad, maybe dad and not mom. We tried every permeation and combination we could think of. We chatted up skating with him. Yes, he was still clear, he did really want to skate and play hockey.
It was truly our nightmare as dedicated people who love sport. Were we killing our son’s love of sport before it even had a chance to grow? We didn’t want to force him to do what he truly didn’t want to.
As parents, we are hyper aware of that fine line between pushing our kids because we know they can do it, or being forceful because we already signed up, paid money, etc. Knowing the skating skills he already possessed, we were convinced to find a way through this.
One more try…
In the end, we reached out to the skating club and told them where we were at. (In retrospect, I wish I had done this much sooner.) We went through the routine in the changeroom and something felt a little different. Then again, that was the easy part, and we weren’t sure if it was going to work.
Mr J took those steps on to the ice, and then the coach interacted and worked with him for the first half of the program. We watched from the bench with baited breath. We watched our little skater finally arrive at the program, doing the skills we knew he knew and needed to work on more.
There are these moments as parents where we earn our stripes, and this sure felt like one of them. My husband and I were beside ourselves with parental pride, gratefulness to terrific coaches, and the very beginning to share our love of sport and being active.
As for the other one, we’re pretty sure she’s going to skate before she walks. She’s ready now, coach!