Just saw another “one year progress” video over on YouTube. Now, if I let myself these kinds of videos bother me, they would be very frustrating because they’re doing so much better at one year than I am doing at just under two and a half. But there are, let’s call them extenuating circumstances.
And note that my intent is not to criticize the folk making those videos, nor to complain that I’m not doing better. That’s why I’m not naming the video in here. Everyone’s situation is different. Everyone faces their own challenges and has their own talents and abilities. That means people progress at different rates and that’s okay. I love those videos. They give me something to aspire to. And occasionally I can find something to take away from their videos that I can use to help my own skating and that’s awesome. Same thing with other people posting their stories and videos. And I would hope that maybe someone can find a takeaway from my posts and videos.
The point is that everyone progresses differently. Everybody does face different challenges. And there are reasons why my progress is not as swift as some other people. And there’s no reason to be down or upset about them.
The first is the simplest: I am older than most of the folk making those videos, especially the videos by the kids who are growing up through the ranks. I’m older than even most of the adult skaters posting. For that matter, I’m older than most of the coaches at my rink. I think there might be two older than me. And I’m certainly older than most of these people posting these videos. Younger bodies respond quicker to training than older bodies. That’s just biology. On the other hand, doing the training helps slow the ravages of advancing age, so there is that.
When I started, skating seriously (as opposed to some half-hearted, self-taught skating when I was in my teens and early 20’s) was miserable. I have major foot issues (pretty bad plantar fasciitis) and my skating at first would be like, skate halfway around the rink, sit on the sidelines to let foot pain fade, then skate the rest of the way around and stop again to let pain fade. Make about twice around the rink that way and done for the day. In class, I’d spend 1/2 to 2/3 of the time sitting on the sidelines letting foot pain fade. It’s hard to make much progress when you can’t spend time on the ice.
Over time I figured out ways to alleviate the foot pain. Properly fitted skates with, perhaps, more ankle support than was appropriate for my level (Riedell Motion skates), supportive insoles (my custom orthotics made things worse because of the rise of the heels compared to my regular shoes), and later the Riedell “R-Fit” insole system. Not tightening across the instep too much (and cranking down on the ankle to compensate), and just simply getting used to it. I could skate longer, which translated to more ice time.
Then there was COVID and the rink being closed for months. Then there was the auto accident which put me off the ice for yet another couple of months. Again, it’s hard to make progress when you can’t skate.
And, much as I love skating, there are things that make up “talent”–how well one’s vestibular system works, bone and muscle conformation, and so on, which I really don’t have on my side in this. Let’s just say, if I’d started skating religiously at 4 then lets just say that generations Olympians still would have had nothing to fear from me. But that’s okay. Not everyone has to be an Olympian. Even if one likes the idea of competition as a personal challenge there are lots of things one can do where effort and dedication can overcome not being the most talented.
So, yeah, after just under two and a half years I’m 5/7 of the way through Adult 6 in the Learn to Skate USA curriculum. (Really. We tested in class today and I passed 5 of the 7 elements. 5/7.) But when you add up all the various factors involved–what I started from and things that have happened along the way–that’s really not too bad. I’ll never be a “great” skater. I’ll certainly never be in the class with those kids doing their triples and quads. But I might be competitive in my class and age group. And that’s a plenty challenging goal in its own right.
And one thing I’ve found is that I love teaching. I love skating and helping someone else, so perhaps they can come to love it too, is something I really enjoy. I’m only really “qualified” to teach the very basics (although I’ve maintained instructor credentials in LTSUSA since the time I was assisting with the Snowplow Sam courses in the local rink) but being able to help someone in their first time on the ice, who wants the help, is a pure joy.
My point here is that we all have our own challenges. Someone else might be doing “better” by some standard in their own way, but in the end what matters is what we as individuals get out of the skating, whether that’s just recreational skating, teaching youngsters, or Adult competitions in any of a number of categories.
All that really matters is the love of skating and finding some way to express that love.