Sunday, August 1, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days

Yesterday was "test day." It's the day when all the parents sit in the stands, watching and waiting anxiously to see if our child will "test out" of his or her current level and be moved up. This is where the blades hit the pavement, and any weak skaters are winnowed out, and here in the Pre-Alpha ranks it means doomed to repeat another ten weeks of forward swizzles, one foot glides, and backwards wiggles.

I had been gearing up K to practice for the past two weeks, telling him test day was at hand. He did his backwards swizzles with glide dutifully.

Then came the day. I watched in growing horror as only two coaches led the warmups. Four weeks of this Pre-Alpha run, K had been bunched with the Pre-Alpha 1 kids. It was looking more and more likely he'd test with them this week. Sure enough, a junior coach and an older man who was a stranger to me, skated out and bunched the two groups together. K was mad. He scraped ice, made faces, rolled his eyes, and crossed the ice with the angry one foot glides he normally reserved for me. How could they test so many kids (about 20) in twenty minutes?

Short answer: They can't.

At the end of the session, K skated up to get his paper, and was told, "Come back next week. We'll test you then."

Well, that's a problem, fellas. We won't be here. We had planned our vacation schedule around the fact that the last class session is typically Game Day and easily skipped. As much as I love watching my kid skate, my husband has other ideas about actually getting away from things for awhile. So, what now?

The gentleman huffed and hawed and fished out a paper declaring that K had passed. well, I knew he'd passed, but this lacked the ceremony, the joy, the grandeur of skating on your own in front of a coach that K had loved last time. In comparison to skating across the ice, waving a sheet of assurance that YOU ARE A GOOD SKATER, this felt like a consolation prize and a dismissal. K was mad.

Remember me saying that K makes mountains out of molehills, and one bad event will upset his day? He's getting better about these things, but yesterday was awful. K could have cared less about skating, and didn't want to talk about Alpha 1 at all. I signed him up for the class, pointed to the Xmas show schedule, and he muttered that he didn't want to do it anymore.

One of my skating parent friends walked past me, and asked if K had passed. I said yes. She narrowed her eyes and said that her daughter was being held back. I sighed. It had been an off day for her little one to begin with, and the grouping made it worse. I had to wonder if Shuffles had passed. (Have I mentioned Shuffles? Another post...) If he did, I'd have to question the sanity of this coach.

We went back to skate that afternoon. K had the ice relatively quiet and to himself for the first half hour, and he did some serious "fancy skating." He danced. He did crossovers. He hopped and spun. He then made snowballs and coated his gloves with snow before pounding them all over me, showering me with snow. We both felt better.

Here in the lower levels, things don't seem to be taken very seriously. Pre-Alpha is the lower, lower level of this hell, truly, and I am glad to be out of it. The kids who shuffle and fall, the ones whose ankles bend in perilously and painfully close to the ice, the ones who turn to go backwards and then stand in stark frustration as nothing happens, those are the ones who aren't taken very seriously and need to be. In the last session of Pre-alpha 1, the head coach skipped out at least three times out of a ten session class. In this session of PA1, the head coach dropped the class entirely and gave it to someone else, who skipped out three or four times. Our session of PA2, the head coach skipped out three times. These are ten class sessions, with the last class being a non-learning day. That's a 30% to 50% skip rate for the coaches. Is anyone going to tell me seriously that this happens in Freestyle?

You know, I get that it can be boring. I understand that watching Shuffles shuffle across the ice for the hundredth time can be maddening. It's maddening for me and I'm a spectator. But my job is deadly boring on some days as well. I still show up.

Kids know when they're being dissed. They know when adults don't care or are indifferent. I know that the lower levels are akin to a Skatey Mill, and kids cycle out and through quickly, but there's always that one kid who might do better. I have the benefit of a private coach to make up for bad Group Lessons like this, but other kids don't. I really feel bad for them right now. (And where is Teddy Bear Hat? I haven't seen him in three weeks.)

When Coach Y called me to cancel Saturday's lesson, she had a valid reason and an apology. I explained things to K and he understood. Coach Y had a make-up day in mind, (which is today) and he's ready for it. He looks forward to all his skating lessons, but he truly likes the private lessons best. And yesterday when I watched those few unrequested crossovers happen, I was assured of progress. He's seven. Let him be seven. It's something I say to myself daily. It's one day, but it was a bad day for it.

Today is our last day of skating for almost two weeks, and the month of August is a complete clusterfuck. I have told myself, "DO NOT FRET OR WORRY ABOUT SKATING FOR AUGUST. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING RELATING TO THE COMPETITION DURING AUGUST." That being said, I spent the final days of July learning that I could rent a sewing machine for $15 a week, and downloaded a free music editor off the interwebs. But it's August now. We have a few public skate sessions, which have been specially designated as "play only" (I can't request anything) and two private lessons. Class starts again in mid-September.

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