Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Salvaged Practice

The are good days and bad days for Private Lessons. Not every one of them is a Golden "this is great" moment. Some of them feel like a waste of time, really. Either Coach doesn't seem to be feeling it, Kid isn't feeling it, things don't happen, everyone gets frustrated and a half hour seems like an eternity for all parties involved. I really thought last night was going to be one of those nights.

I've been having a rough week at work, I'm irritating the PTA by insisting that all kids at the school need access to the internet at home, and I'm trying a new tack on "Positive Discipline" with Stitch. All in all, a bottle of Red Rooster Merlot is in order. Imagine my disappointment when the skating lesson looked like a tossup in regards to good-bad.

Coach ran late, hijacked by another parent in the lobby, Stitch needed a lot of help in being told what to do, and I was trying to relax and let him own as much as possible. We've been talking about frustration, because the skating is getting really frustrating. The other kids seem to get it so fast, and perfectly, and Stitch sees this as a failure on his part. His way of coping with frustration by quitting has a name, "Assumed Incompetence." He thinks he can't, so why bother trying. The book I'm reading tells me to encourage every effort, no matter how small. That I can do. I also need to relate a similar experience with Stitch. Wow, do I have a shelf of those stories.

The previous night I'd told Stitch about a show I did in High School. Five member cast, among a Thespians pool of a hundred. Getting into this play meant something. I got in, but it was tough. And I had felt wounded that I didn't get the part I wanted, so the minor role I got felt like second place. The timing was tough, the blocking was tough, the flying shards of broken pottery was tough, and I got yelled at a lot. The Director was the gruff drama teacher. He loved to yell. From the back of the house we'd hear "WRONG! DO IT AGAIN!" The costumes were period, so we managed to out those on wrong the first few times out. We couldn't even dress ourselves, it seemed.
"When someone yells at you a lot," I said to Stitch. "It can seem like you can't do anything right."
"I know!"
"But you can, and you will. And Coach Y doesn't yell as much as my Mr D did, trust me."

But today we were working on the frustration. Stitch came back from a round of Salchows, his face tight. "Now what," he asked.
"Stitch, no tantrums on the ice. Look at yourself."
"When you throw a tantrum on the ice, is your body loose or tight?"
"And when your body is tight, what happens?"
"I fall down."
"So, don't tighten up. Loosen up, accept the mistake and try again. It's okay."

Now, tantrum is a relative term. He doesn't fall and pound the ice like a toddler. He will stomp, pull his hair for comic relief and tense, tense, tense up. This is a big problem, because skating doesn't work in a tense body. And the talk seemed to work. He loosened up, his skating improved, (he even tried a backwards spiral with some success) and he cheered up in time for Coach to take him.

Coach had him work some jumps, and then started on a change foot spin. Folks, this looks hard. Real hard. But he watched the bigger student do hers, he patiently let Coach set his feet, and he tried his best. He wasn't anywhere near to getting it, but the important thing today is that he tried and he didn't tantrum in the process.

Coach came off the ice and did a long chat with me about the new skill, assuring me that he did really well, that this particular skill can take a long time to learn. I think I confused her with the response, "I don't care, he did fine. Better than fine. However long it takes is fine."

My next goal with Stitch is to stop seeing mistakes as personal failures, but rather as learning opportunities. Who was it that said, "if you aren't messing up, you aren't doing much of anything." The very act of living entails screwing up. The real challenge is learn from failure. (Admittedly, applying this to Spelling is hard.)

Coach was ready to hijack me into more practice ice, but the time falls right on a skating show in town. Yep, Stitch's man Jeremy Abbott is in town, so I sprung for tickets. Coach thought this was a great idea, but I was surprised to learn she didn't know about the show. Neither did anyone else I mentioned it to. Well, we're going, and Stitch wants to make a banner so Jeremy will see him.

Coach did know about a chance to skate with Ryan Bradley, and Stitch was suddenly terrified. "Of course I want to," he said in the car. "But I'm so shy!"
Shy? The kid who hams at every ice show and comp? Shy, are you kidding?


  1. Everyone hits a plateau here and there, my first one happened in forward mohawk. It was so frustrating until one day it magically clicked. So just keep practicing! :) Change-foot spin is the dizziest thing ever for me, so be very careful.

    Skatium's reopening skate sounds very interesting, Ryan Bradley is charming! Do you know their agenda for the day? It overlaps a bit with the ISI district seminar but hopefully everything sort of works out.

    Audition tomorrow! Wheeee!!

  2. And what makes change foot spin worse is, because of its difficulty, coaches let skaters pass fs 3 with inside edge on other foot, then pick on you in fs 5 for not spinning on the outside edge in back spin. Evil!