Monday, September 1, 2014

How To: Freestyle Practice Ice

It's a question that comes up among adult skaters; "I'm not sure if I can skate on practice ice with all those high level kids. I'm not good enough or fast enough!"

Yes, it's intimidating. I will be the first to admit it is intimidating to be struggling with footwork and someone does a triple jump right next to you. It is scary to be doing an inside spiral and someone flies by at close range and threatens your balance. I think my most WTF moment was when I was tasked with doing a backwards spiral right through the center, which was a literal gauntlet of sit and camel spins. I wholly understand.

But it's a blunt truth that you can't get better at skating unless you get out there and skate, and there's only so much you can get done on a public session. Or in the case of my rink, on the little tiny studio rink which is where adult skaters get banished to. At some point, going on freestyle practice ice will be absolutely necessary for progress. You've got to go out there.

So, how do you do it?

First off, understand that no one is really paying attention to you. No matter how poorly you think you're doing, it's okay. No one's watching. Everyone is focusing on their given tasks, and the only time they see you is when they have to alter course to avoid hitting you.

Second: Collisions on practice ice are actually pretty rare. They do happen, but when they do, we usually immediately ask who was involved, and we aren't too suprised because we expect accidents out of some people. High freestylers have a knack for dodging, and it's not in their best interests to hit someone and risk injury to themselves. So, have faith that no one is out to get you. They aren't.

Third: MOVE. The secret to practice ice is move, move, move. A stationary object on practice ice is actually the most dangerous thing. If you have to stand for a moment to take a break, move to the boards.

Fourth: Don't hang out in corners. That's Jumping area. Which hockey circle is "lutz corner" depends on who is jumping, so I just consider both to be lutz corner. You can be in them, but you need to -

Fifth: Listen and be aware. While none of us should be scratching toepicks, we all do. Listen for blades in proximity. Get a sense of people around you. You'll start to get a knowledge of skating patterns and where they're going so you can move as needed. The worst thing for me is when I can't tell where someone is going because their pattern makes no sense. Pay attention to who is on the ice that day. Eventually you'll start to learn what to expect out of certain folks, which makes dodging them easier.

Sixth: Be nice. Courtesy is contagious. Figure skaters have a rap of being snobby. It's not entirely true, they just seem that way because they are focused. Smile! Have fun! A quick "Sorry!" on a close call or "Excuse me!" as you're coming through can help. If you like someone's music, say so! Notice that someone's doing better today than a few months ago? Tell them! Remember, high freestylers are struggling just as much as you are, they're just struggling with different things. And you know how good compliments feel when you've been working hard on a element, so don't be stingy with your compliments!

Follow the traffic patterns, go with the flow. Give right of way to whoever has their music on at the moment, or whoever is working with their coach that day. If the ice clears when a particularly fast skater is doing their program, there is a reason! (You can still use this time to work on footwork on the ends!)

There are caveats.

Haters will hate. There are a few people who don't like adults on their (or more likely the case on their daughter's) ice. Oh well. These are usually the same people who say adults can't skate very well. So, how do they expect you to learn to skate good if you can't get on the ice? Yeah. Stay off that hatercycle and ignore them. Just remember, if some skater chick is being snobby to you on the ice, it's only a hefty dose of mommy's money that's put her where she is now. If it's a mom, well, there's some serious psychology going on there and none of it good. So move on.

There are sessions that will be too crowded. Whether it's due to poor monitoring, a bad combination of skaters (too many known careless people in one space) or both, if you find yourself on a session where you feel it's just too dangerous, step off. Let the monitor know (nicely!) why you're leaving. As long as you stay within your given level of ice, this scenario should be rare. You will start to learn which sessions are known to be crowded and to be avoided. You'll also figure out which sessions are "fast." You will know a fast session when you're on one.

You will fall. And when you do, get up quickly and shake it off. No one noticed except to wonder if you're okay. But get out there. Eventually you'll become just another face that is briefly noted as you step onto the ice. Be brave, go skate!

1 comment:

  1. The best cure for the snotty skater girls targeting you is to just stand your ground. They don't actually want to run into you, they just want to bully you.