We’re losing the kids. I’m not talking about leaving the baby-carrier at the Rockband 2 for Wii display in the electronics section at WalMart, (like THAT’S ever happened!) but the kids who test the dry-land with indoor speed skating. It’s really unfortunate, considering the countless benefits kids can take away from this sport.
I’m going to sound boastful, but it’s in the interest of the story…My son is 6 and he’s a natural with inline skating. He’s been on speed skates since March ’09 and has hit a PBR of 11.4 seconds for 100m from a rolling start. His crossovers are tight, his footwork is fast, and he can get down low and stay there. I’m very proud of him. He’s done it on his own.
My daughter is 9 and started speed skating a little later than my son did. That said, she’s coming along quicker than he has! She’s still very tentative on her crossovers, but her form is improving weekly and her speed is building to the point where she’s losing control in the corners and will need to crossover out of necessity. Just in the past two weeks she’s gotten strong enough to be competitive with the other girls in our group, and she was so proud of herself. She’s right on the cusp of that moment when it all comes together and it just “clicks.” So close…
We planned on 2010 being the year we’d get my son carded and start attending regional events. My daughter was going to spend the year picking up some skills and building her core strength to help with horseback riding, maybe to race in 2011. But these best laid plans are in jeopardy because they’re both losing interest.
It’s been gradual. We practice 3 days a week, and over the past couple of months, it’s been harder than herding cats to get them in the car to go to the weekend practice sessions. Then a little over a week ago, the bomb dropped. They don’t want to skate anymore. At first I was heartbroken, because I’ve really enjoyed having them with me and watching them grow into the sport I love. But I’ve come to learn that it’s not the sport they’re losing interest in, it’s the practice sessions that are, well, in their terms, “suckish.”
As I’ve thought more about it I can see their perspective. Our sessions are geared toward older kids who compete nationally and adults who are trying to shed the Christmas cookies. They’re up to 2 hours of laps, passing drills and plyometric exercises. The rink is in a steel building that colder than a witch’s teet before the heat kicks in, and when you end up in the back of the pack your face is butt-high to the skater in front of you who’s been eating too many spicy foods. It’s grueling for us older folks, I imagine it’s much worse for little kids. Kids get relegated to skating in the center of the rink until the grown-ups finish skating the big 100 lap drill, then they get the priviledge of joining us for some leg-burning exercises before having to get back out on the oval with us for a butt kicking lap the pack. As I write this I look at the words…bamn! – that sucks.
Plus, we’re in Colorado. Our little speed club IS the skate scene here. There are no races we can go to each week or month, unlike seasonal soccer or baseball where you’re playing with your friends against other kids in town weekly. It’s hard to build camaraderie or win some bragging rights when you’re constantly skating against the same kids on your own “team” week after week. There’s no promotion system like you have in martial arts; no “belt-tests” recognizing and rewarding the work they’ve done to acquire new skills (or trips to the ice cream shop after a test well done.) And the drills are hard work. They’re not games, and the older guys get cranky when kids just want to be kids and bust off a few fart jokes in the pace line. Couple that with the additional attractions at the rink – the soft-play fun house, the video games, skee ball, the laser maze, the TV’s, and it’s easy to see that a kid would have a lot more fun on the sidelines.
So what’s a skating dad to do? Since I’m the guy with the spare key and ostensibly run the practices some days (share this duty with the other skating dad that brings his kids) I need to do something. Because apparently, what’s happening with my kids isn’t a new phenomenon in our club. It’s been happening like this for years, the ebb and flow never really leaving anything or anyone on the beachhead long-term.
So what to do? I went straight to “the customer” – my kids. I asked them to help me understand why they weren’t interested anymore. They told me unreservedly and straight up – it’s not very much fun. Skating is cool, but it’s too much serious work – we should play more. And they really don’t like the plyos. Wow. That was easy. Now – what to do about it…how to translate all of what they need foundationally to get them solid skills and training while delivering big time on the fun? Here’s what we came up with:
- No more Sunday practice. That’s the tough one with the real coach and the nasty 100 lap drill and plyos. Do kids really benefit from plyos anyway? Probably not to the extent that adults do.
- Let’s have fun. The drills are out, let the games begin!
- New club name – Rollerland Rink Rabbits Inline Speed Skating Club.
- Shoot the Duck, Lava Legs (skate position until your legs give out) and Clean The Yard (scoop up as many of the ten pylons as you can in skate position) for getting low.
- Red Light/Green Light for starts and stops.
- Catch the Rabbit for sprints.
- Jumping jackrabbits (passing drills.)
- Bunny Steps (assisted crossover drills.)
- Carrot Carry (pylons balanced on back for XX laps to get low and use hips/stay level.)
- Certificate program for achievement recognition (skills acquired, times achieved, assisting the coach.)
- Tee-shirts with a cool logo for this “kids only” club.
- Simple rewards for points accumulated in class good toward time in the arcade, laser maze or play structure.
We’ve done three of these sessions so far, and they’ve gone well. The kids are having a blast. My son has decided he’ll stick with it. He’ll race this year. And this morning my daughter said, “I’m really excited to go to skating practice this afternoon Daddy.” That’s a win for them and me – I’ll take it! My kids have taught me a valuable lesson – inline skating is like snipe hunting: the fun you get out of it is all in your head, and it’s ok to laugh and have a good time while you do it, cause life is too damned serious these days.
12/30/09 Training: Here are those words again – day off.
12/31/09 Training: Magic words: Day off.
1/1/10 Training: The weight piles on…Day off.
1/2/10 Training: Lead Rink Rabbits for an hour & a half. It was a lot of fun to see the kids get excited about skating again.
1/3/10 Training: Lead the adult practice for 2 hours. 100 laps at a purposely slow pace with everyone working on being down low, plyos, lap the pack.
1/4/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical, level 7, 6.6 miles.
1/5/10 Training: Lead Rink Rabbits. Biggest class to date, 6 kids under 10. A new challenge – what to do with mixed ability levels and short attention spans! This is going to be fun!