I vividly recall my first experiences at the ice rink. I remember pressing my face against the glass to watch the older girls spinning, twirling and jumping. I was mesmerized. All I wanted to do was get out there and move like them. After much begging, my mother finally brought me on the ice for the first time and it is a moment I remember very clearly. I stood on the ice holding my mother’s hand, skating with her until I decided I could skate by myself. I tugged away from her hand and said, “Mommy, let go! I can do it!” she let go, and I skated away. This is where my story begins.
Over the next several months, my coach's repeated instructions cycled through my mind every time I took the ice. “Stand up straight.” “Keep your balance.” “Make sure you smile.” “Point your toe.” “You can do this.” Everything I worked for all year came down to two minutes on the ice in an awful costume and from those ridiculous two minutes I learned so much: to be confident and face my fears, and to be poised and graceful. These are lessons I learned through the various tasks I was taught figure skating. I was taught to do moves without fear, and to approach jumps full force without a helmet on, which had been something I feared. I was told to smile and to stand tall. I was told to never question myself. Through all this I experienced success, which built my confidence.
The things I learned from figure skating I was able to apply to my everyday life. I learned to take risks and do new things. I brought these skills with me into the classroom, where I was always answering and asking questions. I also brought these skills into interviews. Skating taught me to look presentable, make good eye contact and smile as I spoke. I also learned that not everything must be a competition. In figure skating I saw my group succeed. There were not always competitions, sometimes there were just shows, and then it was all about having fun.
Later in life, I hung up my white skates in exchange for black ones. I stepped on the ice in a completely different way and I became I hockey player. I was a girl in a boy’s world, and I wasn’t a very good player. In fact, I was told to give it up which I refused to do. Instead I learned all I could about the game, and in doing that I learned so much more. I learned to defy the odds and go against the grain. I learned to be rough and tumble, to stand up for myself and to be aggressive and assertive through play. I learned hard work pays off through one-on-one battles in the corner.
Like the lessons I learned from figure skating, I found that I was able to apply the lessons I learned from hockey to my life outside the rink. I was able to use them in school. I didn’t allow myself to not understand concepts and ideas. Instead, I spent the necessary amount of time on my work, obsessing over what I didn’t understand until I had a complete understanding.
Robert Fulghum may have learned everything he needed to know in kindergarten, but for me all I really needed to know I learned on the ice. Going to the rink is now always about more than skating, it is about finding myself and applying the most important lessons I have ever learned. Robert Fulghum famously said, “Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.” For me that “somewhere” is the ice rink.