Monday, December 19, 2016

Cousin Agnes comes for a skate

My wife and daughter sing in a Swedish song group.  Every year, the first half of the month of December is given over to performing St. Lucia processions at various churches, the Swedish Embassy in DC, local schools, etc.  Saint Lucia's day is the 13th of December but like most things in the USA, poor old Lucia gets stretched into an almost two week long phenomenon.  It seems like every group that has any sort of Scandinavian connection wants one.

This year a group of my wife's female relatives came over to take part.  I occasionally get pressed into service as a chauffeur when more than one car is required to haul the number of people involved.  But it's not all work.  Each time we get visiting relatives from the old country I usually have at least one visitor interested in joining me at the rink for a public session.  This year it was one of my wife's cousin's daughters that bit on the hook.  I think that makes Agnes my wife's second cousin but I easily become confused by the nomenclature of extended family relationships.

Cousin Agnes--she did fine!

Now Agnes, as one might expect of a girl from the north land, has skated many times before but has never taken any formal lessons.  Her main interest is horseback riding.  With that in mind, I figured she would have a reasonable sense of balance and generally good muscle tone.  A day or so before we went to the rink I asked her what she was interested in learning.  She immediately replied "backwards skating".

 I have yet to figure out what it is about skating backwards that seems to be a touchstone for almost every novice skater I've talked to.  I guess skating backwards is some sort of major divider between those who can and those who can not.  If you can skate backwards then you're "in with the in crowd".  No one every mentions acquiring the ability to stop safely.  To me that would be up towards the top of my list!  I guess, excluding the somewhat showy hockey stop, there's nothing flashy about the ability to slow down...

Anyway, before we went, I wrote down a short list of skills to review.  Simple things like explaining that skate blades have an inside and outside edge, the use of the proper part of the blade when stroking forward,  good posture while skating, how to do forward swizzles and slaloms, how to snow plow stop and yes, finally, how to do back wiggles and C-pushes to go backwards.

I would introduce a skill, watch her do it, make a comment or two and then tell her to practice while I worked on my back tuck behinds.  After a while I'd return and introduce another skill.  She turned out to be a quick learner!  By mid-way through the session she had absorbed all the topics I had introduced and indeed was skating backwards.  She did fall a time or two but nothing serious.  I'm hopeful that now that she's back home she'll look into lessons.  She didn't know if lessons for adults were offered at the various rinks near her home town.  It would surprise me if the Swedish rink system only has lessons for small kids, but having never skated over there I can't say.  I'm hoping that the next time we meet she'll be breezing around the rink like a pro--hopefully I've planted a little seed!


  1. George, I'm sure cousin Agnes was impressed by your skills and excited to have your advice. Wow, that's quite a list of things to do! I wish that someone had told me about the proper part of the blade and good posture when I was starting out. Go, Agnes, go!

  2. Wow - I wish I had the ability to learn as quickly as cousin Agnes! Glad you had a great time on the ice!

    1. That's two of us! It takes me forever to learn a single new skill! She is a quick learner.

  3. It's gratifying to share hard-earned lessons! Lucky Agnes and lucky you both.

    I can almost explain why skating backwards is a thing novice skaters want to learn -- because almost any kid can manage to turn walking on ice into gliding on ice. I remember deciding to skate backwards and standing there rocking my weight on the blades, trying to do whatever it was that the figure skaters on TV did to go backwards...

  4. Agnes is a quick study. A good student always makes the teacher look good!

    Did you manage to teach yourself to skate backwards? If not, you should get back out on the ice. It's never too late to take care of unfinished business!