Ice, Ice Baby

In my first ever blog entryI listed all the different explanations for why I have become a stick-in-the-mud: 1. I am a chicken, 2. I am lazy, 3. I avoid trends, 4. I don’t want to look stupid, and 5. I am less susceptible to pressure from others. My weekly challenges usually involve me getting over one or two of these hurdles, but this week – oh, man – this week’s challenge involved 4/5 of the categories.

I gave in to peer pressure from my friend Beth to try playing hockey at the Provo Blades’ free women’s hockey clinic. That’s right, even though I can’t remember the last time I ice skated, I agreed to get up off the couch and put myself in a situation where I could possibly get hurt and definitely look stupid. What was I thinking? But Beth promised to be there to talk me through everything so I decided to just get over myself and give it a try.

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Once I got on the ice, I realized that it really had been a very, very long time since I last skated. Like, have I ever done this? Beth showed me the best stance and the proper way to hold the stick, then let me try skating on my own for a while before the clinic started. As I tentatively made my way across the ice, I thought there was no way I’d be able to do it with anyone near me. Then as we started drills, I thought I’d be okay next to other people, but that there was no way I’d be able to do it anywhere near a puck without tripping and falling. After I tried hitting the puck a few times, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to skate and hit a puck at the same time without falling. Once I was able to do that, I was still sure I wouldn’t be able to actually participate in the scrimmage. With each new challenge, I found that I could do more than I thought. I was slow and overly cautious and really had no idea about strategy (the instructor compared something to soccer and all the Sporty Spices nodded to indicate they understood while I just stood there thinking, “Oh sure, just like soccer. Very helpful”), but I was much less incompetent than I anticipated.

Um, this does not feel familiar at all.

Um, this does not feel familiar at all.

My first hurdle was the fact that, aside from one experienced player my same age, I was by far the oldest person there. All the others looked like college freshmen. The next hurdle was the smell of the pads – everything I used (provided by the rink) smelled like my most stinky son’s feet. Hours later, even after washing them several times, my hands still carried the glove stench. Also, the sound of ice is particularly disturbing to me – my kids know they’ll be in serious trouble if they try to chew ice anywhere near me. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me ahead of time that the sound of skates scraping against ice would give me the same physical reaction.

The only hurdle that wasn’t very difficult was jumping over an actual hurdle (the wall). Maybe because on the other side of the wall there was a bench – the carrot on a stick, the pot of gold. I love benches, they’re my favorite, so I was willing to straddle that wall to get to one. And aside from a few bruises, that part wasn’t too tricky. I’d rather just open the door to get to the same bench, but at least I know I could jump if I had to.

Beth and the other experienced players were very kind and encouraging, especially considering how many times they had to remind me to bend my knees. At one point during a scrimmage, someone passed the puck to me as I stood right in front of the goal ready for the Perfect Shot. I really wanted to get it right so I hesitated and shifted around a bit just to be sure I was standing exactly as I had in the drill. I took so long that seven different people could have stolen the puck before I actually got around to taking the shot. Then when I finally hit it, it went so slowly. It was comical how slowly it was approaching the goal – like bowling with a two-year-old. But everyone stood back and waited…and waited…for it and then Beth let it pass her into the goal and everyone still cheered for me as if I had actually made a legitimate goal. And even though I was keenly aware of how ridiculous the shot was, the praise still felt nice.

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The thing I was most worried about was falling. Whether it was falling and hurting myself or just falling and looking stupid, both scenarios were equally worrisome. Beth showed me the best way to fall (forward) and assured me that everyone falls but the padding makes it bearable. I thought it would be even better if I could avoid falling altogether. The instructor repeated that everyone falls and she had us all fall down on purpose to see that it really was no big deal. I fell forward as instructed, but instead of landing neatly like the others, my knee slid out from under me, sending me sprawling, and I wrenched my shoulder. Then, instead of standing up the way they showed us, my legs slid outward and I think I pulled a hammy. Maybe it was a hammy, maybe not. I’ve just always wanted to say that. As I tried to recover from my second sprawl, Beth rescued me so I wouldn’t have to try again.

All through the rest of the drills and scrimmage, I managed to avoid falling. I was so good, in fact, that I was kind of annoyed that I’d been forced to fall because obviously that “everyone falls” mantra didn’t apply to me. I could have gone injury-free if only she hadn’t made me fall. But then when we were almost done, I leaned back suddenly while trying to get to a puck and fell back onto my fanny and put my hand down to catch myself (both of the things Beth told me NOT to do), then smacked the back of my head on the ice. Thank goodness I was wearing a helmet. After I fell, I realized Beth had been right about the padding. The fall really didn’t hurt. I was mostly just angry at myself for breaking my record of staying upright.

I was worried that I would have sore quads from squatting and sore feet from the skates, but aside from some sore forearm muscles, the only pains I had the next few days were my shoulder neck from the falls – nothing a few days of Advil couldn’t fix.

I know what I played bore little resemblance to actual hockey – we beginners were slow and careful and the others were slow and careful so they wouldn’t freak us out – but I was amazed that I was able to accomplish as much as I did (which really was so very little). As I played, I thought back to my life a few years ago and realized that the old me would neverevereverever even think about trying to do what I was now doing. And if Beth hadn’t been there to talk me (and sometimes physically lift me) through it, I still wouldn’t have dared.

I love when I watch my kids try new things and they surprise me with their ability or their bravery. This week, I felt that about myself, which was a nice (if unfamiliar) feeling. But the other surprise was that it didn’t feel like work or like some Big Scary Thing. Once I was out there doing it, it was really fun. I don’t think I’m likely to ever become a competent hockey player, but it was fun to have the chance to learn some new skills in a non-threatening environment with people I liked. It also left me with a whole lot of respect for all those ladies who actually are competent hockey players.  I’m so glad I let myself be talked into it. In fact, I’m even considering taking requests for future blog posts. If I have a friend there to help me, who knows what I might be able to accomplish?

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