The first focused on skating. We pushed off one foot and practiced gliding down the rink, going down and back, then switched feet and repeated the process. The motion felt funky at first, but I gradually got the hang of it with the encouragement of Houston and the other two instructors, Zane Brewer and Zane Werner.
We moved on to practicing balance. We turned to the side and stepped one foot over the other, walking the length of the rink. I have to say that I did excel, but one of the kids was not so lucky. He had trouble stepping one little skate over the other, and Houston and Brewer immediately encouraged him to keep trying. Watching the instructors was endearing. Their encouragement helped the child make it halfway and back, and at the end, Houston gave him a high-five.
We moved on to practice stopping. Since my method is crashing into one of the rink’s walls, I was at a loss for how to begin. The first time I tried, I wobbled and came close to falling. Slightly embarrassed, I asked Werner what I was doing wrong. He told me to crouch low and sure enough I did better. By the last cone, I stopped almost gracefully and again received the never-ending praise and encouragement of all three instructors.
One of the last drills we practiced was skating in a figure eight. I watched as one of the instructors demonstrated, placing one foot over the next as he gracefully completed one circle and then another. Wanting to mimic that motion, I asked how to do the movement but didn’t even come close to achieving it. I practiced a few times before finishing the drill and completing class.
I left the rink feeling proud of myself. Before class, I had been nervous about learning a new skill, but the instructors made me feel so welcome—and not at all incompetent for my lack of hockey knowledge. Plus, I never felt sore. Slightly warm from the drills, I silently congratulated the Park Board for their one-of-a-kind inclusive program.