The Drevitches, Week 21: We Lace Up the Skates (Well, Not All of Us)

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

gary drevitch children picture

The boys are ready to get their skate on at Chelsea Piers. Photo: Gary Drevitch

When it comes to finding new sports to teach my kids, a good standard is: If I don't do it, they should.

Over the course of my sedentary childhood, I managed to pick up only a few sports -- basketball, Frisbee, football and little else. You could make a much longer list of sports I never picked up -- swimming, biking, soccer, tennis, golf and, most sadly, baseball.

My wife, Lynn, and I don't want the kids to end up like me, adults who can't play on their company softball teams, singles who can't join a date for a bike ride or parents who can't take their kids out on the slopes. So we've done our best to make Benjamin, 10; Natalie, 8; and Adam, 4, as well-rounded, sportswise, as possible.

The first step, of course, was getting me up to speed. Since I met, Lynn, I've taken enough swimming lessons to become competent in the pool. I've learned to bike (though the reckless riders in New York City's parks still make me nervous). And I've worked on my once-nonexistent tennis and golf games, and on my baseball stroke, although Benjamin ridicules me for constantly check-swinging.

The kids have taken swimming lessons. We've taught them to bike. Benjamin has been in Little League for years. And they've all tried soccer. But they especially love winter sports.

We've always taken them skiing during winter school vacation, and as little kids seem to do, they took quickly to the sport, barreling fearlessly down the hill as I sputtered and tumbled about on the bunny slope. Yes, my not-so-secret shame is that, despite several attempts, I have yet to make much progress on skis. I see people come down the hill, young and old, over and over again, and for the life of me, I still don't get how it works. So I snowshoe, snowmobile or just read in the lodge while the rest of the family skis.

And then there's ice skating. I never tried it as a kid, but my own children have long been interested. They've even had skating birthday parties, even though they'd never had formal lessons, and loved it. So, seeing some weekend openings in their schedule, and sticking to our Healthy Families Challenge commitment to keep them active in the winter, we enrolled in a set of Saturday-morning lessons at the Sky Rink, part of Manhattan's gargantuan sports complex, Chelsea Piers, which offers gymnastics, batting cages, soccer, a driving range, bowling and basketball stretched over acres of riverside play space.

For four weeks, we rode the subway then caught a bus to get to the rink, where skating school director Wade Corbett and his team run a tight ship. They line up the kids at the rink door and quickly divide them among about a dozen skilled instructors for 30-minute, small-group lessons, followed by a half-hour of open skating time.

I'd never seen skating lessons before, and I was impressed. Adam's instructor marked spots on the ice with a marker (the Zamboni machine would soon erase them), lined up her young charges, and, in short order, had them moving independently in a straight line without falling. What else could you ask for from 4-year-old newbies?

Benjamin and Natalie were split between two coaches, who taught them, first, how to stop, and second, how to skate backwards. Within a couple of lessons, both instructors had their groups skating (slowly) in circles and attempting jumps -- or at least hops.

All the kids, Benjamin especially, were sad when our skating trial ended. Benjamin wants to go back soon, eager to continue his lessons. He told me how the group had been doing swizzles, backward lunges, and other fundamental techniques that represented, he said, "the beginning of figure skating." I was impressed that, in four short lessons, his instructor had gotten him so excited about the sport, so confident in his progress, and so sure of his ability to do more.

We'll try to satisfy Benjamin's request soon.

One thing that didn't happen at Chelsea Piers: I did not lace up skates myself. Seeing that the kids were well on their way to figure-8s and double-Salchows, I decided they didn't need any help from me. But really, although I'm years removed from latchkey-kid days, some fears remain. I'll bike, I'll swim, I'll even ski, but to balance my bulk, even reduced as it has been over the past few months, on a pair of slender blades?

Sorry. I can only go so far, even for the kids.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.