The first time my new skating teacher grabbed my hand and held it, I liked it.
We were attempting backward crossovers, and his holding of my leading hand made me feel secure, as though, if I fell, he would prevent me from landing hard on my tailbone.
“And, to be honest,” as I told Jimmy about it later, “It just felt good. It doesn’t happen often in adult life that a stronger adult offers a real hand at a moment of risk.”
Plus, have I mentioned he’s cute? That made the initial hand holding nice, too.
This morning in lessons we were attempting to put moves together: crossovers and turns. For a while we’ve been isolating and practicing various moves. Literally, each week we’ve been skating in circles and doing the same things over and over.
As Fred demonstrated what he wanted us to do — skate forward crossovers, glide, turn, and skate backward crossovers — I thought to myself, This is when I fall. Interestingly, that little voice inside me was pretty matter-of-fact. I knew it would be difficult and that I would stumble.
I skated into the turn, turned, and fell. I got up. The next time I tried, Fred grabbed my leading hand and completely interrupted my concentration. Never mind whether I fell or not, I simply couldn’t skate with any basic competence as his gloved fingers gripped mine. Later he said, “Swinging your arms too far was making you spin, not just turn.” Well, his holding my hand stopped my inadvertent spinning, but it also made me forget the coordination of my four limbs! It was as if my concentration had digressed to what to do with that one hand. I couldn’t keep the big picture in mind.
Near the end of the lesson, we practiced slaloms for a while and then Fred showed us the 3-turn. I feel pretty comfortable with the slaloms, and I did them over and over as he worked 1:1 with another student. He skated over to me, watched, said “good” a few times, and grabbed my hand as a way of directing the shape of my arm. I completely lost my internal rhythm and felt, suddenly, remedial.
Is it okay to say to your teacher, whom you generally like, “Stop taking over my moves”?
Different students need different levels of hand holding, I know. It may be better — this is what I believe — to offer less of it. And if we see a student who is struggling, and we have the urge to step in, perhaps we should first ask: “May I help you with that?” And then, and only then, offer a hand.
Photograph of Grace (in blue jeans) and me (in tan cords) taken with ToonCamera for the iPhone.