Lessons From An Ice Rink

kristy barber ice skater

Figure skating found me one day when I wasn’t looking. 

The older boys down the street were hockey players, and I naturally wanted to be cool just like them. We all went to the ice rink one afternoon, and they introduced me to the magical world of ice skating. The freedom of gliding on the ice and the cold air blowing on my face was thrilling. This new place welcomed me with open arms as if we were old friends. It taught me the art of perseverance, discipline, teamwork, and many other life skills that I have carried through my life. 

Dedicate Yourself

I loved everything about it and was utterly dedicated – from the discipline of getting up at 4:30 am to skate in the cold of the morning to standing back up after falling for the hundredth time on a new jump. It instilled in me the determination to never quit, but to work hard for the end goal. When most kids were hanging out with friends, I was at the rink practicing and refining my sport. 

Know Yourself

Ice skating opened me up to a new world. I learned how to communicate my vision to my coaches and how to let them guide me. There were many times when my coach would decide to change my program the day of the competition, and that wasn’t the right thing for me. I needed to execute the plan that I had been working on for months. The program would only be changed if I made an error, not because someone else opened with a different jump.

Push Yourself

Competing in an individual sport is very different as you’re the only one responsible for your own success. While I did have a lot of friends to train with, at the end of the day, if I had an off day, it was my fault, and I’d have to figure out a way to make it better the next day. That might mean additional time practicing a spin or listening to my program on repeat to feel it. 

Redefine Yourself

Over the years I began to get burned out, so I took a year off. The sport no longer was fun, and it became work. My coaches didn’t have the same vision I did which frustrated me. 

However, after that year off, I came back stronger and more focused than ever. I changed coaches and rinks and was able to skate with some of the best in the world. I gained a new perspective and understanding about hard work, and began to understand the importance of pivoting. I discovered I would never be a national champion, but I came up with different goals that I was able to accomplish. 

Towards the end of my skating career, the sport wasn’t able to give me as much as it had in the beginning. Perhaps, I was finally learning to be my own person and find my identity outside the sport. I realized I wanted to explore other academic interests, career, and social pursuits. 

Sports Give Us Gifts

In a lot of ways figure skating was like the book “The Giving Tree.” It contributed so much to my life – welcoming me no matter what season I was in and teaching me invaluable lessons along the way. 

Resilience

Much like the giving tree provided branches to swing from, apples to eat, and shade to sleep in, figure skating showed me how to be resilient. When a program didn’t go well, or I fell once again on a jump, I learned to keep getting up. Like Paulo Coehlo says, Success is falling down 7 times but getting up 8. It’s never fun, and most times outright frustrating. The funny thing was that I never wanted to quit no matter how hard it got. There was a fighting spirit inside me to keep going to see what might happen, which is probably why I hung onto the sport longer than most of my friends. It was nice to learn and know that about myself.

Patience

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not the most patient person. Ice skating taught me patience. It’s impossible to become a great skater overnight. Gaining and improving the skills to win takes much time.

Uniqueness

There is a specific path most coaches put skaters on. For most, it’s the best route to go, but for those like me, it didn’t always fit. We need a plan specific to our uniqueness. I’ve seen this same issue pop up over the years with businesses and executives. Owners appreciate and need a customized strategy to help them win. 

Identity

Overall, figure skating gave me freedom, a sense of identity, and a place to call home – friends and strangers that cheered me on and became a second family. I, in turn, was able to give back, whether it be mentoring younger skaters, helping around the rink, or volunteering at various events. It has been a great joy to give back to a sport that has taught me so much!

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