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How to Create an Awesome Experience for a Brand New Skater: Part 2

December 3, 2009

3. Make it Fun and Memorable!
Oh wait, adults want to have fun just as much as kids do? Who knew?! No matter who you have on the ice, forget about trying to cram your life’s worth of knowledge into an hour-long session, have some fun! Crack jokes (this is my specialty. For real, my mom even told me), ask them about their life away from the rink, complain about politics, gas prices, homework, or whatever else it takes to make them forget that they’re learning. Next thing you know, you’ve skated half-way across the ice immersed in thought-provoking conversation, and they’ve been skating along beside you the whole time! Sweet, this stuff practically teaches itself!
Lots of other objects and toys teaching aides help out as well when we’re trying to wow our new skaters. During the aforementioned private lesson I tossed a bean-bag back and forth for five minutes while learning (from a five-year-old) how to count to ten in French. The bean-bag really challenged my little guy’s balance, and the French really challenged my brain. And he had no idea he was learning about edges, stance and balanced body position. He also needed to bend his knees to pick up the bean-bag when he dropped it, and I didn’t even have to tell him. Don’t worry though, I chirped his catching skills. Hey, it’s not my fault we don’t have baseball programs in E-town, but for those of you that do: sales opportunity! Man, it feels good to brain-wash people into learning.
4. Save Your Voice.
Talking for an hour straight isn’t my idea of a fun task in a cold rink at 6:30 on a Sunday morning, and it isn’t beneficial for your student either. They’re new to skating; they need to figure things out on their own. A common complaint amongst parents is that instructors don’t spend enough one on one time with their child, and while this is often a valid argument, it’s also important that one’s curiosity become the only teacher from time to time. I wouldn’t wait until little Suzy grows a wicked Movember Moustache between the first time you talk to her and the next, but it is absolutely alright to ask your students to perform tasks and activities on their own. Some examples include: touching all of the red lines on the ice, finding all the objects hidden underneath pylons, or making me a hot sandwich. Whenever I feel the need for a breather I tell my group to touch all four blue lines on the boards and then return to me. Works great, and it reminds me how to count to four. In English.
Like I said earlier, I’ve got a crush on obstacle courses. They take a long time to complete for both adults and wee-sized skaters if you take the time to make them interesting, and they incorporate a wide variety of skills. Examples of possible obstacle course set-ups include skating forwards, skating backwards, gliding on one foot around the pylons, carrying a bean-bag, pushing a puck, relay races and pylon pushes. Be creative, you’ll think of something else as you watch. These activities are fun and they’ll give you some time to observe and evaluate your students as well. Tasks and activities occupy a child’s or adult’s mind for the duration of the exercise, and again, they won’t even realize they’re learning.

5. Know Your Audience.

The final bullet for those of you still reading is the simplest and most important and will take us the furthest from our own comfort zones as instructors. In all seriousness, our company is all about the experience of learning to skate, playing hockey, and refining individual skills and development. Learning more about your audience better equips you to deliver the experience that is applicable to them and their own personal goals and habits. Remember Bullet #3: having fun and being personable with your clients? Of course you do, but at the same time we need to remember that money is being spent on learning, and it’s up to us to find fun and creative ways to encourage the learning process. There comes a time when a student needs to be told exactly what they need to work on if they want to improve their skating, whether they are five or ninety five.
Monumental Conclusion
If we are pushing ourselves to constantly better our techniques and methods even if it means that sometimes we mess up a skill or don’t make any sense…wait, what was the point of that? Oh yeah, learning more as an instructor is directly proportional to your students learning more, and soon they’ll have no choice but to have fun while skating with confidence. To borrow from my good friend Michael J. Fox, your classes will eventually hit the point of no return, except they won’t end up going back in time, they’ll just know how to skate, and they won’t forget. But Christopher Lloyd might still be there, which will be cool.
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