Dear Adults,

A Letter of Appreciation To my Adult Students and To the Adult Skaters of the World…

This week, while many adults are converging in Lake Placid for the 2008 U.S. Adult Championships, I would like to take the opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and admiration for your skating endeavors. For though, by definition, you are a bit “longer in the tooth” than other skaters and with that comes a whole host of challenges (including sometimes, tripping over your teeth), your excitement is evident, your enjoyment contagious, and your improvement impressive. Whether you are competing this week or not, your specific efforts in this sport (and contributions to my own enjoyment of it) deserve to be documented.

First there is your wacky schedule. Thank you for getting up when it is dark and coming to the rink while saner people still slumber so that you can squeeze in your skating before commuting to work. Thank you for arriving with a spring in your step and a smile on your face, and carrying your nicely-pressed work clothes on a hanger you hook on the ledge by the front desk. Thank you for coming to your lesson even though you were awake all night worrying about the fate of the planet or riding in an ambulance on your way to volunteer EMT calls. Thank you for scheduling your conference calls around our lesson and running over on your lunch break. Thank you for unloading your pockets and piling your cell phone, keys, blackberry, coins, and work ID on the barriers so that you are not weighed down by them while you skate. Thank you for driving to a rink that is far away from your home on your only day off. Thank you, by the way, for e-mailing me the notes you typed up after our lesson.

Then there is the issue of practice and your genuine understanding of its importance. Thank you for practicing with such earnestness and diligence of your own accord, without me having to nag you. Thank you for bounding over tall buildings and solving all kinds of logistical algorithms in order to get on the ice for even a half hour of 3 turns. Thank you for offering detailed reports (complete with spreadsheets and graphs) of your practice week including, with no small amount of guilt, the fact that you had to miss one day for a perfectly legitimate reason like assisting an aging parent, traveling to Chicago for work, or taking your dog to the vet so he could have that cyst removed from his nether regions. Though I’m not sure it was entirely wise, thank you also for coming to the rink even when you had a herniated disc in your neck, a mysterious golfball-sized bump on your knee, and even after you dropped a chair on your toe.

I have noticed that you are very good sports. Thank you for gamely re-taking tests when a panel of judges has suggested that you “Retry” them. Thank you for tracking down a skating skirt then debuting this strange garment the day before the test, as a dress rehearsal. Thank you for letting your eyes well with tears and hugging me in celebration of passing your first test. Thank you for persevering to get your Gold medal though the path to get those last four dances was seven years long and riddled with injuries (both mine and yours), necessitated several pairs of new skates (both mine and yours), and was interrupted by all kinds of a life obligations (again, both mine and yours.)

Thank you for asking me to explain the same element in 450 different ways so that you may analyze it from just as many angles. Thank you for forcing me to call upon the Laws of Physics, though I never officially learned them in a classroom and have only loosely picked them up as a skater. Thank for helping me to expand my arsenal of analogies. Thank you for understanding my sometimes odd vocabulary and also for, very appropriately, making fun of it “with vigor.” Most of all, thank you for laughing at my jokes (which I know has not been an easy feat.)

Thank you for subscribing to the adage that we should all try things that terrify us once in a while and for wearing your wrist guards along the way. Thank you for trying to conceal the look of abject terror in your eyes and attempting to appear relaxed by increasing the space between your shoulders and your ears (though I suspect you are still clenching your toes like little fists inside your skates.) Thank you for taking up a new activity in the search for personal fulfillment and, through your example, reminding me that I want to become fluent in French, learn how to paint something slightly more complicated than polka-dots, and maybe even try something like…clogging or…power-knitting.   

Thank you for so openly envying the way I demonstrate a line of outside edges because, later in the day, my students may not even notice what I just demonstrated, let alone be impressed with it. Thank you for showing interest in my skating background and for believing me when I tell you that all the videotapes of my performances were destroyed in a bizarre, tragic fire.   

Thank you for sharing with me your skating mantras, skating revelations, and introducing me to the rather kooky, yet also rather comforting concept of prayer skating. Thank you for helping me to appreciate the adventure that is skating and all the ways it instructs, informs, mimics, and affects other areas of our lives. Thank you for helping to provide Perspective, a commodity we can never have enough of, no matter our profession. 

Oh, yeah, and thank you for confirming your lesson! I’ll see you tomorrow.

Best, Jocelyn


Check out my icenetwork articles featuring competitors at Adult Nationals this week:

And something quite upsetting happened to me last week here in New York City, prompting me to write a letter of a very different nature. Check it out by clicking on “Cusp of Greatness” over in the column to the right.





  1. Tom McHugh · April 8, 2008


    You are the angel who gave me my very first ice dancing experience at the Brewster Ice Arena! We stroked around in the Kilian position while I tried not to wince from the pain of a a back spasm I was experiencing at the time.

    Almost 10 years later, I can trace a large portion of my current quality of life back to that moment. The physical, social, and emotional benefits of ice dancing have been like no other. I’d like to write a hundred “thank yous” to you as well, but duty calls and I need to be off to work. Consider yourself a VAP (very appreciated person) and know that I’m just one small voice in a great chorus of adult-onset skaters who are surely singing your praise.

    Many blessings,

  2. Henner · April 8, 2008

    As a coach myself I think you forgot one: Thank you for knowing so much about skating history and the stars of current skating. I am ashamed to say that some of my adult students are way more up on all that than I am!

  3. Zenskate · April 8, 2008

    I am an adult and I skate as much for the exercise as for the social aspect so having a coach who is likeable and who keeps it fun, as it sounds like you do, has added greatly to the experience.

    Keep it up, Jocelyn, and keep it up, fellow adults.

  4. lori lee · April 8, 2008

    My favorite quote: “Thank you for asking me to explain the same element in 450 different ways so that you may analyze it from just as many angles.” You can ask Sandra….I ask and receive at least that many explanations on EVERY single move, check, position, change of edge, etc. And she always indulges me!! LOVE IT.

  5. Paula · April 9, 2008

    I don’t even live in New York and you’ve never seen me skate but yes you are right! I AM clenching my toes in my skates. And still wearing elbow pads!

  6. Ice Mom · April 9, 2008

    I just loved this piece, Jocelyn. What you’ve hit on is the joy of teaching someone who wants to learn. These adult skaters have that hunger, drive, and joy that comes with attempting something difficult and succeeding through perseverance.

    The young, fit, and naturally gifted sometimes have this spark, but often they take opportunities for granted.

    Yussel brings up an interesting point: who should have the right of way? Adult learners or talented kids? I can understand him favoring the kids, but it’s the adults and their joy of the sport, that is going to keep it alive, I think. Sure, we need those talented kids to watch on T.V., but adult participant skaters feed the sport’s popularity as well.

    Anyway, good job, Jocelyn! Your students are lucky to have you.

  7. Emma R. · April 9, 2008

    Is this Yussel for real? Surely he is joking?

  8. sarah · April 10, 2008

    a skating lesson is probably the only time in the day that some people can put down their blackberry (or “crackberry” as i’ve taken to calling them). that alone is a feat to be commended! 🙂

  9. Jack · April 10, 2008

    I am most impressed with falling adults. Bloodied, bruised, but undaunted they bounce back up from falls that would hospitalize lesser mortals. Fearless. Keep on keepin’ on…

  10. Sharon Burke · July 9, 2008

    My favorite is dear adults. I took up ice dancing when I was 35 and 12 years later, I am still skating sometimes 3 and 4 times a week. I love to skate and your piece totally nailed the experience. A lot of younger skaters laugh at us adults on ice, so I was a little humbled by it, too. Our coach is in her 60’s, though, and she still has perfect form and inspires us so with her elegance. Thanks for this great blog. I’ll bet your students love you.

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