After stepping into a pothole and badly spraining my ankle, I spent the week teaching 8-year-old beta and gamma students from the boards.
Now, teaching from the boards is standard operating procedure for free style, even low free style. Many coaches put on their skates anyway, but many don't, even for very young skaters. But my skating director told me, don't worry about it, we don't want you losing income any more than you want to (at least 4 weeks no skates), so just do the best you can.
So, Gamma from the boards.
Yesterday I was sandwich coach-- moms on the benches behind me in stitches over my antics, kids on the ice in front me with vacant eyes. "Sweetie, I want you to skate to the blue line, do the turn then STAY BACKWARDS. Just glide backwards back towards me." Child looks at me as though to say, I want to do what you're asking, Coach Xan, but I don't speak Chinese.
"Look toward the lobby" Child looks at me, in exactly the opposite direction of the lobby.
"No, look toward the lobby." Child obediently looks toward the lobby, then looks back at me to make sure she was doing it right.
"That's right, the lobby. Don't look over here, look towards the lobby then skate towards the lobby." Child looks towards the lobby, then skates in the opposite direction, still looking towards the lobby. Unfortunately, there's another child in the way, who is looking directly at the first one, but gets crashed into and knocked over anyway, because apparently she thinks her super power is You Can Skate Right Through Me Girl.
Clearly I need a demonstrator. "Who can do this mohawk?" I ask. Five hands shoot into the air. Okay, El, show us the mohawk (I have seen El do a mohawk, so I know that this is at least a possibility. "OK!" Big Smile. Stands at the circle. Looks at me. Thinks a minute. Looks at me. Looks around.
"What's a mohawk again?"
I explain it. El tries. Pretty decent. "Okay, that's what we're doing-- mohawks. I need 4 people on the red line and 4 people on the blue line. Everybody right T push, we're going to do right mohawks. Miraculously everyone figures out their right foot without too much drama, and then 7 of the 9 push onto the outside edge.
"No-- people on the blue line, you're going to do a half circle towards the wall, people on the red line, you're going to do your half circles towards the lobby."
This apparently does not compute; for some reason they all decide to switch lines, except S, who has taken eternal ownership of the goal line and will not move, probably ever. They all finally reorganize themselves and instantly go onto the wrong edge again. Okay, let's move from skating mode to vocabulary mode.
"What three things do you need to know about your skating?"
Forward and Backward! everyone shouts. oKAY-they've been listening. "What else?"
"Shoot the Duck!" someone says. Yay! Now we all want to do shoot the duck. If only there was an Olympics for shoot the duck, Robert Crown Center would win, because this is all anyone wants to work on.
We finally establish that I'm trying to get them to say Inside-Outside and Left or Right and that left and right is hard and I don't care that much if they know that at this point. So what's harder of Inside-Outside or Forwards-Backwards? I ask.
The consensus is that it's harder to tell if you're going forwards or backwards. They can't tell. This explains a LOT.
Okay, everyone, we're going to make a big circle, like we do every week. No one moves. "I can't be part of the circle, because I don't have skates today because of my hurt foot." Now everyone has to give me hugs and tell me they hope I feel better soon. Okay, you guys are the best, now every make a big circle and skate around, we're going to do inside and outside edges. Two children skate around a circle--okay everyone follow them, that's right!
The other 7 skate in 7 random directions, apparently eager to test You Can Skate Right Through Me Girl's super power.
The moms behind me by now are laughing so hard they are gasping for air.
"I have an idea!" I say. "Let's do Shoot the Duck!