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Got to the rink this morning to find out that the public session would be cut short due to some hockey event. That was fine with me since it wouldn’t affect my practice plans, but I suspect the cut schedule kept others away, since there was hardly anybody on the ice.

I didn’t mind so much, because I had practically the entire rink to myself. There’s both a feeling of freedom that brings (I can do whatever I want, and not worry about anybody else!) and some burden (don’t waste the opportunity, make sure you get the most of it). But with about forty-five minutes left into the session, I found myself alone on the ice when a long, intimidating line of adult hockey players filed into the rink. I don’t know what the event was, but there was a bus outside; they headed to the locker room and emerged a few minutes later, taking seats at side of the rink. Waiting. And watching. Me.

It’s one thing to be practicing with other people watching you — you can’t control who’s around during a public session, after all. But when you’ve got a dozen grown men just staring at you through the glass barrier, watching you stumble through your basic skills, it’s a little unnerving. It was worse because they didn’t join in the skating, probably because they’d rented out the session afterward and weren’t supposed to skate the public session. I knew I had every right to be skating, even though it felt like they were impatient for me to leave so they could take over.

I told myself not to let them intimidate me off the ice, because I paid for this session and damn if I wasn’t going to use it. And they weren’t being mean or difficult; I’m sure they’re all nice people. It’s just hard not to be self-conscious in this kind of situation.

I blocked them out of my mind as best as I could and finished my practice, and I’m sure this experience will prove useful at some point down the line. Scrutiny doesn’t kill, I’ve learned, even if it’s terribly awkward at the time.

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