What I Want My Kids to Learn from US Figure Skating

As my dad and I took our seats in the HP Pavilion to watch the Women’s Short Program of the US Figure Skating Champs on Saturday, I got a little verklempt.  This was probably going to be a once in a lifetime event for us to see the best and the brightest of the United States duke it out on the ice.  It had been 15 years since the event was held in San Jose.  Who knows if it will take 15 or more years to come back?

When the first skater took the ice, I cried.  Honestly.  I got caught up in the music, the energy, the anticipation.  Sure, she was ranked 19 out of 19 skaters, but it could have been a gold medal performance as far as I knew.  I wanted her to do so well.  I wanted to her to give her personal best.

And then she fell.

And the crowd sighed.

And I cried again.  But this time for a different reason.

I’m lucky that in my profession as a Sr. Manager in High Tech there aren’t thousands of people watching my every move.  I’m lucky that if I make a mistake, there is no crowd to sigh in disappoint.  There are no judges scoring my abilities.  If I make a big enough mistake, my manager may call me on it and it may affect my performance review, but it isn’t public.  The virtual egg on my face can be wiped off without it making news.

The night was riddled with falls.  Skater after skater fell.  After the 3rd or 4th one, I stopped crying for them.  I knew that they’d be doing enough crying for themselves.  Then we noticed that Angela Wang, a skater placed 16th going into the program and who had skated a clean performance, was slowly moving up the ranks.  My dad and I started to root for her.  While we didn’t wish it on any of the skaters to fall, when they inevitably did, we secretly cheered for Angela.  She moved from 16th place – a performance that didn’t make the national coverage – to a very respectable 8th place. That was pretty amazing.

As I sat there in my seat watching these girls fall and then quickly get back up, is that this is exactly what I want my kids to learn about life.  Sometimes those girls fell again.  But they always picked themselves up and picked up where the music left off.  They didn’t get a do-over.  There was no time out.  They’d have to wait to cry.  They’d have to re-focus with laser-like precision to continue. That’s life right there on the ice.  That’s perseverance.  That’s determination.  That’s finishing what you started.

Sometimes when you perform, you get to be Angela Wang.  You get to see major advancement.  You get to have a really great moment.

I hope that my kids get a good combination of those Angela Wang moments that make those disappointing moments pale in comparison.  After all, isn’t that what we all want?

Photo credit: Utah Stories

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  1. January 31, 2012
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