From an Instructor: and skater, and teacher, and writer, and...

 

I have been a professional athlete for more than half of my life.  If I add in the amateur portion of my sports life, 3/4 of my time on earth so far have been spent actively pursuing skating and skiing as a serious athlete.  Since neither sport commands the monetary applause that professional football, basketball, et cetera receive, I've had the opportunity to supplement my taxable income with other occupations too, but overall my paychecks primarily have been related to an aspect of the winter athletic world.

My first foray as a professional athlete was as a figure skater in the touring show, Ice Capades.  We traveled to a new city every Monday (except in a few larger venues such as Madison Square Garden), and as a small group of young skaters it was an adventure chock full of unique situations.  Imagine college freshman-age kids without much guidance traveling by bus and plane, performing in a spotlight for most of their work "day", signing autographs after the show, then changing into regular clothes quickly enough that we blended in with the autograph seekers as we moved from arena to bus in jeans and baseball caps to return "home" to a hotel room we often packed with six of us-strange at best, most times.  The fact that most of us weren't 21 was never a problem when it came to our own entertainment, but  other basic life skills were frequently a struggle. 

The discipline involved to reach  that level of skating, however, did give an edge in  some typical coming of age rituals; without that focus and training, performing in a traveling show like Ice Capades could have been a negative environment for many of the skaters.  The maturity that can be gained through a serious pursuit of a sport (or any other disciplined activity) and the travel that is often required to achieve goals can be invaluable.  I truly believe that travel was a tremendous benefit in my education, especially during the times I found school boring-which I believe even the most studious kidlets inevitably experience at some points of traditional education. 

That ability to stay on a strict training schedule was crucial in my first years of ski instructing.  My skiing skills were not as polished as some of the other ski instructors when I started, but I had high goals.  Goal setting was something I had learned through skating, and it naturally helped in those initial years of teaching and training for ski instructor certification.  I credit that strict discipline from skating as the major catalyst for successfully obtaining my full certification as a ski instructor in a relatively short period of time.  I also transferred my taste for travel from skating to a desire to teach skiing on another continent.  So many great opportunites!

Behind all of the hard work, abnormal situations, and sometimes painful training there have always been the fun, rewarding moments.  I don't suppose I would have done any of it if there hadn't been significant rewards, even if I didn't fully recognize them at the time.  Listen to any athlete in any sport speak about the work involved and you'll find a myriad of motivations for doing what they do, and no matter how wonderful the situation seems to the bystanders, there are many days that athletes wonder why they are doing their sport and if they even want to continue.  Just like any career, professional athletes have great days, bad days, and a phenomenal potential to learn and grow, sometimes beyond their original sport.

Personally, I'm still finding benefits to this unusual way of life and I truly believe I have only scratched the surface of life as an athlete.  In other occupations, I have used my sports background to relate with and sometimes motivate others.  If nothing else, my experience in professional sports helps me keep a sense of humor about most situations, and I've learned how to be deeply grateful that I get to do what I do (and they STILL pay me for this??  Amazing!). 

I'm also discovering other ways to be involved in sports that aren't always physically active-specifically writing about active adventures.  Still in the fledgling stages of this new aspect, I'm already seeing how the carryover from the first half (or ¾ depending on the perspective) of my life can guide me in a continuation of getting to do really neat stuff for a living.

Next week, I'll be traveling on the first of a couple of trips to winter resorts for writing and skiing.  In that order.  Writing on a professional level was not a specific goal for me until recently, and once again, I find myself profoundly fortunate to get to do something else I love and get paid for it (or in one example, a really neat hat.  One article garnered pay in gear, and that's cool, too!).

So a new chapter (literal pun intended) has started in my life as a professional athlete/writer.  When I first told my dad that I was going to do some writing about my life as an instructor, he asked me if I would have enough stories to write about.  I laughed (sorry Dad, I really did think you were joking).  I know that there very well may be a time when I will be at a loss for words (verbal and written), which I know many of my family and friends will, at least temporarily, applaud.  But as far as I can tell, there is no end to the possibilities out there, even for a ski bum like me. 

Operations Shots