I was chatting via text and private message with some of my best friends. It’s time for the US Nationals and, for me, that’s a family reunion, of sorts.
Nerves are always at a peak a week before Nats. Every small issue occasionally seems overwhelming. Every communication (or lack thereof) from our skater seems to prompt a scenario worthy of a soap opera. Most of the time, it is just that. It seems like a never-ending drama occasionally interrupted by a real life commercial.
Thank goodness for friends.
As a skating parent, the most difficult lesson to learn is who you can trust. At the lower levels, rink talk usually turns into gossip. It seems as if you can’t trust anyone – including coaches - to keep things in confidence. There are no secrets, just conversations that get passed from person to person like a child’s game. You whisper in one ear and it is immediately passed to another ear, but with a different - and sometimes self-serving- interpretation. By the time you reach the “Big Leagues,” you’re not sure who you can trust. It seems much easier to just roll up in a ball like a hedgehog, or stick your head in the sand like an ostrich. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” becomes a mantra. It is a sad reality of our sport.
However, by the time you reach the championship level, all of a sudden that boat you’ve been in holds a lot more passengers. All of a sudden, you manage to find more life preservers; you find out that saving your friends can help you save yourself.
Here we are: A week before US Nationals begins and I know who my friends are. Yes, some are longtime friends; some are what we call “Frans,” (fans who have become good friends along the way). But some of my best friends are people who – like me – signed on for this E Ticket Ride. We are the survivors. Do we have all the answers? Certainly not. Do we have something intangible that binds us? Absolutely. No matter where we came from, how we started, and no matter how we will end our adventure, we share something very few have the privilege of experiencing. That makes us family.
So keep your friends close. Keep your skating friends closer. No one understands better what you’re going through than someone who has skated years in your boots.
(Dedicated to some of my best skating parent friends, and you know who you are! Thanks for being there. I’m stronger because of you.)