Sunday, March 7, 2021

The one athletic skill I wish I had? Being a good ice skater.

In that brief time of my life during which I competed in scholastic sports (7th through 12th grades), I quickly became aware of my own limitations as an athlete.

I had speed. I was fast, which is useful in a variety of sports.

Until my freshman year of high school or thereabouts, I also had height. I reached my final adult height in 7th grade, then I just stopped growing. If you know me now, you will laugh at the fact that I played center on our middle school basketball teams.

I also had some small degree of power, as evidenced mainly in how far I could hit a baseball or softball, or run over a smaller defensive back in football.

And that was about it.

The list of the things I lacked athletically was far longer. I have never been particularly coordinated, I wasn't born with natural upper-body strength (and never had much desire to put in the work to develop it), and I wasn't blessed with the type of body positioning and spatial awareness that most sports stars have in abundance.

My 8th-grade football and basketball coach, the legendary Mr. Lowell Grimm, once said to me, "Tennant, you're an enigma."

And he was right. I am not only left-handed, I am very left-handed. To the point that I was far more comfortable as a running back carrying the ball on plays that ran to the left than those that ran to the right. In basketball, I could grab rebounds and occasionally block shots, but I was lucky to sink one out of every 10 free throws.

So when I stepped into a pair of ice skates for the first time in my life at the age of 22, I was kind of hoping it was something that would play to my strengths and cover up my weaknesses.

It was not.

Ice skating (and doing it well) is an amazingly impressive feat to me. I can get moving on skates and keep moving, and I can kind of do the snowplow stop if I'm not moving too fast and have sufficient distance in front of me.

But I cannot skate backwards, I cannot do crossovers, and I cannot do the sideways hockey stop. I have tried all of these things over and over and over, and I simply do not have the ability to pull them off.

I think that's why I like watching hockey so much. Even after 30 years of intently following the game, I can't get over how well those guys skate. They make it look effortless.

I make it look painful.

On the plus side, however, I'll bet none of them were ever as proud as I was to be called an "enigma."

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