Everyone begins to mature at different points, and for different reasons in their lives. I found that I matured at an early age, and I can credit that to figure skating.
I began figure skating when I was 5 years old. I had a coach and I had to learn a choreographed program which I would compete in front of a crowd for the first time in my life. My program was choreographed to songs from “The Little Mermaid” soundtrack, and I wore a little blue sparkly dress.
Competing in front of a crowd is a tough thing to do, especially when you’re small and young and everything/everyone looks large and intimidating. However, I learned to face my fears at an early age.
Having to learn and memorize a choreographed program forced me to learn to be disciplined from a young age. When I would learn a new jump or spin I learned that practice makes perfect — I learned to keep trying until I got it right. And quite literally, I learned that when I fall, I need to get up again (even when it really hurt)!
As I got older and got to be a more skilled figure skater, I continued to compete. The practice time increased and I had to work harder. I learned how important a good work ethic is. Though I loved to skate, it was definitely hard work. Since I was older and doing more difficult moves and skills, I would get much more nervous to compete in front of a crowd. There was more of a chance of falling in front of the judges and the audience. However, at this point in my life, skating taught me not to let my nerves get the best of me — sometimes I had to learn this the hard way.
When I would compete, sometimes I would win a gold, silver or bronze medal, and other times I wouldn’t earn one at all. This taught me to be a graceful winner and to be a good loser. I learned not to gloat when it felt great to be on the highest podium with a gold medal, and I learned not to cry and pout when I had to watch my competitors on the podium — I learned to be poised either way.
When I reached the eighth grade I was practicing early in the mornings before school. My mom would wake me up before 5 a.m. and drive me to the skating rink. We would meet my Russian coach, Baiba, and get a solid practice in before I had to leave for school. By the time I met my friends at school, I had already practiced for hours — longer than they had even been out of bed. This taught me dedication more than anything. Some mornings it was extremely difficult (and I’m sure torturous for my mom) to get out of bed and skate, but this taught me to be disciplined and honor my commitments.
I would skate before school, and go to soccer practice after school, though I wasn’t allowed to go to soccer practice if I didn’t finish my homework. I’m sure I despised this rule when I was younger, but thinking back on it now, I’m glad my parents enforced it. It taught me that being smart and devoted to academics is most important. Also, having to balance two sports, schoolwork and friends made me well-rounded.
All of the lessons I learned from figure skating helped to shape the person I am today. It helped me to be disciplined and dedicated, to build a strong work ethic, to face my fears and be well-rounded. I am lucky to have learned these traits from a young age, because they are certainly still beneficial now, and will continue to be as I grow older.