Life lessons from roller skating camp

 In the late 70s, when my school-aged friends and I began making appearances at our local skating rink, we were wide-eyed innocent girls: dressed in Mork and Mindy t-shirts, silky pastel shorts and striped up-to-the-knee tube socks. Visions of coolness.

The lights were low and magical colors drifted in and out. The music was loud, suggestive and enticing. And this was what we experienced in our goofy heads before even entering the doors of the rink.

I don’t think I put on a pair of roller skates until I was 10 or 12. No reason to do so until the boys showed up and “couple skating” was the word around town. That secret code was what the neighborhood kids were whispering, and everyone hoped their parents who were dropping them off at the rink wouldn’t understand the magnitude of it all. Of course, all that entailed was girls and boys sitting on opposite sides of the rink during a few heart-racing songs and watching six couples skate; and perhaps, yes, perhaps , even hold hands. Scandalous.

Hopping into the DeLorean and dialing the flux capacitor forward to 2012, I see our local elementary schools and PTO’s frequently hosting skating parties for school functions. If kindergartners want to be included, they need some skating skills. Since many of the neighborhood parents didn’t want to drop off young daughters at the rink for some old fashion “couple skating” practices, roller skating camp seemed like a harmless substitute.

A group of parental friends shuffled as many kids as we could safely fit in our minivans, decked out with grande cups of coffee and the morning paper. This was going to be fun for everyone, no matter what the kids said. We were ready to let our children fall down, learn from the pros and avoid getting drawn in by the sad cries when our children hollered they wanted to go home.

After one of the morning practices, the professionals decided the children were ready to take on music while skating. Multi-tasking. No gum chewing yet, just small steps. A gentleman who resembled the DJ at my local rink back in the 70s stepped up to the turntable (do they still call it that?) and leaned into the microphone.

“Kids, you gotta want it. You can’t be afraid. You gotta belieeeve! Skating is like that,” he smoothly begged the vertically challenged crowd on wheels. He continued with his best impression of a voiceover announcer for Tab cola, “If you don’t fall every once in awhile, you’re not trying hard enough. Skating is like that!”

Simultaneously, the adults in my group realized this disc jockey extraordinaire was a guru, a tall-haired Dalai Lama. Not only did he know how to teach kids to skate, but he had the answers to life’s questions. Perhaps all of them. Who knew such treasures could be found in a Kansas City roller rink?

He continued inspiring these kids to shine, “Encourage your friends, but don’t hold onto them because you don’t want to pull them down. Skating is like that.”

This “Anthony Robbins” not only was a fine educator, a motivational speaker, but he moved my daughter to confidence on eight wheels while chanting to herself, “I think I can do it. I know I can do it. I will do it!”

My little engine that could…Can , thanks to you, Mr. Skating Man! And I say to you, thanks. You’re a vision of coolness!