Detours – why getting there is half the fun…

Last Christmas, as an after thought, I bought my 10 year old son a somewhat crappy skateboard as a sort of oversized stocking stuffer.  I have no idea why I bought it nor did I have any clear indication that he’d like it.  And, in fact, when he opened this present he literally said “why did you get this for me???”.  He was genuinely puzzled and freely admitted he had absolutely no interest in skateboarding.  The next day, for the heck of it, we went to a covered garage with plenty of smooth concrete so he could test out his new skateboard.  My son put his leading foot on the skateboard, pushed off and, I swear to you, you could see a visible “Aha, where have you been all my life” moment as it happened.  He loves skateboarding, he is OBSESSED by it.  In the short space of 5 months he has racked up hours and hours of practice, innumerable  bruises and a growing number of tricks in his repertoire.

As any skateboarder, on parent there of, can tell you , the absolute foundation, the bedrock upon which modern street skating is built upon is a maneuver called the Ollie.  The Ollie is sort of hard to describe and, trust me, much harder to master.  The skater basically pings the back of the skateboard off the ground, jumps and simultaneously leads the front the skateboard with his lead foot so it levels off and creates “jumping motion”.  This allows one to jump onto obstacles or, even cooler, off of obstacles.  It’s an absolute bitch.  There are no short cuts, if you want to Ollie, you must pay your dues.  I have played a number of sports but I’d be hard pressed to find an example of a movement that is as timing and muscle-memory dependent as an Ollie.  As you might imagine, the past few months I have seen my son try to Ollie thousands of times.

Fast forward a few months, hours upon hours of practice, some broken then upgraded skateboarding hardware – my son can Ollie.  He ollie’s onto things, and off….and does all the other tricks he has already mastered and others that he  continues to master.  No other skill in any other team sport he’s played has been so hard won, nor so self-taught.  The victory, then, is that much sweeter for being so personal

Flashback many decades, I walk into a karate dojo at roughly the same age as my son when he discovered skateboarding.  This was the late 1970s when absolute ignorance regarding the martial arts reigned.  I went to the lesson as a lark, but I can tell you the “aha moment” is real.  I felt it, and was absolutely hooked for a numbers of years.  Almost nobody understood what I was doing, or why I was doing it…until such a time that I became demonstrably good enough to win competitions and garner other residual sorts of attention.  I realized that the desire to learn and to get better at this passion meant that other people would notice, as an almost unintended consequence.  Then you become known as the person who does that thing, and either you are comfortable with it, or not.  In this example,  I eventually succumbed to physical and, I suspect,  a morale burnout.  I regret doing that, perhaps a more mature person would have dealt with it better.

Fast forward a number of years – my son is happy with team sports but really finds himself, expresses himself with his skateboard.  His sister, my daughter,  has been competing for many years in international gymnastic competitions.  She is, at this actual moment, traveling to a competition in Northern Italy.  I remember her “aha” moment as well, when I brought her to gymnastics lesson when she was  7.  It was plainly obvious then, as it was with me and my son years later, that this was “her thing”.  When I was competing in Karate tournaments or boxing rings, I always had an opponent. In sports like Gymnastics, you are the only factor, the only point of judgment.  I respect the guts it takes to get up in front of hundreds of spectators.  She handles it far better than I or her brother would.

So, yeah, I powerlift.  Trust me, nobody is more surprised than me.   I love getting stronger, I love the challenge and difficulty.  I never would have predicted this but, then again, you can’t predict “aha” moments.  The trick is in appreciating the detour.

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