Blog: "Ice skating gives me a sense of achievement"
Activity Alliance features a blog post every Friday which shares the experiences of disabled people involved in sport and exercise at all levels. Today, we hear from ice skater, Vicki Smart. In her blog she shares with us how ice skating has helped her socially and physically, and most importantly the life lessons this activity has taught her.
Hello my name is Vicki Smart, I'm 29 and I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. My main hobby is ice skating, specifically learning to figure skate. I am visually impaired, my main sight condition is optic nerve atrophy. I also have nystagmus and reduced peripheral vision.
I skate around three times a week, with various people. I have regular one to one lessons, but outside those times I skate with a wide range of people - there's a real sense of community at the rink, so everyone supports each other.
I actually started skating when I was around six years old, I lived down in Essex at the time and was taken for lessons at the old Romford ice rink. I didn't get very far, I remember the groups being very large and there just wasn't the time for the coaches to work with me, and help me find my balance on the ice. Eventually I moved away and for a long time I didn't skate. Then Uttoxeter opened around six years ago, and I've been skating ever since.
The thing I most enjoy about being active is the sense of achievement when you step off the ice at the end of a challenging session. My legs are aching, my brain is full of new techniques and information, but I’ve got a massive smile on my face.
Skating has helped me massively in my day to day life. It's helped my balance, and my spatial awareness, and socially it's introduced me to a whole new group of friends. I think the biggest thing though, is the lessons in life I've learned on the ice. How to get back up after a fall or knock back, how to set goals and work towards them, and how to work alongside people from a range of different backgrounds. It's only when you step off the ice, that you realise you're not just learning about skating, you're learning lessons in life too.
When I'm on the ice, I'm relaxed. You can't skate with other things on your mind, skating has to have your full, undivided attention, and that can be wonderful to leave daily life behind, get to the rink, put your skates on, and just glide. My favourite thing is being the only one on the ice, when it's quiet and all I can hear is the sound of my blades on the ice, especially during edge work, where there's a satisfying crunch sound as the blade bites the ice. Afterwards, I'm tired, but happy. Whatever worries I've had in the day have disappeared, and all is well.
The support of my family and friends is so important. I could not have achieved what I have without their support. I am part of a wonderful skating community, who understand the issues my visual impairment can sometimes cause, and they are so understanding and supportive. They look out for me, sometimes literally! When I went off last April, to do my first ever competition away from our rink, all my friends, skaters or not, were behind me, as well as my family. Having a strong support network is so important, when times are tough you need them to build you up, and when things go well it's wonderful to share that with everyone.
I've got a busy couple of months ahead, I'm off to Glasgow again in April, for the Inclusive Skating International and British Championships. There is also my rink's Easter show, and spin, spiral jump and artistic competitions as well. So I've got plenty to work towards and to keep me busy!
My advice to other disabled people who are wanting to be active but not sure where to start is - don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something because you have a disability, if you want to try a particular activity, go for it. There are so many activities out there, you just have to give it a go. You might have to try a few, but I'm a firm believer that there's something out there for everyone, you just have to find your passion.
You can watch one of Vicki’s performances in Glasgow below.
Follow Vicki’s ice skating journey via her Twitter page: @EyeSeeTheIce