My daughters feel at home on the ice rink. When the world went on pause back in March everything was different. Their solace on the ice suddenly disappeared. While the world got taken over by the virus, we were all grateful for health and wellness, food security, and family time but missing our everyday routines and fun. These voids got bigger as the virus and time pressed on, and my daughter’s ice skating coach, Sebastian, stepped up to fill a void. He has been an instrumental figure in her athletic development but also her positive outlook, bringing happiness in a dark time. In the spirit of reflecting and giving at the holidays and every day, it makes me extra thankful for this coach making a big difference.
Everyone handles adversity in different ways. Coach Sebastian took the stay-at-home order in stride and turned it into an opportunity. He gave so much of himself to his students, creating a rigorous schedule of off-ice training classes, inviting the skaters to keep up their hard work and maintain muscle memory and develop strength. Coach Sebastian created a group and started texting the group daily competitive challenges to execute and each day there would be anticipation to see who the winner might be. He kept score to motivate everyone, logged weekly bonuses for double point opportunities, and crowned a weekly challenge winner each Monday. That was a big reward and offered bragging rights; however, there were countless rewards that cannot be measured. He kept the skaters active and strong, fostered community when kids were missing their skating family and friends, and inspired and motivated them to do tougher off-ice training, but made it all seem like fun and games.
Coach Sebastian was engaging and managed to get through to the skaters even when on Zoom. He also had a window into our home for the first time, even meeting and getting to know the family dog as he stretched alongside my daughter. She learned for the first time that he, too, had a pet dog and an entire life outside of skating. Being on Zoom with anyone regularly leads to them getting a glance at everyday family interactions but with multiple group classes and private sessions per week he would see what naturally or unnaturally unfolded while on screen. But it only made the bond stronger. And we had a window into his heart. He made himself available for his students during the uncertain times, taking a keen interest in not only their skating progress but their overall well-being. His time and energy and positive vibes reverberated in our heart and home.
Coach pushed our little lady and gave her some tough love, too, teaching her lessons only a true coach can teach while doing so with understanding and compassion for the situation. She got stronger and more confident and would be overjoyed every time she had a class, got constructive feedback, received compliments, or best yet to her, won a challenge. She pushed through all the craziness and learned something new, and saw her coach and friends on the screen alongside her, cheering each other on. It was certainly something she looked forward to daily during quarantine.
Fast forward and we are still in this awful pandemic. NYC schools recently shut down for the first time this school year (but likely not the last), and it was like deja vu. We are entering winter and the holiday season with way too many people suffering in way too many ways. If only we could all have the caring, compassion, giving, and selflessness of Coach Sebastian to count on. He has gone above and beyond as a mentor and too good to be true person. While things have opened back up slowly and safely and adjusted to this new normal, even heading back to the ice skating rink, whether he knows it or not, Coach Sebastian has created a memorable and enduring bright spot during these times and will always be a hero in my daughter’s eyes.