Last weekend was the third time my son, Austin, stepped out on his rollerblades. His first two times were frustrating for him and the start of our rollerblading activity last weekend was no different. “I cannot get my feet to do what I want them to do,” he said before the tears began to flow. He wanted to give up, he wanted to go home and watch TV, Austin wanted to get back in his comfort zone.
Learning how to do something can be challenging, we want to be good at what we are learning, we don’t want to fail. This is where feedback becomes so valuable. While I think, at times, it can be harder coaching your child than teaching students at school, I needed to find a way to give my son the confidence to persevere with learning to rollerblade. I found a spot where Austin could try to skate unsupported, he shuffled up and back finding his balance. After a few attempts, no falls and no tears, he had enough. Wanting to prolong my son’s time engaged in physical activity, I pulled out my iPhone and began to video him. Austin’s interest completely changed, he wanted the feedback. So, up and back along the path he went and each time we would review the video. I would set him a goal at the start of each interval and the we would analyse the video to see if he met the goal.
In the video here, you can see in the first clip, Austin would barely lift his feet, shuffling his feet back and forward getting a little bit of forward momentum. In the second clip, foot lift can be clearly seen with Austin beginning to glide his skate onto the surface and move much quicker. One and half hours of complete engagement passed to the point where Austin was now prepared to go down gentle slopes, keeping his balance.
My input into the learning was limited, I gave him three small goals, each one applied at a different phase as he learned. The first goal was to lift his feet slightly off the ground, heel first, before placing the front of the skate back onto the ground. I then noticed that one leg was doing most of the work, so I asked Austin to make sure that both legs do the work. The last goal I set him was to lean slightly forward, particularly when going downhill. I would ask Austin to tell me what he saw in each video and then ask him what he thought he now needed to do. We then revisited his comment about he feet not doing what they were supposed to do. His words were now markedly different, “I’m learning to skate, Dad.”