Learning to Play Again.

One of the great things about coaching Mighty Mites is that I get to play.
 
I have a habit of taking an activity that is supposed to be nothing but fun and, through careful analysis and quantification, turn it into work. I'm still having my version of fun, but the playful aspect is often excluded. I stop doing things just for the hell of it, and contemplate the risk/benefit ratios before diving in.
 
Sunday on Alyeska's North Face I led my little pack of Mighty Mites down a steep, bumpy pitch, yelling "poof!" in a high-pitched squeal as I popped over each soft bump. Instead of focusing on the steepness of the terrain and their own pre-conceived notions of what the name "North Face" represented, the kids followed along and squealed "poof!" right along with me. Later I figured that this exercise covered all sorts of mental and physical skills that I could build on later, but for the moment we were playing. We made a game of looking for the best "poof!-bumps" to hit. Kids were throwing themselves down slopes I've seen advanced skiers lock up in fear on, because it was in the context of fun. 
 
The skills on display weren't text-book perfect, but the point was to engage the space between their ears before we refine the movements. There's plenty of time to do things that don't involve giggling, and instilling an "I can do that" mentality is far more important than their shoulder angle relative to the hill's slope.
 
Slowly I'm learning to have fun again. I'm re-discovering parts of the hill that I haven't visited in over a decade. I look for excuses to avoid running gates so I can get the kids out to play where the snow is good. Every day we start with a few runs to get warmed up, one "big" run to stretch their capabilities, and then one soundly in their comfort zone so we end on a high note.
 
After each session, I return the kids to their parents. Many of them look at me like I'm a madman as I recount our day's adventures. The kids nod, grin, and giggle to back me up on my wild tales, which seems to quiet their parents concerns about entrusting their progeny to a person whose only visible indication of qualification is an orange Arcteryx jacket with "COACH" embroidered on it. To my credit, I haven't lost a kid. That I know of. Yet. This season. Give me time.
 
Until the Alyeska Mighty Mites organization realizes their colossal lapse in judgment, we're going to focus on fun first. Actually, we're going to focus on me having fun. Like this blog, it's all about me. If the kids aren't dead or otherwise maimed and have fun, we'll consider it a secondary benefit.
 
It's a shame that I ever forgot such an important skill as how to goof around. I used to be quite good at it.

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