Amazing Kids! Magazine

If at First You Don’t Succeed

By Julia Arscott, age 14, New Jersey, USA


“Are you excited to meet your new teacher?” Mom asked.

I shrugged, tying my laces. We were sitting outside the ice rink, getting ready for my first ice-skating lesson. At the time, I was only eight years old. In a few minutes, I would meet someone who would change my life for years to come, but I had no idea about that yet. I was just worried about how I would stay on my feet on the ice.

“What do you think she’ll be like?” my sister said from the bench next to me. Again, I shrugged.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” I said.

“Aren’t you excited to meet her?” she asked.

I thought for a moment. “I guess so, but I’m much more excited to learn the cool tricks.”

“Not today,” my mom said. “Today you’re only learning the basics.”

“But the basics are so booooooring!” I whined, drawing out the word.

“Well, everybody starts somewhere. Now hurry up, or you’re going to be late for your first lesson.”

I quickly finished tying my skates and stood up. My legs wobbled on the thin stilts, holding my arms out so that I wouldn’t lose my balance. I wasn’t even on the ice yet, and I had already almost fallen. Great, I thought. As I teetered towards the doors of the rink, my eyes shone with excitement. I had been waiting for this day for a long time, and now I would finally learn to ice skate. My mind raced with the possibilities – spins, figure eights, pivots, who knows? One day, you might even see me competing for gold in the Olympics!

However, my fantasies came to a halt as I took my first step on the ice. Turns out, skating is much harder than it looks. My feet were sliding everywhere. Any time I would try to move, I would stumble and catch myself moments before I made contact with the ice. My stomach knotted, and my hands felt hot inside of my gloves. I shakily made my way to the side of the rink and regained my composure as best as I could. Still hanging on to the wall, I joined my sister and the rest of the group for the beginning of the lesson.

To my dismay, none of the people in my lesson group needed to hang on to the wall, and they were all a few years older than me. The butterflies in my stomach grew. I heard a voice coming from my right. Surprised, I turned to look at the source.

“Good morning everyone!” a young woman beamed.

The first thing I noticed about her was her long, stilt-like legs. Although she was almost twice my height, she didn’t intimidate me in the least – she almost had a comforting aura to her. Her chestnut-colored hair was fastened into a tight, neat bun, and she looked as excited as I was.

“My name is Laura, and, as you’ve probably guessed, I will be your skating instructor!” The knot in my stomach lessened. “Now, I know you are all probably nervous, but there is no reason to be! Today, we will just be learning some of the basics. First, I will demonstrate skating from one end of the rink to the other, then you all can have a shot at it. Watch closely.” Pushing off on her right skate, she glided to the other end of the room with ease.

How does she make it look so easy? I thought to myself.

Laura turned back to us. “Now it’s your turn! I want you to line up and one by one, skate to the other end of the rink. Take your time.”

The older and more experienced children pushed their way to the front of the line while I shrank to the back, not letting go of the wall. One by one, the children began to skate across the ice. Some of them did it with ease, whereas others had more trouble, but overall, they were all able to do it. As it got closer to my turn, I felt as if I was going to throw up.

There’s no way I can do this. I should just quit, I kept thinking to myself. I couldn’t even stand on the ice by myself, let alone skate across it.

More and more people were already across, and soon, I was the only one left on this side. It was my turn. I looked across the rink. Although it was only a distance of maybe 6 feet, probably less, it seemed like miles. My knees began to shake, and I was frozen. My teacher, seeing my distress, skated over to me and put her hand on my shoulder.

“What’s wrong?” she said, concerned.

“I can’t do it,” I mumbled, my face hot.

“Yes, you can. First, you need to let go of the wall.” Her smile was so genuine that I almost believed her.

“But what if I fall?” I asked.

At this, the grin she had seconds earlier was wiped off her face. She looked at me sternly in the face and said, “Listen. You cannot be afraid of falling, because if you never fall, you will never improve. When skating, you will fall many, many times – and trust me, I know. I still fall to this day – professionals still fall to this day. But you need to get back up and try again. That is the only way you will get better.”

I looked at her. Was that really true? Did professionals really fall?

She must have sensed my disbelief, because she said, “Let me tell you something my parents taught me. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Have you heard that before?”

I shook my head.

“Well, it means to never give up. Now, try again.”

After that, I never missed a lesson.