One of the most challenging parts for all of us at this point in the season is making sure we have our introductions and finishing poses down pat. When we learn a new dance, we typically learn the pattern of the feet first, then the arm movements are added, and finally the beginning and ending poses are inserted. Considering we have many dozens of dances, it can be hard to keep them all straight. Often our opening pose has some version of us leaning slightly one way or the other, hand on the brim of our cowboy hat and eyes cast down. Once we are told the name of the upcoming dance we are expected to get into our pose and hold it.
Most often it is less than a minute before we hear the music signalling us to begin, but sometimes it can feel like an eternity. When that happens, we can be seen sneaking peeks as we look around to make sure we aren’t the only person frozen in place in a pose! We know we really shouldn’t be doing this; true professionals would simply wait as long as it took. But we get antsy, and maybe even start doubting ourselves and we just can’t seem to help it!
This week, during an early morning performance downtown, I was holding one of our poses and saying, ‘Don’t peek’ to myself. Suddenly, I was reminded that this is something I have thought many times in my life.
Don’t peek. Or more accurately, don’t peak!
We all know someone, who despite their age, revels in stories of the time when they were in high school, or at least of a time when they were much younger. This clearly seems to be a time when they believe they were at their best. Their peak. While I love to hear the stories, when I don’t hear any follow up, any more recent anecdotes, I can’t help to feel like it seems like such a waste to peak so young. When I was teaching, I would remind students who didn’t feel like they were fitting into the most popular groups, that peaking at the age of thirteen or fourteen wasn’t really as glamourous as it might appear. It’s ok not to peak yet, I would tell them. You have a whole life waiting for you to step into.
This week, Hayley Wickenheiser was named as one of the six athletes who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.
Wickenheiser began playing minor hockey on outdoor rinks in her hometown of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan when she was five years old. Because there were no girls’ teams for her to play on, she tucked her hair up under her helmet and played exclusively on boys' teams until she was 13. Not all of the players or their parents were supportive. In fact, many people felt she should accept that she had gone as far as she could. They believed she had reached her peak. Hayley mustn’t have been convinced.
Hayley Wickenheiser was named to Canada’s national Women’s team at 15. This could easily have been the peak of her career and not one of us would have criticized her.
She could have believed she had peaked.
She was the first woman to play full-time professional hockey in a position other than goalie and in 2003, Wickenheiser became the first woman to score a goal playing in a men's semi-professional league.
Still, no sign of peaking.
She became captain of National teams that won Olympic gold in 2010, as well as world titles in 2007 and 2012. During her 23 years playing for Canada, Wickenheiser scored 168 goals and assisted on 211 more in 276 games while winning four Olympic gold medals and seven world championships.
Still Hayley Wickenheiser wasn’t ready to peak.
She announced her retirement in January, 2017, after playing her last game April 4, 2016, at the women’s world championship.
Finally, we thought, she had reached her peak.
Then, on August 23, 2018, Wickenheiser was hired as the Assistant Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
When the announcement of her headlining the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class was made this week, Lanny McDonald called her. Why does it not surprise any of us that she could not accept the call as she had been sequestered doing mandatory medical school course work at the University of Calgary?
Hayley Wickenheiser is clearly not your average Canadian. What she is, however, is a wonderful example of what it means to not peak. Or at least not to believe that the peak she is standing on is not the only, or tallest peak there could be. Countless times in her life she could have easily declared she had ‘made it’. That she had reached all of her goals. That she had peaked. None of us would have said she didn’t deserve it. None of us would have resented her wanting to stop at the peak to just take in the view. But she always seems to have her eyes focused on another amazing challenge, a peak just off in the distance, reminding each of us that it is not too late to reach some of the peaks we dream of.
Most of us will never be professional athletes, nor will we be medical doctors. Some of us may have our best professional years behind us. This does not mean there are not more peaks awaiting our gaze. We might open our eyes to the beautiful peaks of wisdom, compassion and friendship. We may climb the peak of a new hobby or interest. Or perhaps become familiar with the peak of grace.
I’ll bet Hayley Wickenheiser has some incredible stories to tell of her teenage years. I know she must have some from her Olympic days. And I’ll also bet she’s creating some equally exciting stories as she pursues her career in medicine. And in her role as a mother. And I’ll also bet when her coaches and professors told her to keep her eye on a certain thing, she didn’t peek either.
When our dance instructor, Reba J, tells us to not peek, I can almost hear a second whisper, ‘Rock this performance but please don’t think this is your peak, my friends. There is much, much more to learn and so much more fun up ahead.’
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What’s my next peak?’
Elizabeth is a certified, professional Life and Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to discover your next peak.