Wow! The letters regarding college ski racing and the US Ski Team have been amazing to read. The outpouring of emotion and passion from the heart of young athletes is awesome. I encourage more young athletes to speak out about their experiences.
I am a 40-year full time instructor and coach. I have worn many hats in ski racing, including being a junior racer, coach, ski foundation BOD member, volunteer, club creator, fan and last and most important, current athlete parent. I believe the issue raised regarding the scheduling of Nor-Am races and US Ski Team priorities is symptomatic of a larger issue in ski racing in the USA. The problem is that amateur and junior racing in the USA functions under the auspices of a professional sports team, the US Ski Team.
Just like any other professional sports team, the US Ski Team’s goal and survival depend on winning. This is a totally appropriate attitude and focus for named US Ski Team athletes, regardless of age. The issue I feel is that intensity too often permeates junior and amateur racing at every age and level in the USA. This is unfortunate and inappropriate.
Most junior sports are not controlled by a professional sports team. What would junior football be like if controlled by the Cowboys or baseball if dictated by the Yankees? I believe this arrangement in ski racing creates too much emphasis on winning, performance and development at the junior levels. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a coach say something like, “we need to do X with these 12-year old’s so they will be ready for the World Cup”. It makes me want to scream. Please, can we re-evaluate our mission in ski racing and stop prioritizing the US Ski Team’s success over junior ski racers having fun, learning to ski, participating and experiencing the thrills and lessons of the sport?
The US Ski Team’s influence of scheduling Nor-Am races prioritizing US Team athletes over college racers seems shortsighted and it is just another symptom of the illness I have described. American college racers are USSA members. I believe US Skiing owes EVERY member equal consideration in planning and programming. If US Skiing and the US Ski Team are going to govern ski racing in the USA, and reap the financial rewards of that fact, then I believe they have an equal responsibility to every USSA member regardless of performance level, status or age. The Yankees and the Cowboys have the luxury of 100% focus on winning. US Skiing, governing an amateur junior sport, should not conduct themselves in that manner with any member other than with US Ski Team athletes and coaches. My appeal to US Skiing, the US Ski Team and it’s leadership is to take a look in the mirror and ask, “Can we do better for ALL of the ski racers in the USA?”
— Scott Mathers
This letter was submitted in response to the article USST, NCAA butt heads over NorAm schedule and others from this series. Have some thoughts on this? Send a letter to the editor. If it’s good, we’ll publish it.
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