The article “USST, NCAA butt heads over NorAm schedule” is nothing new to me, but the arrogance surrounding Tiger Shaw is appalling. As a current NCAA athlete, my ability to compete in the NorAm circuit has been completely diminished due to race conflicts. While that is clearly an issue, what I find to be the biggest problem is Tiger Shaw’s ideal route to the U.S. Ski Team.

As someone who dedicated and sacrificed so much to follow this ideal pipeline to reach the U.S. Ski Team only to be turned down for really no apparent reason is aggravating. When I was 16 years old, I moved to Park City Utah to attend the U.S. Team Academy and train with the National Training Group. My parents and I were sold on the fact that this was a great opportunity for me to reach the USST.

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The next two years were mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. The way many of us athletes were treated by coaches was borderline abuse. I remember being on the phone with my parents crying almost every single day about wanting to quit skiing all together because of the things coaches were saying to me. I remember showing interest in attending college and being shut down by my coaches saying “you’ll never make it by going to college.”

Once I graduated from Team Academy and was dropped from the National Training Group, I made the decision to take a post-grad year with Team Summit over going straight to college in order to continue my pursuit of making the USST. My first post-grad year was plagued with injuries and illness so I decided to take another year with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. My second post-grad year I podiumed in a NorAm, was ranked top 100 in the world in GS, competed in World Juniors and placed 14th in GS at World Juniors making me the top North American girl.

Despite all of these achievements, I was not placed onto the USST. I felt defeated, as Shaw states I was “dedicating your life to these goals,” of reaching the ski team, yet was dismissed when I should have rightfully made it.

Bias has also been a big part of the USST. My family’s finances have limited my ability to afford everything the USST had asked of me to do, and I believe this may have played a role in not being named to the team that second post-grad year.

After not being named, I made the decision to go to college. For the last three years I have been competing for the University of Vermont. The college circuit has played such a positive impact on my skiing career and personal life. While personally I haven’t reached the skiing success I used to, I have seen others excel after coming to college. Those who believe college isn’t a viable stepping stone to reaching a national team and eventually the World Cup circuit clearly are not paying close enough attention to the NCAA circuit.

Change within the NGB needs to happen and hopefully my story goes to show that Shaw’s proposed “best route” is not the answer.

— Rachael DesRochers
University of Vermont

Editor’s note: This letter was submitted in response to the article USST, NCAA butt heads over NorAm schedule. Have some thoughts on this? Send a letter to the editor. If it’s good, we’ll publish it.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Rachael, your perspective is spot on. While recruiting for the alpine program at the University of Utah (1976-81) we often came across American athletes with similar goals. “I’m not ready for college, I want to actively pursue my USST dreams.”

    Maturity and physical growth can be attained at the university setting without compromising these dreams. If anything, you get to set two dreams: Pursuing ski racing and stimulating your mental growth as well. Someday down the road, you’ll look back at your career and feel much better about who you have become. You’ve made the right choice. Unfortunately, gold fever for Tiger has diminished any common sense in his decision making process.

  2. Rachael congrats as I am impressed with your willingness to stand tall with your letter/article! Your experience isn’t new and unfortunately the playbook followed by the current leadership of US skiing appears similar to all past leadership. Please forgive what I am about to write below because at the end of the day this is life and it isn’t always fair. My engaged history with ski racing dates back to the 80s when I began to follow this saga and athletes I supported couldn’t overcome the symbiotic money and political hurdles. The complaint in the late 80s and into the 90s was similar. Athletes from more well off families made it on the team and “got their jackets” while in many cases much more talented athletes were passed over or pushed out. These much more talented athletes left due to the lack of funding and political hurdles(think donor dollars) within the USSA machine while most of the moneyed athletes peaked without ever reaching “their” goals.

    But don’t feel too bad as Mr Shaw only needs to look at the outsized compensation of Mr Marolt(imagine making over $700k as CEO for a non-profit!) for his playbook for success. With CEO compensation like Marolt pulled in versus funding promising athletes from families who cannot pay the entry fee, much less write the all important donor check, US Skiing remains exactly where it belongs. But US Skiing is hopeful for the next outlier like Darin, Bode, Ted, Lindsey or Mikaela to come along as the US pipeline will NEVER match the alpine nations across the pond until we have athletes from families who’ve truly grinded for every dollar…lets not forget the Mahre boys, Ms McKinney and others too numerous to mention who grinded for everything they achieved without the support of private jets, on staff sports psychiatrists and a want for nothing to fuel their success.

    I’ll leave the NCAA saga for others to opine on but suffice to say the low point kids from across the pond who mostly dominate the NCAA’s are thankful for a system that benefits their needs…and their national teams!

  3. Thank God someone is finally addressing this problem or at least bringing it to light . The U.S is messed up with there ski program . Ussa is a joke while the rest of the world is competing in Fis we fumble around with ussa. Why ? I have more options I’ll keep to myself . College athletes are shunned by the U.S team . Why ? That’s the perfect age and maturity for the circuit .

  4. Rachael You are 100% correct. I am amazed every time America produces a top 30 athlete much less ones that podium and win Olympic medals. No surprise our champions have such short careers. By the time they make it to the top, they are exhausted. It used to be much much worse but still has a long way to go and the past should in no way comfort you. Thank God your generation has kickstarter and gofundme. Keep fighting and only YOU should decide when you are done. So many talented juniors and US skiers have fallen by the wayside prematurely due to so many factors that had nothing to do with their talent or work ethic. Don’t succumb to the politics and egos and wind up looking back at your skiing career as a truncated “coulda been” situation. Keep pushing until YOU are done. You’ve put in too much time and work for that. That’s the healthy strategy. Stick with it, take a breath, think through your schedule, listen to your body and enjoy these years as an adult ski racer. Congrats on your focus and passion!

  5. Well stated and spot-on, particularly the part about the USST favoring athletes from wealthier families. There are numerous athletes on national teams from other countries who have utilized collegiate racing in the U. S. on the way to very successful World Cup careers. That we can’t promote a similar path among our own is inexplicable.

  6. I completely agree with what has been said above regarding the stupidity of the USSA in not allowing American skiers the chance to use the NCAA system to further their careers. We are letting the Europeans do t n our own country, but denying athletes like Rachel the chance to us the American college system, just crazy!

  7. Rachel –

    Another thing that the US Ski team fails to realize is the lifetime value of an education. When one goes the “ideal” route of the team, they could spend years and years paying for their skiing, never to make a substantial profit, losing NCAA eligibility and ultimately limiting themselves educationally. I have a huge problem with the US Ski Team’s inability to work with collegiate athletes because an education, not to mention a scholarship to college, is something that should be prized and highly respected. With all things considered, the USST needs to recognize the error in their logic and the stressful situation they are leaving many athletes in who may end up injured or simply not performing, and are left at age 26-30 with limited employment options due to their lack of education. No respected organization in the world should shun an athlete because they choose the route of getting an education.

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