Image Credit: Susie Theis

It’s one thing to say that you want to be the best ski racer you can be. It’s an entirely different thing to actually do the things necessary to achieve that goal. In other words, talk is cheap! You have to want it and you have to want it bad! Why? Because the chances are that you have a lot of forces in your life that don’t always align with your ski racing goals and can, in fact, actively pull you away from them. Even worse, they can actually hurt your efforts to accomplish your goals. These conflicting forces might include wanting to stay out late with your friends, eating a bunch of junk food, spending time staring at a screen, skipping workouts, the list goes on. When faced with these options, you have to make a choice about what’s most important to you.

Forks in the Road

I call these choices “forks in the road,” in which you have the option of two or more directions you can take. In fact, you are faced with potentially meaningful forks in the road every day in your ski racing and your life:

  • “Should I do my warm-up before training?”
  • “Should I go to bed early tonight?”
  • “Should I eat that cinnamon bun before my race?”
  • “Should I put my phone away, so I can focus on my competitive preparations?”
  • “Should I do my homework now?”
  • “Should I tune my skis for training tomorrow?”

There are many influences that can determine which fork in the road you take; for example, fatigue, pain, boredom, equally or more attractive alternatives, and a multitude of distractions that now inhabit the lives of ski racers.

There are also bigger forks in the road at various times in your ski racing life:

  • “Do I want to continue to ski race?”
  • “Should I attend a ski academy?”
  • “Do I want to compete in college?”
  • “Do I take a gap year?”

These “existential” questions are impacted by some of the immediate forces I described above, but also by bigger concerns including your current ranking, your developmental trajectory, what schools you want to attend, and, of course, whether you or your family can afford to take a particular fork in the road.

There are no right-or-wrong answers to any of these questions. The so-called correct answer depends on your values, interests, and goals. At those many forks in the road that you face every day, you must decide what is important to you. You must look at each fork and decide which one you will take. The motivation you bring to your sport, your commitment and determination to achieve your ski racing goals, the priority that you place on those goals, and the competing forces acting as a siren’s call for your attention, time, and energy will dictate which road you take and whether you ultimately accomplish your goals.

Efforts = Goals?

An important question for you to ask yourself as you are faced with these forks in the road is whether your efforts are consistent with your goals. In other words, are you putting forth enough effort to achieve your ski racing goals? I see a lot of young ski racers with big goals, but when I ask them whether their efforts equal their goals, few are willing to raise their hands. But one thing is for sure; if your efforts aren’t in line with your goals, you will not accomplish them. You have two choices, either increase your efforts to match your goals or reduce your goals to match your effort. Again, there is no clear fork to take here, just the fork that you choose.

The Question to Ask

If you have made a true commitment to becoming the best ski racer you can be and are willing to “put your money where your mouth is,” then when faced with difficult forks in the road, you can ask yourself one simple question: “Will it help me ski faster?” This question takes all of the complexities of the many competing forces and boils them down to one simple notion that lies at the heart of being the best ski racer you can be. This question also provides a clear distinction when you are tempted by other forces in your lives, most notably, screen time, sleep, and nutrition.

Once you’ve made a real commitment to your ski racing, this “will it help me ski faster?” question filters all of the forks in the road you face and makes your choice of the fork to take abundantly clear.

Especially for young racers who are still figuring out their priorities and their commitments, one of the most common responses I hear when they are faced with a fork in the road is: “I don’t feel like it today.” This reaction often comes when they are confronted with a fork in the road between short-term fun and long-term commitment to our sport. I hear this when racers are required to choose whether to take extra training runs, get in additional days on snow during the off-season prep period, when they are tired and aren’t in the mood to work out, and when they would like to run around the hotel with their friends the night before a race. Each of these situations is a test of racers’ commitment to their ski racing.

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

-Jonathan Field, 5-time martial arts world champion

It’s Not Just Racers’ Commitment

As the saying goes, “It takes a village,” and that applies to ski racing as well. When ski racers make a commitment to our sport, they’re not the only ones making a commitment. Most notably, their parents are also making a significant commitment of time, energy, money, and sometimes making big sacrifices in their own lives like moving to the mountains or separating from spouses and other children. This commitment from parents makes the ongoing commitment of young racers especially important. For sure, parents don’t always feel like writing big checks, waking up at 5:30am to drive their kids to early-bird training, and tuning their kids’ skis, but they do it anyway because they want to support their children’s passion for something that is as positive and healthy as ski racing. In turn, young ski racers need to reciprocate in a similarly committed fashion by making choices that also best support their ski racing goals. Without an alignment of commitment between racers and their parents, there are going to be some very frustrated parents and some very unhappy racers. At these forks in the road, racers should always go back to the basic question I suggested that they ask first: “Will it help me ski faster?” Then, when they take the good road, everyone wins.

Want to make get your mind in the best shape of your ski racing life during the prep period? Take a look at my online mental training courses for ski racers, coaches, and parents.

Article Tags: Dispatches - Sports Ed, Top Story

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Jim Taylor
Contributor
- Jim Taylor, Ph.D., competed internationally while skiing for Burke Mountain Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado. Over the last 30 years, he has worked with the U.S. and Japanese Ski Teams, many World Cup and Olympic racers, and most of the leading junior race programs in the U.S. and Canada. He is the creator of the Prime Ski Racing series of online courses and the author of Train Your Mind for Athletic Success: Mental Preparation to Achieve Your Sports Goals. To learn more or to contact Jim, visit drjimtaylor.com
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