I was talking recently with Darcy Norman, the new Director of Athlete Performance at Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy about what it takes to be the best ski racer you can be. Darcy has been involved high-level sports for his entire life including as a ski racer and ski coach back in the day. Most recently, he has worked with some of the best soccer teams in the world including the 2010 World Cup champion German national team as well as Bayern Munchen and AS Roma, two of the top clubs in the world. We were talking about how ski programs can assess how committed racers are. We discussed a rating scale in which racers could rate themselves. We also thought of having coaches rate their athletes. But we decided that the best way to see how committed ski racers are is to see what ski racers do.
It’s been both of our observations that really committed ski racers don’t just do what most other ski racers do. It reminded me of one of my favorite sayings (which I invented), “If you want to ski like everyone else, be like everyone else,” in other words, do what everyone else is doing.
But, if you’re a really committed ski racer, you do what most other ski racers don’t do. Here’s a list of the “devil is in the details” items that most young racers don’t consistently do:
- Set outcome and process goals
- Have a detailed plan on how to achieve their goals
- Focus on the process more than results
- Know their strengths and weaknesses
- Focus on their weaknesses
- Watch their nutrition
- Go to sleep at a decent hour
- Continue to stay focused and work hard when conditioning or training gets tiring, painful, boring, or monotonous
- Have a training routine that they use before every training and race run to ensure consistent and total preparation
- Do recovery after training
- Tune their skis every day
- Keep a journal or training log
- Control their technology use (yes, too much tech is bad!)
- Lead a consistent life
- Be a student of our sport
- Do mental imagery off-snow at least three times a week
- Embrace adversity
- Stay positive and motivated when struggling
- Anything else that might impact your ski racing
And being a really committed ski racer doesn’t mean you do these things because your coaches tell you to or because your training group is doing it. Instead, you do it because you know it’s important to achieve your ski racing goals. And you never forget just like you never forget to go to conditioning or on-snow training. Why? Because it’s just what you do to be your best.
So, are you a really committed ski racer? If so, you are on a very good road, so stay on it. If you’re not, it’s not too late. With the winter upon us and race season already underway for some and soon to be for most, here’s my challenge to you: Make a list of everything that might impact your ski racing (you can use my list above, but I might have missed some items). Then, put a check next to every item that you are already doing consistently (occasionally doesn’t count). Then, put an X next to those that you aren’t doing consistently. From that X list, first, make a commitment to doing them (that’s where really committed ski racers start). Then, find a time in your day in which you will do those really committed things (if you don’t, you’ll forget). Finally, because talk is cheap, do those really committed things every opportunity you have (that’s where really committed racers finish).
Being really committed doesn’t mean that you are so focused on your ski racing goals all of the time that you’re not allowed to have some fun by staying up late periodically, checking your social media, or having some junk food every once in a while. At the same time, you also realize that it may be fun to do those things, but it’s far more fun to ski fast and achieve your ski racing goals.
I can’t guarantee that if you do the things that really committed ski racers do, you’ll beat those who aren’t as committed; there are just too many other factors that influence our sport to make such a promise. But I can guarantee that you will become the best ski racer you can be. That may be skiing for your high school team, regional FIS races, competing in college, earning a USST jacket, or winning an Olympic medal. I can also say that, whatever level of ski racing you reach, if you’re a really committed ski racer, you will experience great enjoyment and satisfaction in your journey. You will have no regrets or have to ask yourself, “I wonder what could have been?” And you will learn some amazing life lessons and skills that you can then transfer into other aspects of your life where I am confident you will find great success. Because it’s really committed people who find success, happiness, and meaning in their lives. And that, my friends, is the ultimate goal for why you should ski race.