Recently I was at a Christmas party that was filled with enthusiastic, well intentioned and successful group of parents who happen to be raising ski racers. Their desire to soak up knowledge and advice from me (I know...what were they thinking!) was quite astounding. They asked questions such as, "Is it always this hard (referring to their kids' struggles)? How to help them through it? How to keep up their kids' motivation? Is it possible for them to balance school work and ski racing?"
This spawned the idea for this article. Parents, do not fret, for even if your child doesn't make it to the Olympics, they will have taken with them a few good life lessons from their time on the ski hill.
Many would argue that for something to be a life lesson, it has be hard to endure and even harder to overcome. If that's the case, then ski racing (often to its detriment but usually to its benefit) is riddled with life lessons.
Since this is the season for list making, I thought it was only appropriate to tow the party line. Here is my list of 'Life Lessons learned by all Ski Racers':
- Sometimes, you finish last. As perfect as you've always been told you are ... the clock doesn't lie.
- The art of negotiation. Teacher: "You're going to miss how much school?" Racer: "Yes, I know it's a lot, but I swear it's not a vacation!" Stewardess: "You have how much luggage?" Racer: "Yes, I know it's a lot, but I swear there is only one pair of skis in there."
- Grit. No matter how advanced technology gets or how much money you have to throw at mother nature, your toes, hands, and face, will still freeze at -30 degrees Celsius.
- Bigger is better, don't tell my husband but it's true. Ski racing is one of the few sports that encourages both men and women, girls and boys, to eat, be healthy, and be strong. Gravity is your friend, embrace this and grab another dessert!
- Healing. Hot chocolate by a warm fire really can heal wounds. Marshmallows never hurt either.
- Plumbing doesn't reach everywhere. Suck it up princess ... if you gotta go at the start, you gotta go. Popping a squat to pee never hurt anyone, although your southern cheeks may get a bit rosy.
- Patience. Just because you've worked hard doesn't mean you're going to win. Success takes patience, hard work at the right things, learning from others, and picking yourself back up again, and again, and again, and again...
- Discipline. How do you miss seven months of school out of 10, yet still finish high school with honours? This is for dedicated ski racers to know, parents to agonize over, and young adults to find a way.
- Accept feedback. If you've ever watched your parents out on the dance floor then you know sometimes you look different than you feel. Listen to your coach.
- Self direction. All the coaching and feedback in the world only goes so far. Out on the race course you're alone, eventually you will have to stand (or carve in this case) your own path.
- Talent isn't enough. No one signs up to ski racing and becomes an Olympic medalist in 10 years or less. That means, you have only one option to get there. Work! Hint: working at the right things is the trick, otherwise even with the 10,000 hours you won't get there.
- Re-invention. What made you fast at 12 years old won't work when you're 20. You have to evolve and grow as an athlete and a ski racer. Plus, FIS keeps changing the equipment rules, so your skills have to change with it.
- You fall down. Everyone falls down, and on the ski hill it's literal. Ski racers are very good at picking themselves back up, dusting themselves off, and doing it all over again (hopefully better the next time around of course).
- Spacial puzzle solving. The team van doesn't pack itself. I'm going to pack what? Into where? And it's how heavy? Somehow, it always fits and we always make it to our destination. Groaning and complaining will occur ... ear plugs recommended for coaches/parents.
- Toughness. Racer to concerned guidance councilor: "No, I did not run into a bully at recess, I really did give myself these bruises." Sometimes the fastest way around a gate is to not go around it at all.
- Do no eat yellow snow. See item 6, enough said.
When we look back on our lives and pick out our best stories to tell they are never the stories where things came easily. The best stories and friendships are forged through adversity and hardship.
Let's just say, ski racers have a lot of good stories to tell.
Back to accessibility links