Sunday, June 5, 2011

"One word... plastics" from The Graduate

Scott Graduated from the Idaho Virtual Academy last Thursday. Like thousands of kids across the country, it was a major milestone in his life. For elite athletes in any number of sports, completing High School presents a different set of challenges.

Scott was fortunate that internet education existed by the time he entered high school. IDVA enabled him to get a great education from a well developed and regimented curriculum while travelling all over the world. As it is, he is well positioned to enter college whenever he decides.

Graduation lifted a burden off his shoulders with regard to ski racing. The daily "grind" for a ski racer includes early wake-ups, hours of on-snow training, then a break, then dry land (strength) training, followed by another break, then a team meeting in the early evening, followed by time off until bedtime. The athletes must work dinner and ski tuning into the open periods of time. Schoolwork becomes fragmented and is squeezed in wherever possible. Last year Scott was the only athlete in his group still in high school -- it will be nice to have a lighter schedule this year.

Scott has a lot of work to do with the "D" team this year, so he'll mostly focus on skiing. He'll probably take some German courses, both to improve his language skills and whittle away at elective credits. He wants to take college calculus to preserve his math skills, but it seems that might be a bridge too far given his training schedule. He'll reassess next year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011-12 Begins

Scott left for Park City yesterday. He is going through two days of physical assessments as I write this entry. I watched him with mixed emotions as he packed to leave. He's well prepared and looking forward to the challenge.

He spent his 2 1/2 weeks here working out at the gym and working at the property he maintains during the summer. His daily workouts were very intense with a focus on explosive strength. In addition to gym time he spent an hour a day on the bike, plus jumped rope. It will be interesting to see how he does on the explosive portion of the assessment.

We also took a day at Schweitzer Mountain for ski testing. The mountain is closed, but its still winter up there. We used the snowcat to groom an entire run, and had two snowmobiles to tow Scott back up to the start. We tested all of his speed skis to ensure he's using the fastest sets on race day, then we tested a variety of waxes and fluorocarbons for the wax company. Every test run was done at least two times for redundancy, so Scott got lots of miles in a 60+ MPH tuck. It was a sunny day and we all had a great time. You can see the video on Facebook at Selkirk Powder Company.

After two days at Park City, Scott heads to Mount Bachelor, OR for 10 days of training. This will be Super G and Giant Slalom training on slopes specially prepared with rollers every 24 meters or so. He really enjoyed this camp last year. He's also looking forward to being with the new group of guys, many of which are his age and have been his friends for years.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's a wrap...

After waiting a few days to decompress, I'm ready to close out the 2010-11 blog season. This has been an interesting year in many regards.

Scott learned alot about people this year -- I'm not sure the lessons learned on the US Ski Team are significantly different than those learned in the workplace. He met good people, bad people, hard working people, lazy people, creative people, people with no imagination, egotistical people, open minded people, qualified and unqualified people, sage mentors and immature people. Perhaps the intensity of the environment and the pressure to meet personal goals turn up the heat, but the ingredients in the cake are all the same. Scott survived, but not without a few scars. In the long run, he'll be better prepared next year.

Scott stayed strong and injury free, which is an accomplishment in this business. He didn't just ride the benefits of the many years he's spent in the gym working out. He carried weights and slant boards on the road and worked out on his own every night. I believe he broke the mold and finished the season stronger than he started. He added 10 lbs of muscle to his frame and is now back in the gym for several hours a day looking for more.

After a difficult start his skiing has changed for the better. He worked hard on a concept his coaches presented early last year. He seemed to be getting it, but his timing was off which messed up his line at the gates. He had what a baseball batter would call a slump for much of the year, and couldn't put together two good runs in a row. His confidence suffered, further exascerbating the problem. However, towards the end of the season things started coming together and he became consistent again. He still needs to fine tune the timing, but the essential elements are in place. Most importantly, he is confident in his skiing and ready to get back to work.

Scott developed mental strength this year on several fronts. He endured adversity within the team, yet stayed focused on the task at hand. I won't say that was a complete success, as he's still fighting the morale battle right now, but he's getting a handle on things. He also had his first, bonafide, downhill scare in February. It took a while for him to acknowledge it, then it took a while to get over it. However, as evidenced by his performance at the final speed series, he seems to be back in form. Scott's ability to narrow his focus and manage his arousal levels at the start line continued to improve. Not that this was ever a problem area, but he experimented with new methods for different situations and learned alot.

Although Scott didn't achieve many of the performance and outcome goals he set for himself, he still skied well enough to requalify for the US Ski Team next year. In fact, he was one of only three Juniors (Age 15-19) to meet USST objective criteria for selection. This takes alot of pressure off the first training camp in May, which will double as a tryout for the other 15 men attending. Scott feels poised for a huge season next winter and plans to eclipse the goals he set for himself this year. I truly believe he can.

On a personal note this has been a great season. Aside from spending another year with my son, my limited role on the hill and on the tuning bench allowed me to invite Joy along for several trips. She joined us at Lake Louise, BC, in Austria and Italy, at Whistler BC, in Wenatchee, Wa and Bend, OR. Those times with her took the sting out of 200 days on the road.

We also had some real quality time with family. Scott's older brother Jonathan came to Europe for a week and travelled with me through Austria and Germany. He later joined us at Winter Park, CO for the US Alpine Championships. Scott's older sister Adrienne flew to Mount Bachelor, OR for the final speed series and for the first time watched her brother race. My nephew Eric and his family drove up to Winter Park for three days to cheer Scott on. And finally, my sister plus my niece Denise and her family rented a house with us in Whistler for the week. We had great hikes, snowball fights and times on the slopes, where I had the pleasure of teaching their children, Ryan and Lauren, how to ski. My only regret was not getting an opportunity to explore the mountain with Denise's husband, Mark. Denise is also the person who designed this great web site and keeps it up to date; thanks so much.

The financial burden of ski racing is huge, and we received so much help from friends and family. Thanks to you all. In addition to direct financial support, we enjoyed the benefits of cost cutting, a home environment and friendship by staying at the homes of JJ and Laura Johns, Kent and Heather Christian, Karin and Tod Wehse, Jack and Melanie Kern, and Katie and Matt Dolan.

It's been a good year, but my final one on the road with Scott. He will turn 18 years old this summer and doesn't need me around any more. I'll return to coaching younger kids on our race team and maybe bring a few more up to the US team. I'll keep posting this blog based upon reports from Scott and my experiences coaching younger athletes. I suspect there's fertile ground in comparing what we do at the lower levels of racing with the National level.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Final Speed Fix

Scott ended the season on a perfect note -- speed! We
dashed straight to Mount Bachelor, Oregon after the Tech series for six days of speed including two Super G's and two Downhills. The Super G's were run on soft snow with gusty winds and rain -- sort of miserable. Fortunately the temps plummeted and the sun came out for the downhills, yielding rock hard snow and a safe, consistent, track.

Have I mentioned Scott loves downhill? He had blast on this fun track. Due to the ideal conditions the race started from inside the volcanic crater, through the notch, and down a track with plenty of bumps and turns. Scott knows this hill well, having raced it since he was 10 years old. The combo of fast skis and experience, plus the "homeboy" advantage allowed him to sweep the training run and both downhills.

Scott didn't have to come to this race, but he wanted to help with the penalty for the younger athletes. It's been a long season and logic argued for a rest before heading back into training in a few weeks, but I acquiesced given how much we used to hate it when seed racers didn't show-up at speed events. It all worked out well since the daily schedule allowed plenty of down time.

So we're now home at long last. Scott is catching up on school and back in the gym for a few hours per day. He also has some "close-out" maintenance to pull on his speed skis. I'm already engaged in repairing stuff that broke around here over the winter. Scott heads to Park City on May 8th for physical assessments followed by 10 days of Super G and Giant Slalom training in Oregon. It never ends!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Series

After dashing across country from Colorado in two days we signed into the Western Region Spring Series at Mission Ridge, WA. We always enjoy Mission Ridge, both because of the great races they host and the fact that our good friends the Dolans live there. They hosted us in their new home (which he built) and we got to meet their new baby boy. The regional Spring Series is also fun because all of our friends (coaches and athletes) whom Scott "came up" with are present.

The points were good at the races, with about ten USST athletes plus top NCAA and FIS racers from across the country in the field. Scott came hoping to lower his tech points and did get a few minor scores. Although things didn't work out exactly how he wished, the series was none the less a success. Scott has been under significant stress recently and had lots of things to sort out, including a decision about what to do next year. He also wanted to improve his finish ratio, while working on his line and technique. The combination of all these things stood in the way of resounding scores.

Scott struggled with his line for the first half of this season. A variety of factors, including his focus on strengthening the top of the turn, messed up his timing. In a sort of Catch 22, the wrong line takes away the opportunity to properly develop a turn, and working on properly developing the turn messed up his line. Anyway, last week he showed some real consistency in both regards. He skied great most of the time, but seemed to have a bauble in each run... just enough to preclude a score. He left Mission Ridge feeling good about his skiing and looking forward to summer training.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top of the World

Scott raced at Breckenridge immediately after Alpine Champs. The course started at 11.500 feet of elevation and someone said it was the highest Giant Slalom start in the world. Regardless, it was high enough. Standing at the scoreboard one could hear the heaving chests of the athletes as they finished and came to see their result. Those of you who have been following this blog know that it's been a hard year. Nearly every opportunity for bad luck has manifested, sometimes on its own and sometimes with a little help from Scott. There have been some great runs, followed by a mishap, and there have been days with nothing but mishaps. After a while it becomes difficult to keep going, to bring expectations back where they belong for success. Scott came to Breckenridge hoping to "kick start" the final part of the season. Things had been improving, in that he'd finished most of the recent tech races and felt better on his skis. It was time to get going. He skied well in the two Giant Slaloms. Each race had one run with an error. Both errors happened just above the flat section, thus having the greatest impact. Notwithstanding, he did finish well and score some FIS points. He feels good about his skiing and is looking forward to the Western Region Spring Series, beginning this week in Washington. The points will be good there and he should finally get reasonable start numbers. All we need is a good race surface. Hopefully he can end the season on a strong note and set himself up for good start positions next year. We're at home tonight, making a cameo appearance to do laundry and cross-load gear for the final two weeks. It was a tough commute. Last night we drove until midnight to make Salt Lake City. Today we logged another 11 hours and we hit the road at 9AM tomorrow. Sure do love this stuff!

Family Time

The US Alpine Championships were hosted by Winter Park, CO this year. Many of the athletes' families came to this event, which included banquets and socials in addition to competition. This was also the first time the entire US Alpine Team convened at the same race since December, making for a reunion type atmosphere. In addition to the US Team, numerous Division I NCAA atheletes plus a host of invitees from across the country competed, bringing the field to over 100 athletes in each gender. Despite all the fun and good will, this was intense competition for bragging rights.

Scott wasn't looking to make any noise in the tech events given his start numbers, but hoped for a good Super G result. He had a great run going until four gates from the finish where he was spit out of the course by a rut. Disappointing... The following day's Slalom he got a little salve for the wound moving from 66th start position to 2oth place in in a deeply rutted course.

We had lots of family come share the weekend. Scott's brother Jonathan (dressed in the retro Descent suit above) came to embarrass Scott with the help from some friends. Also, his cousin Eric came with the entire family. Scott invested some hours on the magic carpet and green slopes teaching his little cousins to ski. All in all it was a great trip.