by: Pete Vordenberg
For most of my life my goal was to win an Olympic medal. Along the way I won a few races and even raced in two Olympics. I didn’t come close to winning a medal but in all my trying I did learn a lot about ski racing and the process of trying to win ski races. I coached in two Olympics. And as a coach with the US Ski Team helped take the US from scoring as low as 12 points total in a season to scoring over 2000 a season and winning world cups and world championship medals, which is something that hadn’t been done in over 25 years and which now is almost common place for our team. Many of my best friends and favorite memories are all from skiing. I meet my wife skiing. My college education was earned through skiing, and for most of my life I earned my living through skiing too. Skiing took me all over the world, from Japan and China to Macedonia, New Zealand, Russia, all over Scandinavia, Europe and North America. I’d guess that the things I know and believe about life could have been learned doing something else. But what I know and believe about life I learned through the life of a skier – a great life of outdoor adventure, hard work, camaraderie, some drama and a lot of fun.
You may be a youth skier. And you may be wondering if this sport is something you should consider pursuing. Even if this isn’t a consideration for you I believe these thoughts may still be useful to you beyond this or any sport. Should you be a ski racer, in my reply there are contradictions. In the same breath I will tell you not to do it for anyone but yourself and also don’t do this just for yourself either. What I mean is, don’t do this sport because someone else thinks you should, because you show talent, because you want to get a scholarship, or because you love lycra. Do it because you love doing it. But also, don’t just do this for yourself. Competition and sport is at its best a culture of support and of pushing each other to a higher place, a faster pace, to greater things within and beyond sport. It is a tool of learning and growth, and of teaching and sharing. Too often sport is a selfish pursuit. To me that is lonely, sad and a waste of human endeavor. It can in fact be an Olympic size waste of human endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be. To me sport is best when it is used beyond itself to improve the lives of others.
I like what President Obama said when The Cavaliers wore “I can’t Breathe” shirts to the Cav’s – Net’s game:
“You know,” he said, “I think LeBron did the right thing; we forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ash, Bill Russell played in raising consciousness.”
Hell yes! Lets do something more than win ski races and spend all day running around in the woods just for ourselves.
With that, let me share some unsolicited advice to the young skier.
Enjoy the process. There is way more process, more day-to-day work, than anything else. If you don’t enjoy that work, those days, then change your mindset, or do something else. Mindset is vital. Do not see yourself as good or bad, only as improving, learning, growing. Be where you are, and work forward from there. That is the case for both the fastest and the slowest. Do not postpone enjoyment or satisfaction for those days where you succeed in races or workouts. There are way more training days to every race, there are way more ok race results to great results. There is more struggle than triumph. Do your best, ski your fastest and be satisfied with that. If you give your best effort be honestly satisfied with that regardless of outcome. If your skis are bad, ski your fastest on them. If you don’t feel great, ski your best on that day, how you feel be damned. If you fall 6 times, get up fast and ski as fast as you can between falls. Your excuses will fall on deaf ears. Screw your excuses. Go to the line with all you can even if you are fighting for a place way below your hopes. Don’t just ski it in just because you didn’t do as well as you wanted. That makes you look like a major putz and you don’t get any faster by it. Skiing it in is an insult to the effort you and your coaches have put into the race. Judge the race before you know the result. Me, I say don’t get splits. Race like you are one second ahead or one second behind all the time. Don’t wait for the races to be present and focused and don’t wait for your great successes to recognize improvement, or grant yourself enjoyment. This is a step-by-step process. Recognize and enjoy the little steps, the little improvements. Pay great attention to those little steps for this and all paths are made up of little steps.
Next: Part 2, Right now is all you will ever have.