Fun – or enjoyment, satisfaction, gratification . . . no matter how you state it, the joy of skiing, learning, competing, achieving, and sharing with peers is both a necessary ingredient for, and a result of, success in ski racing.
None of the goals we set personally or as a group can be attained unless the process is fun. Conversely, fun is hard to come by unless it is accompanied by effort and accomplishment. Learning new skills is fun. Being faster and more consistent is fun. Attaining constantly improving results is fun. Making friends and developing relationships with other competitors and coaches is fun.
The process of learning to become a better racer involves serious work, but that work is most effectively done with a light-hearted attitude and an open mind. The best racers in the world are doing it for fun – and are successful because it is fun for them. Why would it be any different for junior racers?
Attitude is everything – for progress to occur, open minds are required on the part of racers, coaches, and parents. Confidence in one's ability and knowledge is important to success – but so is realistic self- assessment and a proper dose of humility. An inflexible, "I'm the expert" – "I'm the fastest" – "don't question me" attitude is not compatible with growth and learning. This concept applies equally to racers, coaches, and parents.
Your coaches have certain proven levels of ski racing expertise. At the same time, not one of us has, nor do we as a group profess to have, all the answers all the time. In the evolving sport of ski racing, that is impossible. We will take pride in the fact that we will occasionally answer a question with an "I don't know, but I'll find out" – or "I'll have to watch you some and consult with the other coaches before I answer that." We think that the wrong answer is worse than no answer.
Ski racing is a very complex sport because of the tremendous number of variables. It is constantly evolving. The winning technique a year from now is likely a bit different from what it is today. Equipment and course setting change, and new techniques are constantly being explored. The only way to possibly ride the crest of the wave is to keep an open mind and be flexible. Take confidence from the knowledge and skills you have, but realize that it's what you don't know that provides your challenge. The ultimate self-confidence can be taken from the knowledge that you maintain an open mind, and are therefore likely to continue to learn new things and improve.
While our Code of Conduct establishes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for all people associated with the program, we want to live by the spirit of these requirements – not simply avoiding negative behaviours, but sharing in positive ones which benefit everyone involved.
All relationships within the program will be based on mutual respect - and every individual will strive to earn the respect of others. This will extend to relationships between all those associated with the program and people we interact with – i.e. the skiing public, ski resort management and employees, race officials, etc. The Golden Rule applies to everything. Due respect will be shown by participants to those in positions of authority and responsibility, AND the other way around as well - those in positions of authority and responsibility will show appropriate respect to those for whom they are responsible.
You get out what you put in.
The most important commitment is one toward long term improvement. Meaningful progress is seldom achieved quickly, although the learning curve is never perfectly smooth. There will be some periods of seeming lack of progress, and other periods of quick 'breakthrough' progress. Meaningful gains are achieved with commitment to persistent work, mental concentration, and effort over the long term.
How you approach your commitment to improvement is just as important as the amount of effort you put toward it. Your time and placing in today's race are less important than the long-term progression toward solid, consistent, correct technical skiing. It's not that success in today's race isn't important, it's just that it's less important than maintaining the technical and tactical discipline you will need to be five seconds faster sometime in the future. Happily though, striving for correct technique and tactics generally makes you faster in the short term as well.
Striving for improvement and accomplishment is the life blood of an athletic program. But gaps between expectations and results can cause frustration. Everyone experiences this from time to time. Unchecked, it dampens or halts the learning process. How we approach our task can go a long way toward avoiding frustration and minimizing its effects.
One way to set yourself up for frustration is by making the mistake of setting specific and inflexible goals. Goal setting should be about things which can be controlled, like commitment to a certain expenditure of time and energy, and commitment to a defined approach to learning. Goals like, "to win Race X" - or "to beat racer X" can create more problems than they solve. On one hand, if the goal turns out to be too lofty, the result can be frustration and a feeling of failure, both of which can slow or stop progress. Even if the goal is met, it may not have served the larger goal of maximum improvement. For example, a racer who meets the goal of winning a certain race, but does so with an 80% effort, could probably have met the goal of winning that race by a second. The problem is that you never know in advance exactly what your potential is, and you have even less of an idea what the competition will bring.
The goal of 'doing my best' is perhaps the highest goal you can set, because it means that you will be constantly challenging yourself - not coasting when things are going well, but also experiencing less frustration when they aren't.