Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Telluride World Cup

This is my first blog entry. The coaches have been doing an amazing job keeping everyone here up to date, and I am amazed by the content and thought that goes into each entry. Sometimes it is literary perfection, fanciful, yet spoken with truth and patience that only a father of daughters could have. Sometimes it is the core truth of our sport and you can feel the pride and dedication in Ian’s captivating entries. Whoever is making the entry it is always fun to read (and see) their reflections of the athletic process we are all involved in. Today I was reminded of this process that we try to instill in each and every
athlete we work with at Stratton Mountain School.

Jackie Hernandez and I have spent the last week in Telluride Colorado at her first FIS SBX World Cup. It is an exciting time in the snowboard world as these events serve as Olympic selection for both Boardercross and PGS. You can feel the energy in the athlete lounge. You can sense the camaraderie as the teams from around the world march in every day and all join together for meals. While watching the interaction of these athletes both old and new, sharing in their common craft, you can’t help but see and feel what truly embodies the Olympic spirit. Just to be included in this competition is an honor all by itself. This wonderful gift Jackie has worked very hard for, she wrote down four years ago as a goal, and now she has earned it. She has been enjoying every moment and I have seen the excitement in her eyes growing every day.

Yesterday during the PGS race I was engulfed in the action watching former athletes I have coached going against the best in the world trying to secure the same dreams that they had written down in my office in Steamboat over ten years ago. Now those athletes are at the pinnacle of their snowboarding careers and this was their first opportunity to secure a spot on the team headed to Vancouver. I was there to watch, give support, and awe at the proficient way they have learned to ride their snowboards. I had a great perch off to the side so as not to be distracted by the chitter chatter of the crowd.

It wasn’t until late in the day when I started to get cold that I had to move and change my view. It was only then I noticed Jackie watching intently, cheering, and encouraging the US riders. I had left her earlier in the day after some board/wax testing and advised her to get some rest and lay low for todays training. There were no other sbx athletes there at the bottom cheering. There were no other US riders present except for the ones who had their day finished early due to bad luck, or maybe a mistake in judgment. The only people left at this point in the day were family, coaches, and a few spectators. But Jackie was there. She was there excited and living this moment with the Olympic hopefuls and cheering them in their quest for a chance to represent their nation in the highest level of snowboard competition.

She was there not because I asked her to cheer, or because it seemed like the it was the right thing do. Jackie was there because she was feeding off of the excitement of competition and her love of snowboarding. Even as I approached her and told her it was getting late and the race would be going for some time and that she should get some food and rest, she stayed. She stayed until the last US rider came across and respectfully offered her support.

The process that our SMS coaches

teach athletes to engage in is very commendable and Jackie proved this to me today. She belongs here at the World Cup and has earned her right to be amongst some of the worlds best. More importantly she understand her role here and has committed herself to the whole process and wouldn’t dream of leaving any piece out. The idea of making good choices, putting out maximum effort, setting goals, then outlining a plan and sticking to that plan is what we told her creates success. Jackie has embraced these concepts and reminded me of an important piece today. The journey is as important as the outcome and today Jackie was enjoying the full experience of being invited to compete on snowboarding’s biggest international SBX stage.

As coaches we try to guide each athlete along their way, we try to help them make good decisions and we try to instill our love for snowboarding. Their comprehension of what we teach is completely up to them. When the time comes for competition we are there for support and to offer advice but ultimately it is there own will and focus that guide them through.

Today was our only two-hour block of sbx training. This is the typical format on the World Cup and the riders are expected to be at a level where this time allows them to successfully inspect and then navigate the course at full speed. This process is not new for me but it was very new for Jackie. I could not hold her hand through the course. I could not help her navigate the twenty-nine features that the Olympic course designer Jeff Iaxia had laid out for the athletes. I could not remind her during her runs to double here or triple there, to avoid this bump or to make sure she popped for the triple step down. I could only offer support and provide feedback on how she was doing. I could remind her in the start of our plan and encourage her that she was doing great and that it would all come together.

I had to trust in our own process. I had to trust in the early morning dryland, the physical testing, the ongoing importance of academics, the importance of preparation and everything else we put into it. I had to trust that we had taken care of all the pieces of the puzzle that we could. I was reminded of the athletes I had taken to their first World Cup. I looked around and could see several US team members that I had gone through this very same process with years before. I thought of the action yesterday at the PGS hill and the smiles and the excitement of dreams being fulfilled or the tears and frustration of dreams being denied for another day. I thought of Jackie standing there freezing but refusing to leave until the last US rider had finished. I realized that Jackie was as prepared as those athletes before her were at their first World Cup. She was beginning her very own realization of making the US team and now had a chance to prove her worth. She did so today through her actions and her energy and of course her contagious smile. This story does not end with Jackie landing on the podium or even competing in the race on Friday morning. Jackie took a spill on her fifth run today during training and sustained a concussion. Scary moments at first, but after a sled ride down and a trip in the ambulance it quickly became apparent she was going to be ok. The CT scan was negative and she is comfy and resting in bed and being looked after by the team girls as I write.

Today on training day she stood beside Olympians, World Champions, and the best representatives from over 20 nations across the globe. She did it with guts and determination and a passion that will serve her well in her future years as a competitor. She will not be able to race on Friday but the experience is still intact and I know she will come back stronger.

Today I realized a greater sense in the value of this athletic process we preach. Of course there are trick tips and technical advice that we can provide along the way, and a good eye and solid support can help lead an athlete to success. The real value however is rooted in the development of good sportsmanship, strong moral and ethical values, and the ability to create and realize athletic and lifelong dreams. This very process provided

Jackie with confidence, knowledge, and the ability to begin to realize her future in snowboarding or anything else life may throw her way. It also provided me with insight, reflection, comfort and security knowing that we had done our job well. Both athlete and coach mutually benefited today from this process and herein I found my inspiration for sharing our journey. We wish Jackie the quickest of recoveries and I am looking forward to having her back on snow soon!

Happy Holidays,


1 comment:

Laura said...

NIce entry Mallon. Jackie is awesome!!!