Racing Life Lessons

Watching the Summit Ski Team hosted South Series at Canyons last weekend brought me back to my early ski racing days.  I was on the lift early, and the kids waiting in line at the Orange Bubble Express, talking about the slalom set with their you’ll-grow-into-it speed suits hanging off their bony frames gave me a strong shot of nostalgia.  It is hard to imagine that I was doing much the same thing sixteen years ago, when it seems like it all flashed by in an instant.

I made a trip next to the course and seeing racer after racer throw it down the hill made me smile.  They were such a talented group!  Kids that have known nothing other than parabolic skis always astound me with their carving prowess. It is amazing how they can create such nasty angles at such a young age!  Their skiing ability was impressive to say the least, but what touched me most was their exuberance.  It was abundantly clear that they love to ski and I cannot express how happy that makes me.  As someone that has measured her self worth once or twice by the times on a scoreboard, I know what it looks like when someone feels the pressures to perform.  Ranging in ages from six or seven to fourteen, there is plenty of time to worry about tenths and hundredths of seconds later.  I am glad to report that every boy and girl I laid eyes on was there to compete, and more importantly to have fun. Because THAT is what ski racing should be about!

I have some ski racing credentials that some feel qualify me as an expert . . . in parenting?  Countless times I have had Moms or Dads come up to me and ask what the big secret is. What does their child need to do to make the National Team?  My first  impulse is to look them in the eye and say, “You are completely missing the point!”  To my credit, I have never done that.  Instead, I tell them that there is no sure-fire recipe.  Hard work, perseverance, and talent play their parts, but there is so much more to it.   I always try to hit home these two truths: keep it fun, and let them choose their path.  Parents are there for guidance, but as far as I’m concerned their key roles are cheerleader and wiper of tears.  It is up to the racer to decide what and how they want to pursue their own athletic career.

Regardless of rank or success, ski racing builds character.  At the post-race party hosted by the Canyons Club there were drinks and goodies for everyone to enjoy and the mood was celebratory after two well run races.  I had the opportunity to chat with parents and racers (as well as Murdock the Moose).  One second year J3 (for those of you unfamiliar with ski racing vernacular, that means she is14, maybe 15 years old), Chloe kept coming up to me throughout the party to talk and ask questions.  She was so determined to improve and wanted every bit of advice I could dispense. It warmed my heart!  Her inquisitiveness reminded me so much of myself at that age.  Chloe’s work ethic and curiosity will continue to make her a faster racer, but the attitude she has adopted will take her far in whatever she decides to do in life.

The truth is that most kids will never stand on an Olympic podium. I never did.  However, the lessons learned and the experiences gained are what make it worthwhile.  Ski racing taught me how to put everything on the line and then win humbly or lose gracefully.  These are life lessons that are incredibly important and helped shape me into the person that I am today.  Racing’s greatest gift to me was a love for skiing, not around gates on a pitch, just skiing.  Some of my fondest memories have occurred with two wooden boards strapped to my feet.  Like I wrote in an earlier blog, it is truly my happy place.

One mother of a Summit Ski Team athlete told me that when they train on Saturdays they hit the gates for a few hours before ripping around the mountain for the remainder of the session.  That is what will create an amazing skier and a life-long lover of the mountains.  Forget the silly tenths and hundredths of a second. What could better a better outcome than a true love of the mountains?

For now,


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4 Responses to “Racing Life Lessons”

  1. Well put. As a parent of 3 aspiring racers here in (don’t laugh) NC, you really hit the nail on the head. I see so many fellow parents who push even their J6′s over the edge to the point where you really wonder when the the kids will snap. I try my best to encourage but not push and often find myself telling my kids that I don’t care if they win or come in dead last but no matter what I will be there cheering them on. Our coaches have a similar philosophy about practicing-almost to a fault, but my kids love it that way and love the camaraderie that comes along with racing. I just want them to love skiing as much as i do for the rest of their lives. Thanks for putting that message out there.

    • You’re so welcome, Nathan. Good luck to your 3 racers- may they ski fast, learn much and smile often throughout their skiing careers!

  2. Preach! All kidding aside, it warms my heart to read into your passion for the sport and for humanity. Parents, read what Kaylin says: be cheerleaders and wipers of tears; what’s the point of making the best ski racer in the world if your child doesn’t want you around to share in the excitement?? Keep doing what you do!

  3. Yes, right on. It’s all about sharing in the excitement!