Dave Schuiling, Director of Education
“Consistency, direction, depth, spin, pace” Coach said to me as I blasted yet another yellow, fuzzy ball against the green, vinyl back drop. This big green back drop resembles the “green monster” at Fenway Park, but unlike hitting dingers into the cheap seats, this particular monster simply keeps the balls close enough to eventually whack again. In this game, the goal is to get the ball over the net (consistency) and somewhere in the big, blue rectangle (direction) on the other side. Therefore in the tennis hierarchy, I often leap frog directly to pace because it is so much fun to haul off and crack the ball. Or so I thought not too long ago, until I started actually playing matches. As it turns out, the pace/power first strategy makes for a really short game, and not in my favor!
When was the last time you learned something new? Expanded your horizons and committed to getting really uncomfortable for a while learning something completely new and out of your comfort zone? Acquiring new skills can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Because if we push the boundaries past what we thought we “could never do”, we might just take our game to the next level. It’s easy to just do what is comfy and stay in status quo zone. But if you truly want to elevate your skills to maddening heights, get out there and mix it up, change gears and be humbled by learning something new. If it were easy it wouldn’t be so much fun or satisfying! Here’s a stab at relating the tennis hierarchy above to snow sports.
This is a simple concept in tennis. Get the ball over the net one more time than your opponent and you will be successful. The “how” this is done is the hard part. Therefore when practicing or training on the snow, repetitions or “touches” are extremely important for developing consistency. However, quality must always take precedence over quantity. As the saying goes; practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. When sliding with your guests, make every turn count. Never ever get lazy when you think no one is watching and simply get down the run. Take pride in every turn and never settle for mediocrity. Some of the best training you will ever do is sliding super slow motion, crafting the ultimate, visual perfection for your guests to follow. Providing this visual image requires you to bring your “A” game 100% of the time. When it’s your turn to showcase your skills at an exam, it will simply be the same consistent outcome you provide every day you are teaching.
Direction refers to control. Control is the ability to put the ball where you want it or make any task happen on your terms. The terrain does not dictate the outcome as you are in control of your own destiny. You’ve developed the consistency in every possible scenario imaginable and you can make it happen on demand. It doesn’t matter if you are on sierra cement, frozen corral, packed granular or 18 inches of champagne, you are up to every challenge the mountain and Mother Nature throw at you. Direction can also refer to your special purpose. Your special purpose is your planned destiny and eye of the tiger attitude toward achieving your goals. Always slide with a purpose.
Now that you’re “in it to win it”, go out and learn everything there is to know about your new passion. Become a sponge and soak up every ounce of knowledge you can to enhance your skill acquisition. Hitting the ball deep keeps your opponent on the defensive without much room to attack. Going deep in your understanding of technical knowledge or expanding your versatility through lateral learning will allow you to stay on offense at your exam leaving nothing to chance. Because of your depth and therefore confidence, your mindset should be to shoot for sixes across the board on your score card. Set yourself up for that success by going deep.
Spin refers to kicking the ball away or dropping it out of an opponent’s hitting zone. Spin can also refer to flair or style by putting your own personal stamp on your presentation of skills. Therefore, give it your own spin. Take spin literally and always make sure to learn both directions of rotation including your “unnatural” spin as quickly as possible. Sliding on snow is poetry in motion so express your individuality with your own pizzazz. The last thing we all want to do is look like cloned golf carts coming down the hill. Because the foundation has been set by consistency, direction and depth, you can now let it flow and get a little loose. This concept is where “slopestyle” got its name by adding artistic impression to competitive sliding.
Pace is power and speed. Although I initially found that crushing the ball was very satisfying and often times therapeutic, I didn’t have the fundamental skills to be very successful. However, once the building blocks appear with some consistency, it’s now time to light it up, pick up the pace and let it run! With power comes great responsibility and now that you’ve reached the upper echelon of this particular skills hierarchy, you are ready for anything, anybody and anywhere. The application of skills acquisition allows one to deliver on demand, anticipating and reacting on instinct and confidence. Power can now be unleashed with a vengeance as careful preparation has set the stage. There is nothing quite like the feeling of ripping a back hand down the line for a winner. A similar sliding high is ripping a run in total command of the hill or stomping a trick in the park. The rush of wind in the face combined with sliding athletic freedom is utterly indescribable. It’s no wonder we are all junkies for snowsports!
All the very best in the New Year as you yearn for knowledge and work to improve your skills. Do not be afraid to get uncomfortable and try something new. You’ll be surprised of the outcome when you return to your gear du jour. Expanding your horizons broadens and deepens your skills and ultimately makes you more well-rounded, versatile and confident. No matter what you do, keep learning! If you enjoy the process then the sky’s the limit. You are on your way to mad skills.