Ford Sayre Alpine Racing is hosting the NHARA U14 State Championships at the skiway March 7-9th! Detailed info can be found here http://bit.ly/Ny1EaD
Please thank our U14 state championship sponsors:
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To all parents glued to their smart phones this weekend, here is some food for thought. This article ran recently in Ski Racing. Find it here or below in a slightly longer, less official looking version. Based on reports from the field, as the competition season begins in earnest this message bears repeating. And trust me, Live-Timing addicts, I fully understand the power of the rabbit hole. Ok-read on!
You’ve probably seen one by now: A picture of an intensely focused ski racer arcing a beautiful turn in front of a cluster of spectators, all of whom have their attention fixed not on the racer, but on a little, “smart” screen. They’re not likely looking at a vital message from a loved one or a work emergency. No, they are probably looking at Live-Timing. Chances are also high that rather than results from a far-off race, they are checking the time of the kid just ahead of the kid they are all now ignoring.
As a coach, my usual position on race day is at the start, where everyone is full of optimism and energy and there is little time for anything but turning screws, cleaning boots and getting psyched. For those of us challenged at multi-tasking, this is a Live-Timing-free zone. As a parent I am beginning to see this enforced disconnect as a gift.
Don’t get me wrong—I am a huge fan of Live-Timing. Having a universally accessible real time scoreboard is liberating. In the old days, “live timing” was someone’s mother who shuffled between the timing shack and the scoreboard with the latest batch of times, then transcribed them, usually legibly, onto the board to break the suspense. Emotions ensued, the mother returned to the shack, the crowd dispersed, and the next wave of racers built in front of the board.
Live-Timing not only did away with that finish line ritual, but the God-like awareness ushered in a host of freedoms, like knowing exactly when to make your way to the course to race or to watch. It eliminated the need for detailed phone reports at the end of a long day, gave faraway family and friends a way to follow the races, and afforded absent parents a heads-up on the prevailing mood to expect upon homecoming. Heck, it even lifted the burden of performing basic math.
But as with many modern conveniences, this one offers up potential abuse, particularly by “Live-Timing parents,” members of the parental species who have become overinvested in their childrens’ results. Like many traits, overinvestment is often hard to recognize in oneself. It’s like in the movies when Harry breaks the truth to Sally that she is in fact a high maintenance woman: “You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.” If you’re not entirely sure whether you have been sucked down the rabbit hole, here are a few red flags:
Do you call or text the coach the second DNF pops up next to your kid’s name on Live-Timing?
Have you ever referred to your kid’s performance collectively, as in, “We need a good result today…We need to finish…We had a fast run”?
Do you, after monitoring Live-Timing, call other parents to update them on their and your kid’s results?
Have you shed tears (not of joy) over your child’s performance?
Do you regularly crow about your child’s results in social situations or (cringe) on a social network?
Do you remind your child before races or runs of what result he/she has to achieve to qualify or succeed according to some external standard?
This is a partial list, but if you answered yes to most of these questions, you may be a “Live-Timing” parent, and you may want to consider a step-down program. Why? First there is the practical consideration of lowering your own blood pressure, and that of anyone in close proximity. More important is the damaging effect that this hyperawareness of results can have. While it may seem harmless, consider the message it sends to our kids when we tell them to have fun, relax and do their best, then have our eyes on the screen each run, calculating place or race points to determine how close each kid is to qualifying for the next competition.
Knowing our kids’ results, often before they do, tempts us to put our own judgment on their performances before knowing how the kids feel about them. Maybe she was ok with the run until we walked up with a sad face to console her. Maybe he knows exactly where he had trouble and has a plan for the next run. Maybe the time was fast but she is nonetheless disappointed because she knows she held something back. Our kids have plenty to process without the addition of unsolicited parental input.
Admittedly, as a parent I do not always master the fine line between being supportive and being overinvested. Last year I was at a race away from my own team, without any coaching duties and with time to live-stalk on Live-Timing. I attempted to follow boys and girls races in two age groups at two separate mountains, while watching my own son in person at yet another mountain. At first I rationalized that I was merely checking up on my flock. But pretty soon there I was, like a rat in a Skinner Box, incessantly poking the refresh button for another hit of new information, cursing “that darned sun” while shielding my screen from its glare. Not surprisingly I was missing a lot of what was happening on the hill.
Quite simply, seeing the times is not the same as seeing the race. Live-Timing doesn’t show the spectacular recoveries, the partial yet brilliant runs, the massive physical divergences amongst same-aged juniors, the skills and moves that are mere glimpses of the possibilities that lie ahead. We have to be on the hill, lift our eyes and put away our smart phones to see all those things.
I suspect most of us struggle to define the etiquette of managing all the information at our fingertips. (Ok, perhaps the parent making Facebook posts of screen shots from Live-Timing—with his kid atop the results—is unburdened by this struggle). My own sanctuary is imposed ignorance at the start. When a kids reports after his run, “I got a 53!” that number means absolutely nothing to me, so I am left asking the same questions the old style, race-watching parents are asking their kids: “How did you feel? Was there any spot that gave you trouble? Was it easier or harder than you thought? What would you do differently next run?” And sometimes there is nothing to say. From their expressions or their body language you know to just give them a hug or a high five. Either way, you’ll want your hands free for that.
The Ford Sayre Alpine Racing program would like to thank our corporate sponsors for this 2014 season:Continue reading →
Join Hannah Kearney at Morano Gelato as they dedicate a new flavor, “Caffe Kearney,” in her honor! Hannah will be at the shop on Tuesday, January 21 from 3:30 – 4:00 so stop by for a picture, a taste of her requested flavor, and to wish her luck before she heads off to Sochi to make the Upper Valley proud on the world stage once again!Continue reading →
“Clearing” up the issue: an anti-cross blocking manifesto. By Someone Who Cares.
“When can I cross block?”
Once the slalom gates are set in the snow that is the most common and the most cringe-worthy question a coach gets asked.
The answer? “How about never?”
First off, the term cross-blocking is misleading. It is often referenced as a good thing, a sign of advancement, while in reality it is quite the opposite. “Blocking” is simply clearing a gate out of your path. “Cross,” well it has no possible upside here.
If your skis are arcing hard around the gate, your feet are close to the gate, and your body is angled so far into the hill that it actually passes on the inside of the gate…if all that is happening, then your outside hand is the closest one to the gate, and is therefore the one to “clear” the gate. Look at a top NCAA skier, or watch a World Cup and that is what you see. Calm, disciplined, upper bodies with arms, hips, knees always pushing forward and down the fall-line. Like a metronome the outside hand ticks the gates out of the way without creating any extra movement or influencing body position.
If your skis are not arcing hard around the gate and are not very close to the gate, the outside hand is nowhere near the gate. To clear the gate with the outside hand you would have to reach across your body. In so doing you lose all pressure on your outside ski and any prayer of carving a turn or generating any power from the ski. It is rare to see a J4 who can consistently carve clean turns while running a tight enough line to warrant outside clearing. I have yet to meet such a J5. They simply do not have the strength or technical ability.
Armor is good. It saves on orthodontic bills, bloody knuckles and bruised shins. Better safe than sorry, and besides armor looks cool. It makes us feel stronger and more powerful. But put a kid in armor and all of a sudden he or she feels the need to hit something. Who can blame them? It is hard to resist the siren song of guard on plastic, the satisfying thwap of a gate bowing from our assault. But if you listen more closely, you will also hear another, less heroic sound. It is the rasp of edges skidding around a turn.
Here’s what’s happening, and it happens every day, every run, with every kid who wants to “cross block.” Skier sees gate, skier goes straight at gate, skier blocks gate with outside hand. The act of reaching over to the gate releases pressure from the edges before the turn is anywhere near completion. Skier must complete turn after the gate by skidding skis around and is already too low to make a good turn on the next gate. So, skier goes straight at that gate, whacking it out of the way, and again releasing any pressure and negating any turn initiation that might have been started above the gate. Pattern repeats until skier passes through finish and wonders, “Why am I so slow? After all, I hit all the gates!”
What do we do?
First: Accept that cross blocking is a Faustian bargain. One you reach across your body you are trading the long term prospect of clean powerful turns and engaged edges, for the immediate gratification of plastic-on-plastic impact.
Second: Ditch the term cross blocking altogether and use the proper term for getting gates out of your way—clearing.
Third: Refocus on the one core skill that will never fail you—pole plants. Even when you are so awesome that you are carving and clearing with your outside hand, you’ll still be planting your pole. It’s what completes your turn, what allows you to get off one ski and on to the next, all while moving your body down the hill. If you can’t plant your poles, something is wrong (hands too low, timing not right, poles not in correct position, etc.) Figure it out with your coach, and get back to planting those poles.
Fourth: When you are planting your pole every turn and making clean turns above the gate and a gate gets in your way…CONGRATULATIONS! You can ski a line close enough to the gate to have to clear it. So knock it out of the way, without bringing your hand across the body. If you do that, you will automatically be clearing with the “correct” hand, be that inside or outside. You’ve got the armor—use it! And worry about your feet not the gates.
Fifth: Give it time. The above situation will happen sooner on flatter terrain, easy snow or on a straight course. Don’t expect to be able to run the same line on steep, icy or turny course. You will eventually be able to, but only if you take the time and go through the steps to master the basics of clean skiing first.
Thank you for reading. That will be all.Continue reading →