So my daughter (and I) went to her very 1st race camp at Mt. Hood a couple of weeks ago, and I had a couple of observations I thought I would share.
Some background. My now 8-year-old daughter has been eyeballing the local racing club for several years. Last spring I talked to the director and he skied with her for an hour or so and thought she would be a good fit for the slightly more advanced beginner program (there's also a more beginner beginner program that only races against themselves). In order to evaluate her better, and more importantly to gauge her enthusiasm for such a commitment, he suggested she come to one of the summer race camps. The one he suggested was a “walk on” camp, the racers all stayed with their parents as opposed to each other in a dorm situation. Neither my daughter nor I have had any experience whatsoever with ski racing. The bulk of the skiers at this camp were a little older than my daughter (the center of the age curve seem to be around 14-ish), and I'm fairly certain that my daughter was the only one there that had not been in the program for a while, although there were a couple that I think had only been in the “beginner beginner program” before.
The 1st thing I noticed was how welcoming and friendly the other parents were. They all went out of their way to include both my daughter and myself in activities. More than once after getting a “Hello Amelia” my daughter would ask “How do they know my name?” Unfortunately, my daughter was the only girl in her group. She is at an age where boys are viewed with barely concealed contempt (an attitude I heartily approve of and hope she maintains), so she didn't make any real close friends but still had a very good time, playing with several of the girls during non-skiing activities. I did stand next to a conversation about “our 2nd vacation home" in which figures well into the 7 digits were tossed about. I had to smirk a little bit, but it seemed to be more out of obliviousness than “mine is bigger than yours” one upmanship. Overall, I couldn't have imagined a nicer bunch. I have had experience with soccer, swimming, tennis, drama and fairly high-level (for an 8 year old) gymnastics parents none of which were anywhere near as welcoming as this crowd.
I did find one thing surprising, and I hope I can explain this so that does not offend anyone. For what I am assuming was a self-selected bunch of fairly high level young skiers, the level of general athleticism seemed a little low. To be absolutely clear, there were several seemingly very good athletes there. When I say the level was low I don't mean in comparison to a random selection of like aged kids. I assume this groups "elite" level would be more comparable to a local babe ruth or soccer league all-star team, maybe the starters on a large schools JV high school basketball team.
What do I mean by athleticism? Well, it can be kind of hard to define but I think most people know it when they see it. It's that quality that gets the same people picked 1st in PE class, even when nobody has ever seen the game before because it's some weird thing the PE instructor came up with on the spot. It's something that when you're young you can size up even among complete strangers after a few minutes of horseplay. Things like balance, quickness, body sense. I wouldn't necessarily put strength or endurance in the category of innate athleticism as they are relatively quickly changed with training.
How was I judging their athleticism? Well I set up an NFL style combine and ran them all through it. Actually, I'm just talking about observing them playing capture the flag in the woods, swimming, running, playing ultimate Frisbee and just generally horsing around. I have coached Little League baseball, girls soccer, and youth league basketball. I generally had a pretty good idea of who the best players would be after about 10 min. of watching them goof off before practice started. Not that there weren't some very nice surprises.
So was it just me? I know the level of athleticism needed to obtain the highest heights in ski racing is comparable to other sports, but maybe the level needed to be “pretty darn good” is not as high as other sports and maybe the lack of athleticism can be compensated for better than in other sports?
Maybe I'm wrong about the level of competition the skiers were at and in my choice of mental comparison groups?
Maybe I'm wrong about what I consider athletic? Or my ability to judge what is athletic? Maybe the camp group was more selected by who had money to go to camp then by their skiing ability?
/EDIT: Want to emphasize that I didn't think any of the racers were "poor" athletes. Nobody was walking into walls or poking themselves in the eye while trying to eat. It was just that as a group, while above average, they weren't as athletic as I had subconsciously expected.
Edited by Alveolus - 8/13/13 at 2:03am