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Lucy in the Sky with...

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
With the permission of some of the folks on the angulation thread, I’m going to start a thread to discuss some of the work I’ve been doing around what I call the Sports Diamond. I would also like to add that many of my colleagues have also been using this material and seem to really feel it opens up their teaching and skiing pursuits.

I’ll do it in bits and pieces so as not to be too long-winded, and please ask questions and challenge me as we go.

My original work here came from a quest to find some sort of complete structure that would contain the elements of what I do in my skiing, how I teach it and grow in it, and how I make decisions in the process.

A lot of it was driven by my amusement at the way people (me included) would tend to hang their hats on just one thing, one focus, one argument. I also noticed that the more we did that—the narrower the focus became—the more that “one thing” became inadequate.

The most obvious one that we’re all aware of is the focus on technique. Technique, when we overemphasize it, ultimately sounds like Leon Littlebird’s classic instructor caricature:
“A state of flux in the angular valving of gravity is achieved by counterroticipational polarity on a reverse lateral base minimizing outward torsional thrust, while anticipating compound peripheral extrusion, and avoiding the counterintuitive occurrence of socassic resonance, while enhancing articulated, forced, dynamic struts with altagyrometric, balance-articulated, solid unobtanium parameter enhancers. “ The oppposite of Bonni’s kiss.

In the meantime, I discovered, especially while teaching moguls, that “line” was just as important as technique, and that when people were clear about their line, reasonable technique seemed to just appear.

So to make the long story short, I became acutely aware that we simply sabotage ourselves by getting bogged down in one area or another, and that skiing, and all sports, are really excellent when we remain open to all the rich pieces and parts that it contains: from technique to tactics to emotion to rhythm to commitment, etc.

Then came the problem of how to decide which of the rich pieces to focus on at any moment and why? Is there a methodology for remaining open, and is their a model which will include all the pieces?

The Sports Diamond is the result. It is simply a proposal to work within four major categories of endeavor, or resources. I’ve named them Power, Purpose, Touch, and Will. Power encompasses technical and physical aspects. Purpose is about tactics, strategy, and goals. Will is about commitment, managing anxiety, and decision making. And Touch is about feelings (sensory and emotional), rhythm, fluidity, timing, etc. I lay these corners out in a diamond shape so that they can be seen in juxtaposition to each other. The game is to, over time, hold polarity (or keep the balance) between and among all the corners. When I do this, I grow. When I don’t, I stall. When I get stuck on one, I shift to another.

Lastly, I want to give credit where credit is due. The diamond format as well as the holding polarity is what I’ve learned from my colleague, teacher, and partner, Ahmed Yehia, and his friend and early mentor, Dr. Peter Koestenbaum (see www.pib.net ) The skiing part, I learned from all my teachers, coaches, and students in my years in ski schools.

Dat’s da short version! Ya want more? Or are there questions? (By the way, thanks to Big E for bringing this up with his challenges to my overemphasis on flexibility!)
post #2 of 32

Oh Yeah!

Weems. It was a while ago, but I had been reading about the Diamond on a web-site (Aspen?) and found some really neat stuff. I was planning on "borrowing" some of it for some training I was doing at the time and adding another concept to it that I had learned from David Oliver of the RM Freestyle park punks called SASC (Pronounced "Sassy". Static, Active, Simple, Complex). The idea was to pick an aspect of the Diamond and apply a SASC progression to it.

Turned out I ran out of time and didn't even go to the Trainer's Accred. that year... and then I forgot about it! I've since gone and passed the Trainer's and now I tend to have a bit of spare time to train my instructors. Maybe I'll use them as lab rats and see if moving about amongst SASC and Sports Diamond simplifies any language, as I'm sure it won't spawn any new skiing! The two concepts (on paper anyway) really seem to complement each other.

Unfortunately I have to wait until next December... Darnit! Maybe we can get started here? I can pretty easily type up an example of how SASC works...
post #3 of 32
Hope all this doesn't Hijack this thread for anyone!!!
post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
No hijack at all. That is what this thread is about.

Have at it spag, I'd like to see it. One of the hopes of this system has been that it would support and inform other systems as well.

In our GCT program in PSIA-RM, I use it to fill in the boxes on the grid more fully. In other words, I use the diamond to elaborate on just how I can indentify and facilitate the movement, understanding, AND motivational needs for students.

From the point of view of a teacher, the diamond is designed to help flesh in the elements of whatever system I'm working in. From the point of view of the student, it is designed to develop a sort of roadmap or checklist--to see where I should go next, when whatever I'm doing begins to fail.
post #5 of 32

I think Bonni would love a portion of Leon's "Ski Instructor Blues":

Paraphrasing since I don't remember the words precisely. Apologies to Leon since I can't duplicate the wonderful flow he has when he performs this song.

"Bend your kness
Follow me
PLEASE avoid the trees
That will be $100 please"
post #6 of 32
Toss in a pinch of "Herbert Maslow" ... sweet recipe ...

Taken up (with the scale of), the learning ladder would be nice ... with illustration/examples.
post #7 of 32
now if we could only get Leon to contribute with a sbl thread.
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by lennyblake
now if we could only get Leon to contribute with a sbl thread.
He would if you asked him.
post #9 of 32
does he lurk/post here, or do I need to go through channels to get his email?
post #10 of 32
Thread Starter 
I don't know, but I just dropped him an email and told him he is being summoned!
post #11 of 32
weems i just deleted my post i do want to discuss this but i should read a bit first. i am a bit tired and don't want to waste your time . i am reading it now and it is alot to ingest.i will have many questions. if you want to start , maybe we could use practical applications . like , ,today the snow was soft and nice and i made good rounded , connected turns and did very well , but as day went on the snow changed and my balance was messed with causing me to get sidetracted in what i was doing so well earlier. i am sure my using up alot of energy late was a big factor but my decisions to overcome this and the changes didn't flow all that well. i left disappointed in myself knowing i was more capable than this.my point is i am dwelling on one run that left me dissatisfied andi am acting like my whole day was ruined. this isn't true but how would you use this to shake off and move to another point
post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 
Garryz. This is a perfect example of how to use the Diamond. Normally when people go through this, they come up with some tech issue and they can't seem to resolve it and they go away disappointed. The day seems to just collapse when it was quite good before.

But you hit the nail on the head--THE CONDITIONS CHANGED. It is most likely that the first thing that would have helped would have been to shift to or emphasize the Touch corner. The snow is offering a far different kind of resistance--probably much slower, perhaps deeper slush to make the bottoms drag, and maybe even the stickiness that comes from the spring pollen on really wet snow.

In a sentence, if you do the same moves with the same timings that you used on the faster snow of the morning, you have no chance. You will over load the ski and bog down.

Maybe don't change your move, but change it's duration or intensity to regain fluidity. This is approaching the issue with Touch, based on the feel for the new snow condition. The acceleration happens slower so prepare for that by not moving forward quite so aggressively or quickly. Have an extremely soft touch to the edges coming out of the turn so they don't bury themselves in the slop. In the Will corner, there is an interesting issue in this kind of snow: when the snow gets sloppy and bouncy in the afternoons, there is a tendency to ski with more of the sole of the foot on the snow for stability. It takes a huge commitment (Will) to maintain a softly pressured but firmly held edge angle to slice through the chaos--and to go as fast as you can. Also, moving to Purpose: take a little longer arc in the fall line part of each turn. This strategy will help you let a bit more speed build up to drive you out of the turn. I shape the turns very differently in slush than I do elsewhere.

The fun of this kind of approach is the disappointment of failure turns to the delight of a puzzle. And by the way, the very first thing I do in this type of situation is I lower my criteria for success. If what I'm doing is not working, my new criterion for success will be just trying something--anything. Staying engaged in a challenge is just as important as a great result when things go weird.

By the way, this is another critical polarity. We've already talked about clarity<-->flexibility in the angulation thread. This new one you're dealing with is holding the tension between process and results. When the results are illusive because the situation is becoming squirrely, continued emphasis on results tends to become self sabotage. Instead, I switch to the process pole where I'm more in discovery mode and less in perfection mode. What a treat this is. Then the crappy snow becomes fascinating rather than depressing. How easy is that!

Hope this helps. Got your book order. Will send it out on Monday. Thanks!

post #13 of 32
Get some intense therapy, GarryZ.

Are you so bunched up that you can't flip and flail around at the end of the day without feeling like you've wasted a day? Woof.

I get a great deal of enjoyment out of any day on skis, and part of the fun is to blow into the base area at the end of the day, totally ragged out, skiing like a first timer, every bit of juice squeezed out, and this on my face:

Skiing isn't about 'perfection'. It's about Enjoyment. Lighten up on yerself.

PS. I was posting when Weems was. To sum up and KISS his post: ADAPT.
post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 
True, but Bonni, this state that GarryZ describes is the most common state in all sports. It is so easy to feel discomfort about discomfort!
post #15 of 32
i had a long reply but it really meant ,what you just said .I am not hung up about this. i was trying to have Weems demonstrate his work by laying this out there. I think the mind is the key here and this seems to be his emphasis. the mind as a much under used tool .Sure i sound like a goof but i got a good answer .I"d rather learn something , I got a very specific answer that was really helpful.
post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 
The mind can make a lot of choices out there about how to manage the day.
post #17 of 32
Not only am I honored that Weems can quote my "ski-bonics" phrase, I am blown away that Mike Wilson knows the lyrics to one of my songs!
Humor is indeed a valuable part teaching...a big part of inspiring people to move through the heart in their skiing journey. In Strength Based Learning we explore the biomechanical movement patterns as they evolve from "intuative" to "counter-intuative". Intuative: Stay uphill and resist. Counter-intuative: Move the body downhill and let go. In order to make this evolutionary transition, one must move throught the heart...fall in love with the sport. This is the key to getting up eight times after falling down seven and the key to enlightened instruction. Why do we persist year after year still hungry to learn and grow? We fell in love with the sport! Sharing the passion is what we have in common above all else. The oganic process of learning feeds on healthy enthusiasm that arrives unmasked and unbrideled in a shared passion for learning. After all...what do we instructors really know if it is not how to learn?
post #18 of 32
Littlebird that was really a nice post . You stated a complex thought in a simple manner.I look forward to more for you, i hope i don't have to wait 3 1/2 years .
post #19 of 32


Originally Posted by Littlebird
Not only am I honored that Weems can quote my "ski-bonics" phrase, I am blown away that Mike Wilson knows the lyrics to one of my songs!

Welcome. I hope you'll find time between gigs and the other beautiful summer activities in Summit County to share your insights with the forum.

Leon leads an incredible teaching clinic, one of the most popular held by PSIA-RM every winter and also conducts instructor training at Copper and other resorts. I encourage all members of the forum to welcome Leon and learn from this gifted human being.

How can an instructor ever forget the 'Ski Instructor Blues", it resonates so perfectly with our life that outsiders rarely see.

Now the boots are in the closet, skis "summerized" and back to the world of a PGA Golf Professional this Wednesday.


post #20 of 32
"The Ski Instructors Blues" is in the intro on the PSIA-RM Skiing Standard 2004 DVD. That song alone is worth the price of the DVD. The skiing is OK too.
post #21 of 32
Originally Posted by BillA
"The Ski Instructors Blues" is in the intro on the PSIA-RM Skiing Standard 2004 DVD. The song alone is worth the price of the DVD.
My daughter can even recite quite a bit of "The Ski Instructor Blues."

Welcome to EpicSki, Leon!
post #22 of 32


I mentioned earlier that I would delve into The Diamond and perhaps play with combining it with some other fun concept. Hwever, after reading up on the Sports Diamond, and digging up a few writings of my own, I realize that describing it would require spending far more time in front of the computer than I had hoped. I'll put a descriptor of the SASC (Sassy) concept up later and let those who wish draw their own findings and conclusions.

Sorry to be a tease,

post #23 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Notorious Spag
I mentioned earlier that I would delve into The Diamond and perhaps play with combining it with some other fun concept. Hwever, after reading up on the Sports Diamond, and digging up a few writings of my own, I realize that describing it would require spending far more time in front of the computer than I had hoped. I'll put a descriptor of the SASC (Sassy) concept up later and let those who wish draw their own findings and conclusions.

Sorry to be a tease,

No rush. It's spring.
post #24 of 32
Thanks for coming on board Leon! I took your clinic at Winter Park this season (2nd of two clinics I believe), and look forward to insight that I have come to really respect.
post #25 of 32
Wow. Leon Littlebird and Deb Armstrong. Bob Barnes. Arcmeister. Weems the conductor. Bonni and Laurie and cgeib singing backup. I'm loving it. Bravo!
post #26 of 32
Here's the words (I hope) if ya all want to sing along
(Apologies if I'm off on the lyrics)

Oh Lord I’ve got that ski instructor blues
Every day I’m putting out the news
Slap on those skis
Bend your knees
Try and miss the trees
Follow me
Six hundred dollars please

I don’t want to ski with never evers
Ya know level ones drive a man insane
They’re always fallen down
They can’t buy a turn
And in the end they get cold and complain


Well I don’t want to ski with no wedge turners
I prefer the folks who parallel
Unless he’s got his Bognars stuffed with hundred dollar bills
Or in her stretch pants she looks cute as hell


Well boss won’t you give me level seven
Super won’t you give me level eight?
I’ll ski em down the steep
And I’ll ski em through the deep
And if they tip me ya know my whole day will be great

post #27 of 32
Doo Wop! What's the melody to this little ditty?

Welcome, Leon, even though I don't know ya, I'm sure I will soon if ya hang about enough.:
post #28 of 32
littlebird, great to have you here! This'll be a decent way to stay in touch over the summer...
post #29 of 32

Music and skiing...what a life!

The melody to the song is full-on bluegrass. The posting of the lyrics from the video is perfect as well. However, just like in skiing, the lyrics have evolved these days. Here are the new verses:

I hear it takes one hundred ski instructors,
just to change one light
one to screw it in and the other 99
just to tell him if he got his turns right.

They tell me that skiing's days are over
they tell that snowboarding is the way
You can go form zero to riding like a hero
and you can do all that in just one day

Someday I will make a decent recording of this song, live I hope, so everyone can have a copy. It has become one my most requested songs at gigs.

I am off to travel for a few weeks and will check back in when I return. Will be recording a native american flute piece for rockabilly Hall of Fame legend Sonny West in KC this spring too. Woo-hoo!

By the way Mike...A Basin is still skiing great up top. Don't storage wax those boards just yet!
post #30 of 32
Very nice idea weems. I like it alot.

I'd like to point out, when you are working in the "touch" pole, you seem to be focusing primarily on the external cues. Is the snow soft? Is it sticky? Can I keep this edge going?

I'd like to mention that within the "touch" pole, there are mirror reflections of these external cues -- the internal cues. Which springs entirely different ways to go through the bases....

eg. Is the snow sticky = do I feel a pull forward?(touch) Can I expect more pulls foward?(purpose) Would I manage them better by pushing my feet forwards a little to anticipate them?(power) Do I dare get closer to the back seat?(will)

I see a definate value in the sports diamond approach because it helps to clarify the decision making process. It provides a sense of order to the process. In my view, we do continually cycle through some sort of decision making process, regardless of whether or not we choose to label the different poles.

Going through them in a different way would spawn different results. Is the snow sticky? = Yes, It's heavy, I'm sinking it's grabby.(touch) If I push my skiis together, I won't sink so deep(power). I'll close them up a bit when I see the deep stuff.(purpose and will)

Certainly, fixating on a particular pole can have devastating effects.
Especially when that pole is not touch. In my view touch is home plate.

Whenever I give a lesson, the absolute first thing I do is to focus on touch. Hopping through turns, or shuffling the feet always start my lessons. Even with wedge turns, "Do you feel a strain in your hips? Relax, settle into the boot...." .

My primary goal is to get the student to feel their CM and how it relates to their platform(touch). Then we can talk about learning certain moves(power), perhaps when to do the moves(purpose), all the while focussing on how they feel (touch). Often the students are so focussed, it does not even pop into their minds that this is scary stuff, but adding a bit of patience(will) often clears that hurdle.

Why do I go after internal sensations?

IMO, good skiing begins when you can tell the difference between the path of the body and the path of the skis. Why? Because only then can you really influence the path of the body with the path of the skis.

And ultimately when we feel that we are skiing wonderfully, it is the body genius making all adjustments sub-consciously -- we are freed from the process to revel in the sensory joy that at least for me defines skiing.

[And I bet you all thought I was a total tech head. weems, thanks for putting up with my ranting...and I hope I labelled my examples properly]
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