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How do you teach balance?

post #1 of 69
Thread Starter 
In the Movement Analysis 101 thread I found this model:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrangler View Post
to the original post... A little formula that works well for a lot of instructors:
B-A-T-S-I.
BALANCE; First thing to look at, if it's off, there's your lesson plan. ATTITUDE; is the student comfortable on the terrain or are they over matched for their skill level (body language).
TURN; what is the shape and what is the power source?
SKILL; what skills are they using, what skills do they need improvement on?
INSTRUCTION; what is the one thing I can give this student today that will make the greatest improvement in their skiing experience.
BATS-I.

I like this. My question is:

If the BALANCE is off "There's your lesson plan." -

How do you teach this?
post #2 of 69
Balance is often confused in the ski teaching world. Strictly speaking, if you are not falling over....you are in balance. And come to think of it, I suppose one could argue that if you are moving back and forth then you are not technically in balance either.

However in Skiing we define "balance" effectively as the situation where your BOS (ie Feet) are supporting your COM. Often we see skiers using their ski boots for balance...ie too far back...or sometimes using their ski tips for balance...ie too far forward....or sometimes they rely on their speed for balance...ie banking...if we see these things...and somtimes it can be all of the above...others, or subtle combinations....we need to teach the student a new way of not falling over....but using "proper" positioning of the BOS relative to the COM.

To teach this, well that depends on the students particular issue and skill level, but generally speaking, as people we can FEEL balance pretty easily, hence I try to do exercies that will allow them to feel different balance positions...then I try to get them feeling which position is optimum for the part of the turn and conditions they are in.

Good exercieses are anything that involves lots of movment...as we know, in skiing balance is dynamic not static,hence:

Pivot Slips (too far foward, too far back, center, start foward, end back...mix it up)
Spiess (mix it like above, good drill for stronger skiers)
1000 Steps (again mix it up)
1000 Hops (as above)

For lateral balance I find these are good:
Gorrilla Turns (personal favorite)
Inside ski turns (intermediate and up-pick easy terrain)
White pass turns (as above)
Javelin turns (advanced skiers and up)
Tap the inside ski turns (good for most levels)
Tap the outside ski turns (good for intermediates and up)

You could write a whole book just on this topic...the key is to understand what "Being in Balance" means for skiers...and then give the student experiences that allow them to feel a wide variety of "States of Balance", not surprisingly, or maybe surpisingly, you rarely need to tell the studnet which one is correct, they usually "feel the zone" right away.....keeping in that zone thou, is what virtually all skiers (yes including WC) spend the bulk of their time working on.
post #3 of 69
I like SD72's answer. Any activity that requires lateral and for/aft balance is good. For example, the first time beginner, I let them feel what ankle flex is and then they find their own balance from the boot drills. With skis on, walking/climbing and then stepping around a turn forces them to balance while moving. Skating for lateral and fore/aft.

For advanced intermediates on through L9, thousand steps on approiate terrain forces both for/eaft and lateral balance in motion (dynamic balance). Side slip for fore/aft, one footed or stem steps for lateral. I don't do a lot of hopping, but that is also good as SD72 stated. Leapers are also good.

No drill is usefull unless it can be related to skiing.

RW
post #4 of 69
Balancing is a skill that we can improve but in a lot of those drills we are not on the snow. Standing on a balance ball, bongo board, balance disks, etc...

Perhaps the best way to acheive better balance is to ice skate. Especially if you play hockey. How many of you guys have taught hockey players? They pick up skiing very fast.
post #5 of 69


Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post
How many of you guys have taught hockey players? They pick up skiing very fast.
I started out teaching at West Mt in Glens Falls, NY. Home of the Adirondack Red Wings, a Detroit Red Wings farm team. They were not supposed to ski, but would sneak off and do it any way. They really made me feel like I knew what I was doing. After the hour long lesson was over I would ski with them and they were ready just about everything that little hill had.
post #6 of 69
In skiing, the equipment can present special difficulties with the development of inherent balancing skills because it is so easy to balance on/brace against the equipment instead of balancing by connecting the CM through the BOS to the ground. How many skiers would stand up if we cut the ski off behind the heelpiece of the binding?
post #7 of 69
Quote:
How do you teach this?
We can lead people down the path to learning, but their willingness to change and profet from the experience is out of our control.

RW
post #8 of 69
Thread Starter 
So true Ron, but what I was asking about was drills. sd72 gave some good ones.

How about some more drills, particularly for low level skiers?
post #9 of 69
Quote:
With skis on, walking/climbing and then stepping around a turn forces them to balance while moving. Skating for lateral and fore/aft.
Besides these, anything that involves diagional movement or staying balanced between the skis. ie, for a wedge turner that leans in, draw a line in the snow (with your poles) as you make turns down the hill, the student's task is to keep the line between the tip of the skis and to also keep their belly button over the line.

For the wedge skier that has a reluctant foot, on shallow terrain, do short turns to a cadence or syncronised turns or ski through a course of cones.

Most of the drills I use are not for the sake of drills, but are designed for a specific person with a specific balance issue. Sometimes if a group all exibits similar ballance issues, I can modify a drill that will benefit the whole group. The important thing is for the group or individual to relate the drill to their skiing and that we recognize if balance is the real issue, or if some other skill is deficient that is affecting the balance such as edging movements or rotary mocements.

That is why this is a difficult thread to respond to.

RW
post #10 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
That is why this is a difficult thread to respond to.

RW

Good stuf Ron.

And I agree that it is a difficult subject to answer, that's why I asked. Because when I saw the statement "there's your lesson plan." I thought, "where?"
post #11 of 69
Tell them to start mountain biking in the summer?
post #12 of 69
I'd aruge that you can't really teach someone "balance".
post #13 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post
In the Movement Analysis 101 thread I found this model:




I like this. My question is:

If the BALANCE is off "There's your lesson plan." -

How do you teach this?

Ski Mango

I usually do it by using simple activities that people do in everyday life that they cannot do without being in balance, like hopping.

Most adults don't hop a lot, but kids do and adults still know how to do it. Ask a person to hop and they will have to balance before being able to do it. Sometimes a person might need 4 or five tries to get it, but most will get it within 3 tries. After some repetitions of successful hops in whatever situation the skier is in they begin to stand in a much more balanced stance as a result.

As for the "lesson plans," it's hard for me to spit one out, because they are so dependent on the individual, but here is a try.

If the balance is off:

Never ever:

No skis on: - Hop in place 3-4 repetitions of 3 hops
- Get ready to hop- then lift one foot & balance (at least enough repetitions to experience balance on each foot 3 times
- Hop from foot to foot (until execution is relatively easy)
- Hop and propel self forward with pole use, 2 sets of 5 hops

After Edge Control movements and Rotary Movements are experienced without skis on, I use the same balancing series with skis on-static and with skis on-in simple glides. Usually we spend about 5 minutes developing Balance, Edge Control & Rotary movements w'out skis on (Pressure control happens & develops naturally, but I don't find need to develop it specifically until later).

Note: Intensity of hops can be variable. No actual air-time is needed for a person to be hopping. Intensity of hops should allow them to do the approx # of repetitions above.

Note2: During these first minutes of the lesson we are talking, and people are relating what else they do in life, activity, sport and we incorporate activities/actions from these other pursuits/sports to develop balance & other skills.

Intermediate:

During the first chair rides and warm up runs we are getting to know each other and the other skiing/sports/activities/experiences we have in life.

If, after the first run or two, things need go in the direction of developing balancing skills, we do something similar to the following:

- A series of linked traverses in which we Hop 3 times, (turn), Hop 3 times.(two traverses in each direction);
- We lift one foot at time, (turn) lift one foot at a time. (enough repetitions so they can lift each foot twice);
- We hop from foot-to-foot,(turn) hop from foot-to-foot.(enough reps so they can hop from each foot twice).

Note: Generally this is done without stopping between each activity change, but it depends of the person/people in the group and how they execute/understand. If needed, we stop and I do a demo or presentation before people follow, ideally though, I set this up for a minimum of talking or stopping. This series rarely takes more than a minute (two if demo/ presentations are used) or takes up more than a small portion of a run unless we do it a couple times, then there is some skiing between series.

Then we ski for a run or two and apply what we have developed so far.

Usually I move to to a terrain-based adventure mode in which we seek out terrain changes on the edges of the runs (small drops, rises, lumps, bumps, and sidehills) and ski over them in a continuous & flowing manner at an ideal speed for the person/people) the key developement here is to use ankles to keep ski tips in contact with the snow as we move over these terrain changes. We then go back to skiing the groomed run only and find the continuous movement over varied terrain changes results in a more relaxed and balanced stance which significantly changes how skiers move through turns and results in a naturally improved application of all the skills without specific attention to each.

note: sometimes this requires a short teaching segment in which we use one flat-to-down-drop at a time and execute the "use ankles to keep skis in contact with the snow" until I see them do it and tell them "That's it!" we "GO" immediately thereafter.

Note2: the terrain based adventure thing works well all by itself with most people, especially with kids & teens.

Note3: With intermediate and advanced skiers, continued difficulty with performing these very basic "everyday" things is a sign of equipment issues, most often ill fitting, stanced or improperly designed boots (of which there are many out there). Keep in mind the appropriate intensity thing and that these activities need not be very intense to be successful
post #14 of 69
Thread Starter 
Roto excellent stuff thanks!

I use hopping from time to time but your post really reminds me of it's value. Hopping in a wedge is a great exercise because you have to be centered. If you're forward you snow plow, if you're back you accelerate. It is an excellent way for the student to feel where the center is, and for me to see if they are centered fore/aft.
post #15 of 69
Lonnie,

Quote:
I'd aruge that you can't really teach someone "balance".
I agree and I think that the posts here support that. We can however, have people learn what is balanced skiing and what is not, so they can discover more efficient balancing movements on skis and while skiing.

RW
post #16 of 69
SMJ Thanks.

Great question by the way. I find myself mystified that some instructors believe balance can't be taught in skiing. I do understand confusion about how to teach it though. I spent many years teaching without understanding how to teach balance, and I focused only on the other skills. I suppose arguing the point would simply be an exercise in semanitcs. As far as my experiences go, I do spend time working specifically with the skill of balance with skiers of all levels. The way I see it, any task, exercise, situation can be apllied to any of the skills, no matter what skills a person identifies as the skills of skiing.

I find many instructors rely primarily on "verbal correction"(don't do that) and "verbal direction"(do this) while teaching. I think these things can be a part of teaching, but employing only, or primarily these things isn't all teaching consists of, particularly in an enviroment as experiential as skiing! I think this may have something to do with the belief that balance can't be taught, because verbal correction/direction rarely work well with people who lack the experience/skill to make conscious corrections; finding an action or activity that connects a person with the desired movement, position or sequence and repeating it enough times that a person can begin to control it is the key.

For more advanced skiers/especially fellow instructors and coaches I also use traversing with added challenges.

- Traverse and:

-Tap the tip and tail of the uphill ski alternately.
-Tap the tip & tail of the downhill ski alternately.
-Tap the tip of the uphill ski on the uphill side and downhill side of the other ski alternately.
-Traverse on one foot while rotating the other.

The way to make these apply specifically to balance is to add the criteria that stance does not change (very much) the less a skier's stance changes from a good traverse to adding one of the challenges, the better their balance gets. Most people will show some sort of stance change that wil affect their ability to traverse at first, but with continued tries and feedback they begin to be able to do it; unless they are in poorly stanced & aligned boots, or the boot/binding interface presents them with to much of a stance challenge itself.

The difficulty level of some of the above challenges is so high it takes some time to acheive for most people. I rarely use them except for fellow pros who are training hard to advance skills in a professional sense. I have had a few clients with the attitude and skills to work at this level of difficulty, usually former ski racers or some other kind of competetive athlete with the drive to take their skiing skills much farther than most recreational skiers. I have used them to advance my own skills.

For advanced-to-expert skiers, adding challeges to dynamic turns works as well too

Shuffling, for example.

Ski a run while shuffling the feet continuously. Most of us will find this pretty hard at first, either we have to quit shuffling at some point, or we sacrifice our ability to continue skiing well in order to shuffle, either one signifies a breakdown in stance/"loss of balance." this again, can take time and commitment to gain acheivements in, but it works. A skier can make great turns while shuffling their feet back and forth, if they are in balance!

The old Thousand-Steps deal is similar, continuous quick-steps while making turns. (I generally don't like using exercise or drill names though, because there are many interpretations of each named drill out there and I never know who thinks what is what compared to what I think. I find describing the action a more directly successful method of communication.

In general, it seems to me that most teaching balance approaches involve incorporating basic actions that people are capable of in their lives (because they are in balance there) into skiing at their level.
post #17 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
Lonnie,


We can however, have people learn what is balanced skiing and what is not, so they can discover more efficient balancing movements on skis and while skiing.

RW
What would you call the process of accomplishing that?

edit: What would you call a teacher taking a student though a specific process to accomplish that?






I'm just going to add some more stuff the SMJ. I'm going in fits and starts today since it's a rare day off, but I do have some things going on around the house!

In keeping to the lesson plan idea, these are in-sequence things that I actually use specifically for balance

For kids and timid first-timers:

- Touch the boots/reach for the sky: Specifically during their first basic glides, it prevents all the arm waving and leaning around, but if you perform it yourself you can feel how both actions, the touching and reaching actually direct balance to BOTH feet. It works well because it gives some concrete things to touch/reach for (kids need concrete things as references, as do very timid teens/adults.)
- Hop 3 times (previously described)
- Lift one foot at a time
- Multiple steps while gliding
- Jump feet out, jump feet in

Basic direction changes & speed control (before people are "turning" but have control of directional gliding & speed on flat terrain)

- Vary stance wide to narrow & back.
- Ski over terrain changes (whoop de doos, steep-to-flat, flat-steep-flat)
- Vary stance over the terrain changes
- Dig alternating dips (with your own ski) in the snow and glide through them (feet go up & down independently).
- Ski up & change direction on small sidehills.

Happy Holidays!
post #18 of 69
SMJ
One aspect of the balance wheel is to help the student find the "sweet spot" in their stance and equipment. Where can I position myself on the ski and in my boot that puts me at the optimum place to not fall down and utilize my equipment the best? The shop charged me a lot of money to mount my bindings in a certain place relative to my boot sole length, ski length etc. Why? Because that is the spot where the ski will perform the best. 90% of my time is spent getting skiers to find their "sweet spot". From that base line all other things become possible. I can knowingly use various positions on the ski and in my boot if I have a base spot to move from or come back to. One of the tasks at our level 3 exam is skiing dynamically on one ski. We use it(among other things) to show proper position and ability to use the ski/boot characteristics, stay in balance and perform the maneuver.
A few simple exercises for balance 1-9 skiers. Level 1. walk (picking feet off the ground) Level 2. slide (straight run with exercise) reach down touch front of boot, back of boot, get small, get tall etc. Level 3-4 "Thumpers" Tap uphill ski on the ground three times before the next turn, then twice, then once then no thump just turn. 360's. Level 4-5.Long traverses on downhill ski. See how long you can stay on one foot. (This is probably the single best exercise for all levels of skiers.) See how straight a line you can leave in the snow. If you can make the ski go straight (not easy to do) you've got it. Level 6-7 Leapers. Gets them turning both feet simultaneously and ready for more dynamic pressure on the skis and feet. "Falling leaf". Small mogul jumps down the fall line. Level 7-8 All of the above done at speed. Sustained "hockey slides" 35-40 feet in length. Leave one ski off. Unbuckle the boots (check with your risk management before you use this one). Level 9. blind skiing, dynamic traverses in the bumps, Javelins, Heli. At this level everything is fair game
Exercises and drills are either developmental or correctional. In the early stages we are mostly developmental and in the latter stages correctional.
Hope this helps!
post #19 of 69
roto,


Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White
Lonnie,


We can however, have people learn what is balanced skiing and what is not, so they can discover more efficient balancing movements on skis and while skiing.

RW


What would you call the process of accomplishing that?----learning

edit: What would you call a teacher taking a student though a specific process to accomplish that?-----effective

RW
post #20 of 69
Thread Starter 
Ahhh, ask and you shall receive!

I will copy this stuff to a Word Doc, edit to make nice lists, and come up with a nice helpful guide for my teaching.

Gotta love the internet - bringing together the ideas of many!
post #21 of 69
Thread Starter 
Ron, your last post reminds me of the old joke.

A little boy tells his mom, "Mom I taught the dog how to talk."

Mom says, "Really, let's hear him say something then."

Boy says, "He can't."

Mom says, "But i thought you said you taught him how to talk?"


Boy says, "I did, I did. I taught him, and I taught him and I taught him."
post #22 of 69
I also believe you can't teach balance, as it is something that is dynamic and comes with experience.

It is pretty easy to demonstrate what it means to be in proper static balance on skis when standing on even terrain or when side slipping etc, but it is extremely difficult to demonstrate or explain dynamic balance when it comes to how to adjust the COM to anticipate forces or terrain variations. What usually happens is the student picks up on how to be in balance during an exercise, but once back on real terrain they usually go back to the same habits and patterns because their balance is too static and they are too rigid.

Dynamic balance involves being flexibile and relaxed(most students are neither), and this is rarely focused on. It is something that is learned and acquired through experience. If the student progresses far enough they will eventually realise what they were being told in the lessons and be able to understand when and where certain movement patterns of the COM are appropriate for a given terrain.

I am not saying the drills are not of value or important, because they are; Utilimately, however, they are just showing the student how to be in proper static balance during a very limited exercise.
post #23 of 69
MojoMan,

Quote:
am not saying the drills are not of value or important, because they are; Utilimately, however, they are just showing the student how to be in proper static balance during a very limited exercise.
I feel that many of the posts in this thread are motion related (rather than static) and do help develope dynamic balance such as the one below.


Quote:
For advanced intermediates on through L9, thousand steps on approiate terrain forces both for/eaft and lateral balance in motion (dynamic balance).
RW
post #24 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
roto,
learning
Learning what?

Quote:
effective
RW
effective at what?
post #25 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post
Balancing is a skill that we can improve but in a lot of those drills we are not on the snow. Standing on a balance ball, bongo board, balance disks, etc...

Perhaps the best way to acheive better balance is to ice skate. Especially if you play hockey. How many of you guys have taught hockey players? They pick up skiing very fast.
Yes they do. Most pro-athletes have a refined sense of balance. Pro Moto riders excel. Best student ever was a Pro Ice skater, well trained. Executed movements perfectly. Restrict your advantages(senses/equipment) and adapt.
post #26 of 69
Roto,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White
Lonnie,


We can however, have people learn what is balanced skiing and what is not, so they can discover more efficient balancing movements on skis and while skiing.

RW


What would you call the process of accomplishing that?

edit: What would you call a teacher taking a student though a specific process to accomplish that?
OK,ahem

Learning what is balanced skiing and what is not, so they can discover more efficient balancing movements on skis and while skiing.

Effective in creating the learning enviorment.

RW
post #27 of 69

Really enjoyed the dialogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
Roto,



OK,ahem

Learning what is balanced skiing and what is not, so they can discover more efficient balancing movements on skis and while skiing.

Effective in creating the learning enviorment.

RW
I haven't posted here in a while, but I must say I have really enjoyed this dialogue about teaching/learning balance.
Thanks to all,
Dan
post #28 of 69
A common thread through most of the drills is that they get the skier's attention off the skis and on the action. Let the body balance itself. With kids, telling them to ski backwards, ski frontwards, ski backwards, etc., gets their mind on the direction change and lets their bodies balance itself. Same thing for taking the kids through a beginner-level terrain park--bumps & dips, trees, tight turns, tunnels, etc. Same thing for letting the kids take bumpy trails through the trees on the side of the main run.

Also important is the equipment and alignment. If the boots are sloppy, balance can't be right. If the boots have way too much forward lean, way too stiff for that skier, mounted too far back, or other problem for that skier, balance can't be right. If the skier is bowlegged or knock kneed, balance will be used up in compensatory movements.
post #29 of 69
Interesting thread. I really don't know the pedagogy of learning balance and although I'm not an instructor I can sympathize with people grappling to teach it in lessons. To me it seems like a skiing prerequisite... as you shouldn't be allowed to take college calculus without knowing algebra cold. (Or at least you shouldn't expect to quickly grasp college calc without knowing algebra).

I think I learned balance from a combination of being on skis around 6 and generally doing a bajillion other sports as a youngster (on my own volition) that required it to varying degrees. I had an awful lot of wipeouts, skinned knees, sprains, yard sales, and grass stains as well as a few broken bones at a young age which didn't my balance directly, but are evidence that I was always pushing myself physically and probably improving balance among other things. But clearly you can't suggest people go beat the crap out of themselves in this thread so it is interesting to hear what are more direct approaches. I never consciously thought of improving my balance either. I don't mean to claim that I have uber-gymnist balance, but what I have has stuck with me through the years as far as I can tell.

Sometimes I have been in horrendous physical shape at the beginning of ski season and my muscles would tire very easily, but my balance seemed innate and almost compensated for piss poor conditioning in ways.
post #30 of 69
Thread Starter 
Well it looks like I started something good here, thanks again all.

I do believe that balance can be developed - hence learned, and therefore taught.

Barnstormer your post made me think of the way people learn to walk. Walking is after all basically falling forward and catching yourself and regaining balance. Never having had kids I can't say I know how it's learned however, but the vast majority of children do develop the skill.

I started skiing at 35 (I'm 55 now.) I didn't skate or do other balance sports, so it's taken me a long time to find my center on my skis. One of my goals as an instructor is to help people learn a little quicker then I did, and Wrangler's post that I used to start this thread, really triggered the thought that by spending more time on balance related drills we can help a skier to develop their skiing easier.

As you said Barnstormer, it's a prerequisite. I know that I skipped over it and went right to the other skills - taking years to get balanced.

I intend to spend more time on balance related drills at this point. I'll let you know how it goes.
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