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The Source?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
[I'd originally posted this note in the Feeling Better thread, and decided to give it its own thread so as not to derail the other one.]

I learned the exercise of initiating a turn from a standstill [described in the Feeling Better thread] from Scott Mathers at a National Examiners' College at Snowbird, Utah in the mid-90s. He used it as a diagnostic that has the added benefit of raising people's awareness of the ways they muscle the turn entry.

It is likely that the exercise was popularized by U.S. Ski Team coaches, as Scott, Rob Sogard, and Shawn Smith of the PSIA D-Team all spent some time on coaching exchange with the USST.

There are many nifty exercises and drills in ski instruction. Who actually invented them is often impossible to say, but leads me to this question:

Is ski racing the source of ski instructional brilliance?

[ February 03, 2004, 08:12 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #2 of 25
nolo:
Quote:
Is ski racing the source of ski instructional brilliance?
I look at it from the other way around. I have gotten much better at racing by doing the simple exercises such as you suggest.

I think the racers rise to the high level by finding the exercises and then turn around and pass them back down when they have credibility. In other words the discovery of the simple exercises produces the racer not the other way around. I think this is possible what you are getting at though.

[ February 03, 2004, 09:51 AM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #3 of 25
Shamelessy quoting Vera here, just in case you missed this gem deep in another thread:

Quote:
I've long noticed a bias in ski instruction, often among many more physically gifted athlete/educators, toward visual and cognitive instruction with little or no grounding in accurate or in-depth biomechanical description. Their gift to our world is the beautiful, inspiring images they can present of flowing, dynamic performance and hence, their teaching for many who learn best in these modes.
But their teaching no matter how impassioned does not fully gratify everyone, particularly the kinesthetic learner who progresses by exploring just how to create the universe of varying feelings and sensations in our wonderfully sensual sport of skiing. I wonder how many of these students who come to us eventually abandon instruction or the sport itself because their needs have not been met and they are not progressing. I see many of this type of learner in women's clinics and private lessons particularly.
Wish I could comment on from the point of view of a racer...but alas, that won't happen in this lifetime, I don't think. How many of you instructors have spent significant time racing? Just wondering...

[ February 03, 2004, 11:20 AM: Message edited by: Downwardly Mobile ]
post #4 of 25
Nolo,

Here's my take on it.

I think the not so simple answer is yes and no. And I'm not a racer at all, but have spent some time with Shawn Smith and got some perspective on it.

I was just talking with another instructor about this subject last night.

I get the impression that the racer's quest for efficiency and speed leads to revalations in ski instruction. However, I don't think that the racers really know what they are doing when they become faster. All of the sudden someone is able to beat the rest of the field consistently, so people start studying his/her turns to figure out why.

PSIA tends to be a couple of years behind the cutting edge of ski racing. I think that this is due to PSIA's need to filter the data and determine what is appropriate for the general public and recreational skiing. We can't just take everything that a racer does and arbitrarily say that all skiers should do it. Obviously, racing is one extreme end of the spectrum.

Then there's the "no" part of the answer. There are still a lot of aspects of teaching the public, especially at the lower levels, that have nothing to do with racing, so there is no way that the instructional brilliance behind those areas could have come from there.
post #5 of 25
One of my instructors is a rac coach in Canada in our summer.

he tells me he is successful with his charges (mostly youngish) because he simply teaches them GOOD skiing. They spend lots of time simply learning to ski well & a lot less learning to 'race'.
post #6 of 25
One thing to consider is that top end racers get access to new equipment technology a year or two before it is available to the general public.

Another thing to consider is that real race skis (the kind you can't get at your local ski store) are a lot stiffer than what is publicly available.

Finally, racers generally ski at higher speeds and are a lot more physically developed than the general skiing public.

So although instructors look to the racing community for models of efficient skiing, we need to make some considerations before we ask the public to ski or train like they do.
post #7 of 25
nolo, from my non-instructor's perspective, it appears that ski racing definitely is the root of good, efficient skiing. I'm hard-pressed to imagine how it could be otherwise, as the most efficient way of skiing seemingly also would be the fastest way to ski cleanly through gates. the most smooth and effective skiers I've ever watched have come from racing backgrounds.

but maybe I'm narrowing my focus, as many jibbing freeskiers might strongly disagree with me.

anyway, if ski racing really is not the origin of good skiing, I'd be interested in hearing why!
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
I agree, Gonz, that necessity is the mother of invention (was that what you said?) and the need to stand on top of a podium gives impetus to the imagination. I've phrased it to include all competitive skiing as that which inspires brilliance in teachers of the sport.

Here's how I see this working: a coach wants to help his/her athlete win, sees a gap, and finds a novel way to bridge it. Athlete wins and other coaches become curious about training regimen. Training regimen is deconstructed and interpreted for other athletes--if beneficial, training regimen will be discussed and even written about, at which time it is noticed by the leading edge of the mainstream (PSIA D-Team) and begins to be disseminated through the ranks via Examiner Colleges and divisional training.

How about this: Winning validates new techniques, but until the Gatekeepers certify it, it's unlikely to trickle down to the recreational skier.
post #9 of 25
I agree with Gonzo here. Everything I've learned from ski racers has enhanced my ability to teach. Everything I learned while ski racing has enhanced my ability to teach. There are other resources as well, but I think that ski racing has created the "mother turn" of skiing, the racers ski slowly better than anyone, but above all, racing is incredibly efficient technically and tactically. So if you want to do it the easy way, ground your stuff in the basics of racing turns.

Gonzo. Stand up! Move forward! Keep your head on straight!

That was fun skiing with you in Utah.
post #10 of 25
While not disagreeing I want to present a slightly differing perspective.

Much of what I know about sports I learned from golf.

In the late 1960's the great amateur golfer Bobby Jones made a famous statement referring to Jack Nicklaus;

"He plays a different game than I"

Recently Jack Nicklaus reminded all of us of that quote when he was asked to compare himself to Tiger Woods.

I'm not sure that any mere mortal in any sport does anything akin to "the greats".

I think of David Thompson's vertical leap, Pete maravich's ball handling and deft touch, Roberto Clemente's basket catch and rocket arm, the list can grow forever concerning athletes with unusual skills or attributes.

I don't think there is much I do that resembles Bode Miller other than when my heel steps into the binding or a smile spreads across my face.
post #11 of 25
Hi there, Nolo.

Take a look at the my new topic "Checking For Understanding". I think my questions/thoughts about "intentionality" are definitely connected to your question, here.

Looking forward to hearing your own thoughts on the connections between racing and teaching. I suspect you may have a few...

[ February 04, 2004, 06:44 AM: Message edited by: Downwardly Mobile ]
post #12 of 25
put that way, nolo, I agree completely... just like JohnH said... trickle-down after instructors/examiners/D-Team find ways to incorporate into existing instruction, which I suppose includes a filter regarding "application to what level skier, and how to communicate this movement."

Weems, I had such a good time skiing with you. you're a godsend to my stubborn reluctance to let go of old bad habits. I was thinking hard about being forward and levelling my head all day yesterday. unfortunately I was on my AT skis, which have no ramp angle at all, and I was in an odd backseat position. time to shim the heel piece of the binding to make the stance approximate my alpine eqpt stance.

Rusty Guy, the actual Bob Jones quote is "that man plays a game with which I am unfamiliar." :
post #13 of 25
Good topic and alot of sound replies and opinions. This may be the proverbial "chicken or the egg" question, as it pertains to skiing. From my point of view, I'll accept that new techniques/fundamentals gain credability at the top-rung of any sport. I will insist that all of these new techniques don't start at the top, but most of them do for one simple reason, Competition. As long as competition exists, the motivation for improved fundamentals/techniques will always be there. And...like in all major sports and as Nolo says, winning validates new techniques. I think that most here will agree with that and I think this fact again, carries over to most sports.

Having said this, I think skiing (and golf) differs from other sports in that in skiing we try to carry these improved techniques over to the performance of the general skiing public. In my eyes, this is where the challenges start for PSIA and you instructors out there. Rusty makes a good point in that the abilities of the top professionals bear little resemblance to the general public. This difference makes it difficult for a simple flow-down of technique/fundamentals that we see in some other sports. I guess that's where PSIA comes into play and like JohnH said, that's the reason for the timelag in these techniques reaching the instructional level.
post #14 of 25
Here are a couple more ideas:
1) Some differences between pro sports and amateur sports may relate to this topic
2) Flow of teaching ideas from PSIA into racing?

I've heard that for basketball and football, that play at the college level is vastly simpler than at the pro level. In essence, college coaches need to "dumb down" the game to make it easier to learn and to execute. For basketball foul shots, science says that an underhand shot has a higher chance of success. The pros will acknowledge this, but still don't use this approach. In golf, there are lots of moves that pros make that are not recommend for amateurs (e.g. Furyk's loopy swing). In special situations, pro golfers can make "trick" shots because their risk of failure is low due to lots of practice. Whereas amateurs would be better off taking a penalty stroke instead.

It's not much of stretch to say that ski teaching needs to account for the differences between amateur skiing and pro skiing when using race training techniques for the general public.

Two of the concepts that PSIA is promoting are student centered instruction and the guest service model. We've all heard stories of potential star racers getting kicked off the team because they did not fit the mold and the rare success when someone goes it alone versus staying with the team. Could these PSIA training concepts help improve race team performance?
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:
nolo, from my non-instructor's perspective, it appears that ski racing definitely is the root of good, efficient skiing. I'm hard-pressed to imagine how it could be otherwise, as the most efficient way of skiing seemingly also would be the fastest way to ski cleanly through gates. the most smooth and effective skiers I've ever watched have come from racing backgrounds.
Gonzo,

I have a Bode Miller quote for you "I don't want to be the best skier in the world, just the fastest". Bode is talked about in ski racing like Brett Favre is in football, "son, he's the best in the game, just don't ever try to emulate him". Bode is renowned more for what he lacks in efficient technique, but overcomes with pure athletisism and big coconuts.

As a Race Coach and an Instructor I get to see both sides of the fence. I have skied out west with some very accomplished racers, and in powder and bumps they look out of their element, like a bull in a china shop. But I have seen some very good all mountain skiers jump into a race course and hold their own at the club level.

If you look at much of the training for racers, it assumes a fairly high skill set of movements already existing. The Canadian Ski Team has a video out and almost none of it focuses on any refinement of the feet. Mostly body positioning, separation, some angulation, etc. Since skiing starts at the feet and is the main nemesis for 95% of all skiers, the application becomes limited. What they probably start off with is a youngster with some great skiing ability already.

I have accomplished more with high school racers as a whole by teaching them the same way I would any intermediate to advanced skier. Refine skiing skills. If they cannot carve fluid short and medium radius turns out of the course, they won't do it in the course. Much of race training is technique and tactics for skiing in a race course and must be built on a bed of solid skiing skills to be of any use at all.

The final and most challenging element is true disecting of race technique for the application in general skiing. I can sit in a room with 10 race coaches watching a race video and you will get 10 differing interpretations of what is happening. Almost everyone who believes in a wide stance will see that at some point and interpret that to be the best. The narrow stance, vice versa. Hand position, tip lead, angulation, transfer, on and on and on will almost always be interpreted based on preference. Truth is, you can almost find opinion verification for almost every point in almost every run, it's called versitility, and most great racers have it.

The most important question is, do you teach people to race or do you teach people to ski? And where do you think the racers get their foundation from?

I've got a marketing pitch, "The Ski Like Bode Miller School". The only prerequisite is that you have a 40 inch vertical leap, can squat 600lbs., run 40 flights of stairs in 2 minutes, and enjoy skiing at 80mph wearing only glorified spandex and a plastic helmut on your head.
post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:

Rusty Guy, the actual Bob Jones quote is "that man plays a game with which I am unfamiliar." : [/QB]
Gonz,

You are correct and I am very much impressed.

"Golf is a game of good misses"......Sam Parks 1937 US Open Champion

"You only made your best turn once"......Bob Barnes

[ February 04, 2004, 01:55 PM: Message edited by: Rusty Guy ]
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by MC Extreme:


I have accomplished more with high school racers as a whole by teaching them the same way I would any intermediate to advanced skier. Refine skiing skills. If they cannot carve fluid short and medium radius turns out of the course, they won't do it in the course. Much of race training is technique and tactics for skiing in a race course and must be built on a bed of solid skiing skills to be of any use at all.

check out my post up a few
post #18 of 25
I was responding to disski in another thread and all of a sudden I realized I was thinking about racing again, so I copied it here from the Checking For Understanding thread.

Originally posted by disski:

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Americans generally seem to have a "sweetness & light" approach - don't tell the student anything was wrong.
I don't like this - I KNOW something was wrong - I just want to know WHAT!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think you are really onto something very, very interesting here (at least to me!) and I also think it has to do with Nolo's question about the racing/instructing interrelationship. I'm struggling to put it all together, so for once, I'm NOT going to use words, but will refer you to a picture of my new "ski-buddy"

Hey, how's this (candidate for my new mentor) for sweetness, babe?

http://www.asianart.com/articles/patachitra/28.html

Apologies if I've already posted this here, but I'm so excited about her that I want everyone to meet her! Don't you just love the relationship between her hips and her feet?!?! : And you don't see a "carving tool" much badder than that, do yah now?

I'm going to be quiet now (no more screaming, disski), but if anyone has any thoughts about the role of good old-fashioned downright, raw (Bode?) aggression in skiing (and learning/teaching) excellence, I'd love to hear them.

Maybe it's not possible to always "Make love, not war" as some of us used to be fond of saying. Maybe a more realistic task is to "Make war into love." That's one way to look at the relationship between racing and instruction. Make any sense?
post #19 of 25
MC Extreme, I don't get your point. You sure said a lot though! [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img] Now, if you want to twist my words into something you imagine internally, that's fine. Just don't misinterpret what I said. I didn't say Bode Miller was the apogee of all technical points. As you have said, he is more reknown for his cojones and athleticism than his efficiency... kinda like a modern Bill "Ski to Die" Johnson.

Rusty Guy, I have to thank my grandfather for that one. Jack Nicklaus was my golf hero in jr and sr high school, and my grandfather's golf hero had been Bobby Jones. So it was inevitable I'd get the classic version of the quote, both from my grandfather, and from the numerous Jack Nicklaus golf stories I read as a kid.

[ February 05, 2004, 06:55 AM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
Perhaps you've heard of the learning progression: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. A racer must be at the highest stage of learning, no? Most instructors ski (and live) at the third highest stage of learning. Can an unconscious competent be a good teacher? Does making a living (don't laugh, Gonzo) as a consciously competent skier create a kind of learning disability for ski instructors?
post #21 of 25
Although I started racing and teaching about the same time, (my third season skiing) the focus of each was at opposite ends of the spectrum, teaching beginners at one end and pushing the speed and hi-performance envelope at the other. My ski racing development was guided by Warren Witherell's 1972 "How the Racers Ski" and his exercises greatly influenced my learning as I pushed my racing skills. Everything I taught then was based on how I was learning and what worked in my skiing, and this was 5 years before I had any real PSIA influence on what or how I taught.

I think Nolo has a point about the 3rd & 4th levels of learning.
I remember the very first time a good skier (another racer) came to me in 1973 for a lesson to learn how I "carved" my turns so well. I actually had to go up and take run and really pay close attention (dropping from 4th to 3rd level) to conceptually understand just exactly "how" I skied so I could compare it to his movements and create some exercises to lead him in the direction of what he wanted to learn.

While for decades the movements taught beginners did not really lead (except in retoric) to those used by true experts skiers, I think the new equipment technology has clearly created opportunities for the very same primary core movements used by experts to be taught to and used efficiently and effectivly by skiers of all levels, including beginners.
[img]smile.gif[/img]
post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
There are many nifty exercises and drills in ski instruction. Who actually invented them is often impossible to say, but leads me to this question:

Is ski racing the source of ski instructional brilliance?
Nolo, I can't vouch for the whole world, but as for here (Italy), it certainly was when I was a kid: I clearly remember instructors (not racing trainers..."normal" instructors teaching "normal" students) commenting of their pupils: "He/She skis like..." , and I strongly suspect that it certainly still is.

Racers were the reference to attain to.
post #23 of 25
[quote]Originally posted by Matteo:
Quote:

Racers were the reference to attain to.
I agree. I tend to try to change what I perceive to be good racing turns as little as possible, but appropriately, for the speed, conditions, student needs/wants, athleticism, etc. of the day.

I also believe that, generally, great racers can adapt themselves to all other conditions and disciplines more quickly than any other skiers can adapt themselves to the conditions that the racers experience.

One interesting example is one of my sons. He's a J1 (and kinda slow this year). He spends about 25% of his time in the Park because he loves it. His friends who spend 80% of the time in the Park, are not close to his level. Our belief is that the "stuff" he learns in race training (which includes LOTS of free skiing) makes him incredibly adaptable to new conditions. It also adds more than just technical gifts. Tactical awareness, focus, iron will, and touch are a huge by product of the race training.
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Perhaps you've heard of the learning progression: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. A racer must be at the highest stage of learning, no? Most instructors ski (and live) at the third highest stage of learning. Can an unconscious competent be a good teacher? Does making a living (don't laugh, Gonzo) as a consciously competent skier create a kind of learning disability for ski instructors?
nolo, wow, what a handful. I can sure relate to all of this.

I am certainly at the conscious competence stage for most of my skiing except one area, bumps.

Bumps for me are a totally unconsious effort. That is where I go to just unwind and relax my mind. Each time I ski a line of bumps I cannot remember the line once the run is complete. My conscious brain in not in gear. I cannot tell you where I turned on what bump.

Skiers constantly tell me that when I am skiing bumps I don't even look like I am in bumps. That's great for me, but for the life of me, I have had to struggle to understand what it is that I do in bumps. You can't teach what you are doing if you have no idea how you are doing it.

Time and time again, I have stood at the top of a short bump run and decided what part of my skiing I was going to concentrate on, to figure out what I do. Each time I cannot remember a damn thing. When I comes to bumps its just "Iyono I just do it". I have had to resort to video to figure it out.

Nolo, the fourth stage of learning is tremendously satisfying and great fulfillment but I don't think it lends itself to conventional teaching. At least not in my case. I have found it far easier to go from conscious incompetence to conscious competence than to go from unconscious competence to conscious competence.

I think the disability lays with a gifted athelete trying to teach what it is that they do. At times when I get with friends and forget all the teaching stuff and just ski to ski my friends tell me I ski better. I think its not all that difficult to slip from conscious competence to unconscious competence once you own the movement patterns. Conscious competence can lead to paralysis by analysis if taken to far. Often I have to just tell myself, "Go ski some bumps".

Some more food for thought though. Conventional teaching is mostly geared towards left brain thinking. 98% of all people learn through left brain type thinking. I know that I am both a right and left brain person and the two halves can store different information on the same subject. The two halves don't always communicate all that well and I get confused easily. I think at some time in the past I started skiing moguls purely right brain and lost the left brain's ability to participate.

I am wondering if this happens to all people and if we should all remember to also include some right brain type teaching. Right brain being the big picture and things like "turn here and turn there" instead of "turn on top of the bumps".

Edit: On second thought we need to be careful about teaching to much right brain for many folks. When you are teaching right brain type stuff, the left brain thinks its being talked to like its a five year old. Five year olds are almost always right brain. That is something that I am consicous of but never experience. If you talk to me like I am a five year old, I am in five year old mode.

[ February 06, 2004, 07:06 AM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #25 of 25
This may be a curve ball and may belong in another thread (or you may kick me off here!), but I think that there is another aspect to understanding skiing which seems to me to be lacking: objective, emperical measurement and analysis. I would argue that this feeds into the ability to teach something that one cannot oneself do, which is certainly possible.

I postulate that there is relatively limited scientific observation surrounding skiing, and that, in general, conversations around skiing tend to stick with subjective and personal assessments. For example, it is possible to measure the efficiency of effort, pressure applied, effects of changes in equipment, and so on. I have found a read some of this for skiing, but it is not generally available and is seldom referenced.

The reason that I mention this is that the most likely source for this kind of research is race teams. As an example, take the research on a curved line being faster than a straight line on a skiing race course.

I started this year with a strong interest in the effect that equipment has on skiing, and that has taken me into extensive analysis of information that I have been able to find. However, there seems to be far more hyperbole, assertion, and proclamation than scientifically-backed evidence.

While logic and informal observation are useful in the absence of hard evidence, the latter provides us with the only real clear evidence for our beliefs. Which is cause and which effect? What actually takes more effort and why? What contributed to overall enjoyment and what detracts?

Ah! there it is. The Holy Grail. Skiing is about joy, but the contributions to joy that effective technique makes should not be overlooked or relegated to pure art and genetics.

More research, please!
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