Originally Posted by Bob Peters (speaking to Little Tiger)
If you're regularly experiencing paralytic fear while skiing, I would have to wonder whether this is the right sport for you.
I had the opportunity to spend some time skiing with Little Tiger recently, and think it would be highly worthwhile to those who battle fear on any level if I share my experience.
LT has severe proprioception limitations that makes the concept of sliding over snow an intimidating challenge those of us with full spatial awareness of the location of our appendages can barely imagine.
When she was initially considering taking up the sport of skiing many assaulted her with similar advice as Bob Peters
did in his above quote; "skiing is not the sport for you,,, you can't do it". Well, she chose not to listen to such negativity, and through the assistance of a group of top notch coaches who also were not born of such a defeatist mentality, went about the task of learning to ski.
Through dedicated training and practice on Little Tiger's part, and the enthusiastic participation of her coaches who were motivated by her tenacity to succeed, LT slowly began developing her skills, and thus her competence and confidence on skis.
Because of her condition fear was always at the doorstep, but her coaches were wise enough to keep new challenges and skill development at a level within here personal tolerance threshold. In doing so, she was able to elevate her skills on her own pace, and gradually what things were once perceived by her as difficult and terrifying became easy and fun.
And oh, how far she has come. I was so impressed with her skill level, and I would suspect those who skied with her at "Let's Go Colorado III" will second my sentiments. LT has a well balanced stance, and carves arc to arc turns beautifully, even on steeper terrain. Such a feel for her skis, she certainly turned some Epic heads.
When she first arrived in Colorado she was a little skittish of the new environment, but through some gentle instruction we gradually got her comfortable with her new surroundings. I subtly introduced her to new terrain and speed, and she was soon arcing high speed turns around the slopes of Summit County in relative comfort at velocities that were before intimidating. The learning process continues.
Before coming to Colo she had never raced, and was deathly afraid of race courses,,, but via a soft intro to them via Jello courses she was soon making her NASTAR debut and in short order got her gold medal and handicap down to 28.
Fear quickly turned to enthusiasm, and it was soon harder getting her out of the race course than it initially was getting her into it.
She also went on to conquer more personal fear challenges while she was here,,, getting into bumps, tree runs, and even knee deep powder on the steepest blacks Breck had to offer. Before Colorado, she had a terrible fear of powder, as the lack of pressure feedback it provides removes the tool she uses to compensate for the proprioception limitations she has. But again, through progressive introduction, she discovered that the skill base she's previously developed allowed her to still perform in this sensory diminished environment, and her confidence soared. Big smiles and lobbying for more runs on the black powders.
So,,, the point here is that the message Little Tiger was trying to share in this thread was a good one, and born of personal experience. It also reflects my experience of 30 years of helping young athletes deal with similar issues, in environments that would make most people on the slopes, at their current skill levels, wet themselves. Everyone harbors their own fear thresholds, and the trick to advancing in skill level is keeping new challenges within each individuals personal threshold. Learning happens when a student is comfortable in the immediate environment and can focus on the task. When the comfort level is pushed too far, focus shifts from task to survival, learning stops, and non productive movement patterns can get embedded. If an environment conducive to learning is maintained, skill levels will elevate, and the environments that are considered comfortable will elevate too, often to the surprise of the student.
The lessen that can be taken from Little Tiger's journey with skiing can be of value to student and teacher alike. Those dealing with their own fear, at any level, can come to understand that those fears need not be a barrier to becoming a highly accomplished skier,,, that there is a road to getting there that does not have to involve looking death in the face. There is a comfortable means of raising your performance bar and finding relaxed enjoyment on terrain that today seems intimidating. And the journey getting there can be low stress, low fear, and enjoyable.
And the lesson to instructors is to view students as individuals and label no case a lost cause and attempt to steer them away from the sport, as Bob Peters
did above. Skiing is a sport that harbors the potential for much reward for anyone who has the desire to seek it, like LT did. Her success, and the satisfaction she derives from her participation in the sport, is testimony to that. NEVER,
as an instructor, be a defeatist and rain on a students desire to learn and enjoy this sport. Use the model LT and her coaches created as inspiration for what is possible, and the understanding of how to get there. Share that inspiration with everyone of your students, regardless the challenges that appear to exist. The satisfaction you derive from their success will rival their own.