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Fear, major obsticle to skill development

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 
Heres a subject I'll throw out for discussion, maybe some would be interested in exploring it.

Reading Pierre's and Ric B.'s accounts of thier contrasting experiences with students under the AUTISTIC STUDENT topic it brought to mind one of the major barriers to learning that I know of, fear. The best instructional models in the world become ineffective if the student hindered by fear. It is something generally encountered in the older skier but certainly is not exclusive to that segment of that demographic.

So here's the question: How do you guys deal with obsticle? Do you have some techniques to help the student get past their fear barriers more rapidly or do you feel it's something that can be overcome by aquiring the confidence that comes with skill developement.

What do you think?
post #2 of 66
There is no such thing as FEAR. There are fears, which are much smaller and more manageable than FEAR looming larger than life like some guy in a hockey mask chasing you with a bloody ax. Fears are individual bogeymen that are created and amplified by their host.

Fears are tamed when they are seen as False Evidence Appearing Real, i.e., mainly something we "entertain" for sadomasochistic reasons. Fears are tamed by desensitization--repeated exposures to the fearsome thing until familiarity breeds contempt. Fears are tamed when one sees them as the product of the Nag or negative self-talk--You Can't Do! The antidote is to develop the Internal Coach to give you positive reinforcement and pep talks--You Can Do!

Simply put, one eliminates fears by overlaying the bad experience from which they arose with a preponderance of good experiences in exactly the same situations that previously evoked the fear response.

My friend Jim Weiss once said: "When the skis are designed to turn by themselves, skiers won't need instructors to show them how to get the skis under control, but they will always need instructors who can show them how to get their fears under control." I think we're just about at this point.

[ January 04, 2003, 09:17 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #3 of 66
This is not a universal answer but the inability to connect with ground to effect the form of balance we are familiar with typically results in apprehension and fear. The reason is that the balance system sees no reliable pattern to link our movements to. So it interpolates the worst -- an impending catastrophic fall and initiates survival strategies.

When I worked with downhill racers we focussed on creating an environment for the foot and leg and movement patterns that maximized balance. When you have good balance time seems to slow down.

Did you ever notice how when you are on your skis and relaxed it doesn't seem like you are going fast until you zip past something? On the other hand if you are hanging back in the back seat with poor balance and little control of your destiny 10 MPH can seem like a 100 MPH. It has been my experience that when skiers suddenly make the jump to the ability to establish a stable BoS to stand on they lose their fear of the fall line. And they start to ski much faster. Balance and control equates with the ability to survive = less stress = less apprehension and fear.

Having said all this there are some people who are just plain terrified of moving on any surface period. Their fear inhibits the relaxation that is essential for balance. They need a different kind of solution.
post #4 of 66
Yeah -that is what always got to my instructors - I describe myself as 'afraid' or scared. Yet if they could have me in what I felt as a 'stable' position I would ski MUCH faster than some things I would never ski - ditto with steepness. It all seemed inconsistent.
It seems that I am more worried by the 'lack of balance' than the SPEED/HEIGHT/STEEPNESS. anything that provides some security balance-wise results in sudden GAINS in 'FEARLESSNESS'

Makes sense really - my real fear is loss of control of the body.
post #5 of 66
Thread Starter 
Good thoughts. I totally agree that a breeding ground for rational fear is the lack of a stable balance platform. And absolutely, if you feel balanced and clean on your edge and 80mph feels deceptively slow, but throw a rough choppy piste into the equation and all of a sudden 50mph can feel deadly. I also would take special steps in introducing racers to downhill. Even these were good skiers with excellent balance platforms at moderate speeds, intoduction of speed added an unknow element, also a fear producer. Given enough training runs my intro would consist of jackets and warm-ups with no tucking on the first run just skiing the line, still clothed but tucking sections on the second run, partial stripping on the third, and full stripped on the fourth. The baby steps approach seemed to soften the apprehension.

And right, some people are just plain scared of the whole skiing thing. What do you do with them? I love animals, but sometimes don't you just have to put a sick dog down!!

Your discription of your own battles with fear seem to ligitimize david's thesis.
post #6 of 66
Yeah - always seemed funny that once I could edge roll in a tuck I was happier doing that down some stuff than 'just skiing'. It simply felt more stable than the movement pattern I had for the 'just skiing' bit. Mostly fixed now.

I had a previous instructor that kept wanting me to travel around on a flat ski & 'step up' onto a new outside ski - had a BIG problem there - just too scared to ski like that! She could not cope at all.

It was funny that I skied 'better' for a pair of ex-racers with lots of patience - they were giving me MUCH more stable movements & THAT was less scarey. When one asked me why I would do relatively - for me then- BIG FAST TURNS happily for him - but REFUSED point blank to ski down & up a smallish dip we discovered it was because the previous female had had me ski that dip on a flat ski - which I 'felt' as super unsafe. On an edge in a fast turn as taught by the guys I felt steady even in relatively bumped up slush. I skied the dip for him then - when he taught me to edge roll it.

Fixing my inabilty to flex ankle gained a HEAP etc etc.

Another was teaching me how to shift my weight when I went over a windlip. I would simply decrease my speed beofre that - as I was scared - with the ability to weight shift the 'braking' decreased.
post #7 of 66
Oh brother, here we do again, do I dare?
Ok, against my better judgement...
One of the main problems with fear is that is always someone who feels an overwhelming need to ridicule it. Just like the bully in the playground who compensates for his inadequacies by picking on the fraidy cats, mention the word "fear" and it becomes a splendid opportunity for someone to prove their "inate superiority " by making fun of it. Although we are all well aware that they type of person who does this sort of thing is simply manifesting their own impotency and incompetancy, it does not make the mockery any less annoying.

Do a search on this forum for the words "fear", physiology of fear, "uh oh syndrome', and you will see what I mean.

What eventually happens, is that the student will no longer talk about it. instead of saying "I'm afraid to do..." they will say "I can't do.." It simply becomes an issue of avoidance.

Balance skills can be very effective as an antidote to fear, but they do not completely allieviate the problem. To my embarassment, I was once interviewed for an article on women's fear in skiing for a local newspaper. The reporter had watched me ski. She wrote that for someone who never falls, I seemed very afraid of falling.

In the few years that I have skied, I realize that it is not my own lack of balance that worries me, its the balance of those around me.

Fear will wreck havoc on technique. Turns are never completed, excessive traversing, wedging, skiing with the brakes on, being in the backseat are all symptoms.

I often feel there is way too much emphasis on progression, and far too little on perfection. Also, not everyone is a total adrenaline junkie. But "cruisers" are often synonomous to "gapers" for some people.

I just got back from 3 days at Sunday River, my first trip this season. I was determined to fix this very annoying problem I have with my skiing, and I wanted to use an easy run to do it, so that I would not practice any defensive moves.

My husband said I looked like a ski princess. That made me happy.
Much happier than having the begeezus scared out of me.
post #8 of 66
Yeah LM I have a cornice that is a bit of a bug bear for me.

Part of the problem is that the first time I was going to ski it some arsehole instructor saw my instructor calling up to me & stopped his class to 'watch' & give me a 'countdown'

THAT was the first time I EVER refused to ski something POINT BLANK. I didn't feel I was there to provide entertainment for some bunch of strangers.
I still struggle with that cornice - it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth to think about it.
post #9 of 66
This topic really hits home for me this season.

This was going to be my first serious season with Masters, so I spent a considerable amount of time preparing my body for the season- but it looks like my mental prep was severely lacking.

Alaska has experienced the worst snow year since the 1920s, and the local resorts only recently opened. I usually have the option of starting my season at a non-threatening, uncrowded ski area, getting in a ton of miles and gaining my confidence/balance back. This season my first days were on a steeper, crowded resort. I found myself afraid of speed- the one thing I was looking for this year. Lots of braking, lots of really bad habits developing before my very eyes. Scary for someone looking for a breakout season.

Yesterday was the first day of Masters training, and I was forced to follow people who didn't seem to have the problems I did. Keep up or be left behind was the mentality I developed, and it helped turn it up a notch and stop braking so much. Amazing what peer pressure can do for me. Also, I noticed that drills focused my mind on something other than the speed, and stepped it up another notch. It's coming together, just slower than I would have preferred. My main goal while overcoming my fears this season is not developing bad habits while dealing with those fears.
post #10 of 66
Im not afraid of anything, usually, fear never really plays into anything I do, but this year, after having missed a full year with injury, the FEAR of skiing again was so intense it was almost a physical thing. I sat at the base and literally bawled my eyes out because I was so afraid to do somethng i loved so much.

I never feared anything so much. but, got through it by going back to basics. extreme basics. gliding around on the flats. and then, before I knew it I was skiing again, stronger than before. ,

but fear is a HUGE issue, i could never really relate until this year. paralyzing, made my stomache hurt.
post #11 of 66
Originally posted by disski:
Yeah LM I have a cornice that is a bit of a bug bear for me.

Part of the problem is that the first time I was going to ski it some arsehole instructor saw my instructor calling up to me & stopped his class to 'watch' & give me a 'countdown'

THAT was the first time I EVER refused to ski something POINT BLANK. I didn't feel I was there to provide entertainment for some bunch of strangers.
I still struggle with that cornice - it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth to think about it.
There are probably a lot of people who would have enjoyed having spectators. Could it possiblt be that he was trying to encourage you? I don't see how stopping his class to watch you makes him an "arsehole".
post #12 of 66
Epic, how could this instructor encourage Disski when he new nothing of the student or the situation whys and wherefores? If I was Disski's instructor I would have asked him/her to move on with their class. I never involve myself in another's class or lesson without an invitation from the other instructor. That's how I always play it anyway. Especialy if there is obvious interaction going on. You just never know. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #13 of 66
Thread Starter 
Who knows what thoughts were in the mind of Disskis heckling instructor, my suspicion is it was rather void of intelligent thought. That said, sometimes peer pressure is what is needed to provide the push to get someone over their fear threshold for a particular task. But it is a dangerous ploy as it can also back fire and transform fear into terror making the monster even more powerful at the next encounter. The instructor had better understand his student’s physical abilities and psychological make up before encouraging such a tactic. Each person has an individual concept of how far they should exceed or even, in the more timid (some would call it sensible), approach their skill boundaries. The instructor must know the task is within the students capabilities and know encouragement to breach they're mental barriers will result in the student taking the plunge, as opposed to becoming even more freaked out, and that plunge will result in a relatively successful completion of the task. Some students do in fact need, and desire, prodding. Some detest it. A good instructor knows one from the other and acts accordingly.
post #14 of 66
Originally posted by epic:
There are probably a lot of people who would have enjoyed having spectators. Could it possiblt be that he was trying to encourage you? I don't see how stopping his class to watch you makes him an "arsehole".
epic - this guy KNOWS I'm a disabled skier. Also knows I'm dead scared MOST of the time - remember I SCREAM when I ski (or did). He is just a horrid person - used to hassle me most mornings at line-up - try to embarrass me - give me a hard time about NOT WANTING to jump off an even BIGGER cornice etc etc.

Would he stop his class to watch a sit skier get back in if they had fallen out?
Just to encourage them?

a) This was NOT getting his class skiing
b) It removed MY instructors attention from ME
c) It distracted & UPSET me - as he knew it would

I try to help a number of people on an Oz site find suitable instructors. I often suggest people I would probably not choose for me - BUT you can guess 1 guy I NEVER will suggest!
post #15 of 66
Ric B & Fast Man - I believe my instructor asked them to move - but just too late - the damage was done.

He would have seen my body language change.

HE was definitely aware I was unimpressed - as I skied around the area & up to him I was muttering "I'm NOT providing their entertainment" - with smoke issuing from ears - & he just answered "Fair enough". I would guess he knew any more would shove me over the edge 1 way or the other - I was torn between RAGE & TEARS
post #16 of 66
Hmmm... then it sounds like he is an arsehole . Why is he still employed there?
post #17 of 66

To me, it's better described as discomfort or ignorance. They are intertwined.

Fear is a feeling of uncertainty and it usually accompanies thoughts of trying something that you really haven't done before, or haven't done successfully, or haven't done as well as you'd like.

I skied my first day of the season on Saturday Jan 4 2003. I was attacking steep pitches in a way I've never done before. I didn't have that moment of hesitation or uncertainty. Instead, I just spotted a line, went after it, and had a blast. I turned pretty much where I wanted and how I wanted. And, this was on a section of my home hill that I rarely have skied because the steepness has kept me away.

How did I do it? This past summer, I rode a LOT of very steep descents on my mtn bike. I got familiar with the notion of dropping into space while trying to stay in touch with the ground. It is so much easier than the inexperienced brain has us believe. However, it does take confidence in your ability to turn when and where you want to.

I combat fear through repeated exposure. At the end of last year's ski season, I promised myself that I would work on steep pitch comfort while riding throughout the Spring, Summer & Fall. It paid off.

If you know (from experience) what the drop into a steep section feels like, it's a lot easier to be "fearless." You'll never shake the butterflies, but you can shake the reflexive "I can't do this" sentiment. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #18 of 66
You'll never shake the butterflies, but you can shake the reflexive "I can't do this" sentiment.

Or, you'll never shake the butterflies, but you can get them to dance in formation! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #19 of 66
I think you hit the nail right on the head. If you train for Super G, GS seems almost like slow motion. Developing that "go" mentality is the biggest obstacle I seem to be facing this year, although chasing coaches down the mountain seems to be knocking it down a bit. The rainy season knocked out a lot of my rollerblading, and that hurt as well. Maybe I need to take up mountain biking this summer...

I don't try to shake the butterflies, but I try to move them around to suit my needs. Where's the fun in no fear? Sounds like a boring existence.
post #20 of 66
This topic has some relevance for me. (BTW, please excuse me if I commit any netiquette errors, as this is my first post on this board. I scanned for any FAQs or guidelines but didn't see anything specific. If I err, just tell me how and I'll correct it. I find your postings very informative, and don't want to mess up the traffic here.)

I just began learning to ski about 3 or 4 years ago, fairly late (I'm 37 now), because my boyfriend skis. Last Friday was perhaps my 15th day or so on skis, but I've become hooked. Bought skis this year, and have committed to getting better.

I have found learning to ski pretty frustrating because some types of movement (such as dance) I find very simple to pick up, but the addition of that extra component of moving with gravity (sadly, a force not under my control) completely messed up my ability to predict movement or mimic it properly.

However, last year we skiied a week during April at Whistler, and I took a 4-day course called "Ski Esprit" where the same group stays with the same instructor for the full time. I had a big skiing breakthrough --- until that week, I could only ski greens with confidence, and blues for what I'm realizing was nothing more than fear training. At the end of that week I actually had *fun* on a blue run for the first time.

For me, the approach that worked was to learn to ski faster and with more attack and technique on the greens, and *then* move to the blue slopes. The habits I finally managed to acquire on the green runs became ingrained, and I didn't revert to those terrible, terrible practices that just doom you to wholescale yard sale crashes.

Of course, this culminated on my spraining my ankle on a *flat run* on the last day at Whistler!

I have had plenty of time to re-run this session in my mind, and fix the error (weight forward). I've also spent a lot of time reading books and articles I could finally understand (I didn't have any kinesthetic references before my little breakthrough), and trying to watch some videos. Basically, skiing in the mind.

Last Friday, we set out for the slopes, and I knew I had to start on a green run, and try and ski fairly quickly, and then assess how it went, and move to blues. Which is what I did. It all went pretty well. Whew.

Anyway, what does this have to do with the topic? For me, fear --- largely unspoken fear of steeps (obviously, this is a relative term) --- was absolutely a major blocking factor for my learning (the other was instructors' inability to communicate to me how to feel good skiing as opposed to bad skiing, but that's another topic entirely). And of course on top of that, I was worried that I might just freeze up or revert to my old skiing patterns because I was hurt the last time I was on skis.

Believe me, I have no fear of failure or of embarrassment, but the whole psychology of getting my weight placed well forward over the hill.... I needed every bit of help to get my habits correctly placed on safe territory so that good habits were what I reverted to on more "unsafe" or challenging territory.

So for what's it's worth to all you instructors, this is a great way to help your students' fears: get them skiing as well as they can on what feels like "safe" territory, and then ease them out. This may just sound obvious, but I can tell you that it was *not* what I experienced in my short ski student career (I have taken lessons for 80% of my time on skis --- I'm a big believer in technique!) until I was at Whistler.

This year I have two skiing goals: one is to conquer my fear of speed, and learn to ski faster on the blue trails. (I suspect I could handle steeper trails than I ski, but I want to learn to ski much more quickly before I go there.) The other is to learn how to ski bumps. We'll see how it goes.
post #21 of 66
Delta, I think you have hit the nail on the head: get them skiing as well as they can on what feels like "safe" territory, and then ease them out.


Welcome to the forum. Keep posting your insights. You have much to offer us.
post #22 of 66

First of all welcome. Great Post! I assure you that you are among friends. We may argue, however, it's a nice group of people.

Every one of us has fears. Sounds as though you are doing the right thing to deal with those that you have.


I just spent two days in a clinic involving "teaching women". I was going to post a thread on the topic. A good deal of the discussion involved women and their fears. I will be the first to admit I am a radical feminist. A debate is ongoing at our place concerning the efficacy of men teaching in a womans program. I understand, or think I understand, the pros and cons. My wife disagrees. She thinks men should not be involved in a "woman's program". Her rational is that women will not verbalize their fears to men.I guess I feel she is painting with too broad a brush.

My argument is simple. I don't need to hear a student say "I'm afraid". I'll know it long before they have said it and be taking steps to mitigate the problem. It will be written all over their face and evident in their posture, movements etc.

Let's face it....inappropriate terrain is the devil in this detail.

Your thoughts or sage wisdom?
post #23 of 66
Well not Nolo yet but..

Rusty - for what it is worth I PREFER a male instructor - & we all know I'm the BIGGEST chicken. I will adjust that though - I prefer male instructors that are NOT overloaded with 'boy baggage'. That often means older ones - but not necessarily. The guys I like to ski with are very capable of EMPATHY. Their ego as a male person does not interfere with them accepting MY comfort zone may be very different from theirs - as may my wants and needs.

In fact I found the FEMALE instructors I have had have been
a) Less competent
b) ASSUMED they would automatically be on my level because - hey we are the same sex :

I would LIKE to do one of the resorts ski weeks - but I REFUSE to do a girls ski week when they ONLY have women instructors - ie they choose by SEX not ABILITY to teach the group involved. Most of these female instructors are not level 3 yet the other clinic has all high level instructors. I know others who avoid the clinics for the same reason.

I would do the 'unisex' clinic - but it is the opposite a fair bit of the time - testosterone laden - by virtue of the fact that it is seen as the 'boys' clinic - thus females who attend should be able to(or want to) ski like gungho guys.

Can someone run a clinic for 'older' or 'more sensible' skiers - without it being a coffee club for girls?
post #24 of 66
My women's clinic ain't no coffee club for girls. My women's clinic is for chicks of any age who want to rip the whole mountain. It's not at all different from my Wednesday co-ed clinic except that the bonding is so tight among the women's groups that they meet in the off season. That bond is rather unique, I think, and allows them to let their hair down and tell the truth to themselves and to each other. The group empowers each other.

The co-ed group feels more like a collection of individual skiers (except the married couple, who are competing) I am coaching.

I think the fact that I am a woman is important for the women's groups and is irrelevant to the co-ed groups. There's something about being able to talk about childbirth, marriage, children, etc. that enriches the women's group dynamics.

I'm outta here for my heli week. Be good while I'm away.
post #25 of 66
re: Men participating in women's ski events. Tough one.

The problem is that sometimes women will be more embarassed in the presence of men, or feel pressured to do things that they may be comfortable with. Does that mean that I think that men can't help as instructors? No, of course not. But, to be brutally honest, it's easy to find male instructors. It's not as easy to find all-women environments to learn.

I think most women who would even sign up for such an event would be thinking that they'd feel more comfortable learning with women, and thus might not be happy with a male instructor.

I *do* think that if an event is advertised as being for all women and there will be male instructors that this should be very clearly understood by people signing up. Then students can choose for themselves. Some might feel that it's okay to be taught by men, if all the students are women; others might want to look for a course or event that only has women attending.
post #26 of 66
I know this is stew has been cooking a while, but I though I'd add a little spicy seasoning with a quote I have posted in my cube. I still ponder over the implications of it at face value, but appreciate the insights it offers upon deeper consideration.

"Fear is an abuse of the imagination" - anonymous

Ponder, or react, to that one.
post #27 of 66
I'd happily ski in a clinic you were instructing(despite my preference for a male instructor)
The problem is we do NOT get instructors of your caliber taking womens clinics here. see my reference to the level of the instructors they use.

Just as a check lets see if we can get Oz to tell us how many female examniers we have in Oz.... I know 1 & I would ski with her any day just on reputation.

There are maybe 2 female instructors at 1 resort I ski at that I would want in a high level group situation. Last year I don't think they had either of them for the womens clinic - but a bunch of less qualified gals. I know at least 1 woman who bailed when she found out who was taking it. The coffee shop mentality results from the lack of decent instruction I believe.....

My female instructor friends are great people - but they would be the first to say that they are not yet experienced enough to teach higher levels. For the lower levels of a womens clinic - OK - but not the higher levels
post #28 of 66
Fear has been my biggest issue when I try to develop new skills or hone existing skills. The way I deal with this is to do a few runs on a trail that is much more difficult (steep, icy, bumpy, etc.) than the trail I will be practicing my skills on -- this makes the practice trail seem 'easy' and removes the mental block that I otherwise would be suffering from.

This winter is my fourth ski-season and I have come a long way in that period; far enough to realize that in my second season I had the skill to ski all the terrain that I do now (which is every non-mogul trail I have found so-far in NH). It would have been near suicide to do so though, since at the moment I get scared all the hard earned skills go right out the door.

Right now I am working on getting to be proficient in moguls and once again I find that fear is _the_ big issue. Everybody that has seen me ski tells me I should have no problem at all doing it. However, I find that I am not able to pass more than a few moguls before picking up a little speed leading to fear and reulting in my technique becoming poorer. Fortunately where I ski there are a few trails that are partially groomed and partially bump-runs; what I do now is to ski in the bumps, but close enough to the edge so that I can jump out to the groomer part -- allowing me to practice something that fear would simply have prohibited otherwise.
post #29 of 66
Originally posted by nolo:
I think the fact that I am a woman is important for the women's groups and is irrelevant to the co-ed groups. There's something about being able to talk about childbirth, marriage, children, etc. that enriches the women's group dynamics.

Now hang on with the baby talk crap - I know women that have NEVER wanted to have kids - they are not welcome with your lot?

what about those that CAN'T have kids? (It is damn CRUEL when people insist on kid babble in front of these people & they often WON'T say why they don't have kids- just hurt)

How about the ones who have LOST kids & don't want to discuss it in gory detail?

sheeeeshh no wonder I prefer to ski with fellas!
post #30 of 66
please take some valium. you need it.

nolo's point is about the ability to relate to others. I have no idea what period pains are like. I suffer from PMS/PMT, but only by being on the receiving end of the abuse. A man cannot relate to a woman as well as another woman should be able to.

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