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Fear and Trembling

post #1 of 109
Thread Starter 
By virtue of being instructors, I would assume that most of you who teach skiing adapted to the sport quite naturally, and may have a hard time feeling empathy for students with fear issues.

I have noticed that different instructors have different tactics for managing a student's fear. In no way do I believe that one method is better than another, but it would be interesting to hear how different instructors work with this.

I also discovered that what I REALLY respond to is quite different from what I thought I needed. I mentioned in my YIPEE thread, that at the workshop last year, our instructor was a very nurturing type of teacher. This years instructor was all about strategy. Take this line, pole plant first, use your edges, practice "patience turns", etc.

Much to my surprise, I found that keeping my mind on specific tasks was an effective way to not focus on being frightened. Its almost what I'd imagine military strategy to be like.

Although I've read Inner Skiing, and listened to all sorts of "fear management" type of talks, the psycho babble is not as effective as just knowing exactly what I need to do. Probably the least effective method for me is someone saying just make the damn turn already!

But one interesting thing an instructor said, was to never say to yourself "Don't Fall!" The brain does not have an image for "don't" but it sure has one for "fall". So instead, say "Stand Up".
I guess its about being proactive.

So as instructors, what tactics do you use?
post #2 of 109
LM, I do a lot of coaching of my fellow mtb riders on conquering technical terrain, including obstacles and steeps. My experience is that fear is rooted in one of two things -- lack of experience, and lack of knowledge of what you are about to experience.

Traditionally, I have conquered athletic fears (skiing, mtb riding, ww kayaking) through gradual skill building until the terrain (or water for ww kayaking) at issue looks only slightly more difficult than what I have successfully negotiated.

Fear is good. It rightly prevents the novice from doing something beyond his/her skill. However, when it controls us and prevents us from improving, it is bad. Some people need smaller increments of skill improvement/increase in terrain difficulty.

The more you are comfortable with something that is slightly less difficult than that which previously scared you, the more likely you can just attack the terrain or move with the fear in mind but pushed to the rear of conscious thought.

Or, at least, that's how it's worked for me both with myself and in helping fellow mtb riders. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #3 of 109
Not thinking about what I am NOT doing (e.g. "not skiing into a tree", "not riding my bike off race course") has worked very well for me in the past.

Also focusing on one or two key elements of my skiing when I find myself in a challenging situation helps a lot. E.g. concentrating on pole plant and orienting your body downhill makes steep situations a lot easier than what they looked like from the top.
post #4 of 109
We actually talked about this in a clinic. A lot depends on the level of fear. Sometimes it's just a little bit of confidence other times it can be paralyzing fear where your student just totally locks up. Making direct eye contact and giving the student only one task sometimes works. sometimes being right in front of the student and actually holding their hands in front of them while maintaining eye and physical contact will work. for kids, sometimes it's skiing them between your legs.. I've watched other instructors do other things too. Usually single tasks and putting other things out of the mind seem to help most from what I've seen.
post #5 of 109

One bit of advice is patience and, given that you WANT to progress, settling for single increments at a time along the way. I think often enough people are pulled by the drive to "conquer" this or that, which is fine and certainly works but sometimes it yanks us out of a sounder approach; this seems particularly true in skiing. Little epiphanies lead to being able to "suddenly" utilize tools that weren't there before, enabling you to make a move toward whatever your next step is. Just as you got down The Plunge, which is a big step, some next time you'll make the run with a little more confidence - after all, now that you can get it done and get down, there's no good reason you can't at some point start linking one or two (or twelve) pretty turns together.
Then you start wanting more. You start seeking further challenges, BUT all in good time.
I recall first skiing at Park City a few years ago and looking up from the base at the hill the Ski Team Lift serves. It made me queasy to look up at. All the pitches seemed straight down and hopelessly undoable. Light-years beyond my reach.
Of course you know where this is going. It's a matter of, in this case, working stuff on greens before moving it to blues, and on blues before hitting the diamonds. And having a semblance of a game plan when you DO "work stuff out" for yourself.
Had UTAH49 not gotten my ass on that lift, I don't know that I'd have ever gotten on. Would've found all kinds of "good" reasons not to. "I'm not ready," "I'll look stupid," etc. I got down, of course, not very prettily, and after a moment of strong doubt at the top. And while my form suffered immensely I also gained an appreciable amount of confidence, which, as we know, goes a long way.
Keep your D.H. Lawrence in mind. Know your fears; they can teach you (about yourself, for one). And do "attack" them, but with cold, calculating, patient strategy, rather than recklessly, before the tools are in place.

edit: oftentimes easier said than done, of course. two years ago my girlfriend, after a bad morning, including being clipped by her reckless brother-in-law, basically froze up on BLUE LINE on Blackcomb. Literally locked up. Couldn't/wouldn't move. It's a double-blue and one she'd navigate pretty easily NOW but not then. I attempted to help her and ended up trying to convince her to make ONE turn, stop, then another, and we'd get down that way, eventually. Nothing doing. She wasn't budging. Started crying and feeling bad about EVERYthing. No choice but to jump into salvage mode when she insisted she'd just slide down on her butt. Okay. So I took the skis and poles and went on ahead, till POW, I'm taken out by a skier out of control, skis and poles everywhere, and as I'm sliding down waiting to come to a stop I look up to see my girlfriend on her ass, scooting down HER WAY. Quite a sight.
So last year in Colorado included a lot of starting over from scratch. Return to start. Skiing with her MUCH of each day. Not always what I wanted to be doing but necessary. And successful, mainly BECAUSE we went back to the beginning and let her recapture some of the positive associations she had.
It's hard to unlearn fear. You really do have to want to do it and be willing to face it. So, better to arm yourself first.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 08, 2002 11:57 AM: Message edited 1 time, by ryan ]</font>
post #6 of 109
LM you asked for instructors view, I hope you do not mind my input.

During my recent women’s clinic our instructor asked why we turn. Most answers had to do with control. She suggested that we think of our turns in more positive manner. Changing direction to go where you want to go.

Last weekend on a run that was challenging for me I chanted, changing direction, changing direction, changing direction with each turn. That focused me on the action rather than my fear. Similar to your “stand up”. I made it down easily, even got a nod and a “nice” from hubby.
post #7 of 109
.... A friend of mine and a coach, I respect the most, often has the following advice handy: "Maybe you should pick up golfing..."

post #8 of 109
Thread Starter 
It seems that for most of us have the same approach. The gradual building of skills is infintely better than the "pep talks". I can really relate to what Gonz says about "gradual skill building until the terrain (or water for ww kayaking) at issue looks only slightly more difficult than what I have successfully negotiated. "

I keep having to remind myself that this time I spent almost no time on green slopes. Last year, the blue recovery slopes would have been my challenge slopes.

I do think "gradual" is the key word. At first I felt guilty for not wanting to attempt to learn bumps for the first time on a black diamond. But that would have probably caused a sort of backlash behavior.

I also like Kima's changing direction thing, because, once again, its proactive.

Ryan, the exact same thing happened to me on Blue Line. Mark even has a photo of me standing there in a state of trauma.

Another thing I've noted, is that being a frequent poster on epicski gives you a false perception of the progress that most people make when they learn to ski. As I said in my other thread, the first goup I was in was a level 5/6 who were fast skier, most of whom were skiing about 16 years. The second was the same level, but slower paced. Most participants in both groups had season passes to some mountain, so they ski pretty regularly. I met someone at Sugarloaf last year who had been skiing 20 years, but would never take any class higher than level 3.

And for most of these people, fear, rather than experience is the issue.

VK, I don't recall asking for the sarcastic answer to my question. Just goes to show that someone can have high level teaching skills, but low level people skills.

Perhaps it would have been more fitting to join the boyz on the POWTA board, and do a few parodies of the epicski participants.

And considering that when skiing with you. your new girlfriend ended up with an ACL injury, well.......
post #9 of 109
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Lisamarie:
VK, I don't recall asking for the sarcastic answer to my question. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

That's the thing about sarcasm...its usually not asked for.
post #10 of 109
You know LM, I do not recall your post having a disclaimer "Serious answers ONLY" or anything like that. Are you sure that what you percieve as "... low level people skills." is not actually you being sense-of-humor challenged? (am I being politically correct here?)

You want a serious answer, here it is. I think you tend to overanalyze every move you make. Why don't you measure your progress by how much you enjoyed your day on skis, not by what terrain you were able to ski. Because it is not about WHAT you ski, but HOW you ski it. FYI: Alberto Tomba never raced DH and SG - he was not afraid to admit that he was scared. That did not keep him from being the best technical skier of his time.

.... back to my usual goofy self....
Since you recommened another board for me, let me also give you same advice. From your posts it is not hard to deduce that the only thing that keeps you from becoming a better skier is your head. So maybe you can find a better answer to your problems at something like www.online-shrink.com


oh and BTW my personal life is none of your business.

have a nice day
post #11 of 109
the remark on enjoying the day generally is good advice. i'd go so far as to suggest a day sometime when THAT is the single goal. IF skiing seems more like labor or something to be gotten through, rather than a kickass time, it might be time to re-evaluate.

i don't know that YOU experience this and i'm not presuming to know your thoughts or even how you spend a ski day, BUT IF you feel a ton of trepidation and angst, take the day and ski comfortable. have a recess. ANYthing that has you spending time on the skis and getting a good (if "easy") feeling. a lot of discovery to be stumbled upon there.
post #12 of 109
Geez VK, if you were a girl I'd have to say "MEOOOW".

(Just kidding)
post #13 of 109
Geez irul&ublo, if you were ruling I'd be blowing

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 08, 2002 02:06 PM: Message edited 1 time, by VK ]</font>
post #14 of 109

All good advise(except the sarcasm), so now you don't need to take the Fear course by MB.

But here is a question for you. As a personal trainer/fitness guru, when a student comes to you and says, I've never done this, and I don't know if I can do it... what do you do to reduce the fear? Yeah, the chance of breaking a leg is reduced in your sport, but the fear is still there.

You would do the same things menitoned here. Command teaching, single task teaching, small increments on easier stuff. Immediate positive feedback, repeat performance.

A good physical activity instructor/coach is usually good in any physical field if they have the technical knowledge. It was important that the skiing was done "to you", but maybe next time, you could do a little self pep talk to get you going on your own.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. When it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain!" Quote from Frank Hebert, Dune.

Enjoy the new freedom from FEAR!!!!
post #15 of 109
Thread Starter 
Good question, Kee Tov. Ironically, in one of my first ski lessons, the instuctor told me that the idea of doing any exercise on the stability ball was terrifying. I found that kind of funny, actually.

When instructing any sort of balance sequence, I generally start with smaller alignment tasks, and build on them. In a group setting, rather than saying "If you are afraid to do it such and such a way, do it like this, " I say, "If you are feeling confident, try this". Similar to an instructor saying "If you are feeling good, try this at the center of the trail".

I think all types of teachers of at one point made the mistake of layering on too much too soon. The example would be first time bumps, on first time black diamond. She lost 3 out of 5 participants for that afternoon, and one of them got injured. I did exactly what Ryan was talking about. I did not want to think about anything else, or have to face yet another challenge, since at this point, it was no longer fun. So I just skied off.
Since the instructor was generally a good one, nobody begrudged her the error in judgement.

I wonder if when Tomba confessed to having fear, if some know it all told him to take up golf, where he would be?????
post #16 of 109
LM, I agree that as a general matter, it's not a good idea to combine a first-time black diamond run with a first-time moguls run, BUT...

My memory of skiing East Coast areas is that many black diamond runs really ought to be intermediate rating, but are rated black diamond to try to control skier traffic. In other words, try not to be caught up in the black diamond labelling, and focus instead on the run itself.

The first black diamond I ever did was at an area that I didn't know, and I ended up skiing the run before I knew it was rated black diamond. Had I paused to read a sign or trail map, I might have avoided it!

Another point -- moguls on "expert" runs tend to be of better, more regular shapes than those on intermediate runs... or at least, that is the case out here in the West.
post #17 of 109
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>I wonder if when Tomba confessed to having fear, if some know it all told him to take up golf, where he would be????? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I bet he would chuckle and ignore the suggestion instead of blowing up, since he was confident enough in himself to keep doing things the way he was doing them.

Also, notice, he just said that he was not racing SG and DH because that was too fast for his liking and he did not really care what everyone else thought about it. He did not go around asking for "fear management" classes.

post #18 of 109
I remember reading that the main reason tomba didn't race SG or DH is that his mother made him promise he wouldn't.

Stenmark wouldn't race DH either.
post #19 of 109
Downhillers are nuts.

Super G is on the verge.

These folks should be looking at taking up NASCAR.

GS and slalom racers are making "normal" approaches to ski terrain.

But then, I'm old and abnormally appreciative of life and limb.
post #20 of 109
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>And considering that when skiing with you. your new girlfriend ended up with an ACL injury, well....... <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

WWWWWWOAH! Now just WAIT A MINUTE!!! that was the FIRST time VK and I EVER skiied together, and it was on the SECOND run! AND as a MATTER OF FACT, VK wanted me not to even go SKIING because I had hurt my knee slightly the week before, by MYSELF at Killington! he insisted i STAY IN BED but being my stubborn, insistent - self threw TANTRUMS until we went!!! my injury came out of my OWN stupidity, it had NOTHING to do with VK. : : :

now having said that, I can add that VK surely didn't mean any offense, please lets all LIGHTEN UP a little!
post #21 of 109
and FURTHER MORE, if it wasn't for VK's insistence that I get off the skis IMMEDIATELY, I would have injured myself EVEN MORE. THE DOCTOR said there was no Miniscus damage tht could have occured if I had continued to try to ski.
post #22 of 109
(SORRY, im a little irritable, just got my stiches out....)
post #23 of 109
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by LindaA:

WWWWWWOAH! Now just WAIT A MINUTE!!! he [VK]insisted i STAY IN BED...

VK...you horndog...
post #24 of 109
ohh, now im in trouble! VK said if I posted anything else emabarrasing about him he was going to share with you all some rather embarrasing moments I had while under sedation for knee surgery....

I was hoping no one would pick up on that!!!
post #25 of 109
Are you saying he embarassed himself?
post #26 of 109
no no no! its just that..I ....oh, never mind... :
post #27 of 109
Conquering a little fear makes a good adrenaline rush.
If you are still afraid...
Stop by the midstation bar for a little liquid courage.
-like malt liqour!
post #28 of 109
I am a big pussy. I try (for the most part) to stay out of life threatening skiing situations. I focus on keeping my hands in front of me when I get scared.
post #29 of 109
Thread Starter 
Actually those mid station Bombardinos in Italy were just what the doctor ordered!
post #30 of 109
hey irul&ublo:

I tried to keep my face straight for a little bit longer but I cannot, Im cracking up here! :

all we were trying to do was figure out who the voyeurs are in this forum!!! You sure made the top of the list!

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