The Professor is back by popular demand! Here is a classic from many years ago that is very timely for this time of year. Best to all.
Greetings, class. Let us start today’s lesson with 2 statements that have proven the test of time:
Truth #1. The unexamined life is not worth living.
Truth #2. Practicing failure nearly always results in failure.
The first is a tad heavy, and you may be wondering where I can possibly go with it in relation to skiing. Stick with me. The second is rather self-evident, but can still make so little difference in behavior for so many skiers, even veterans.
I have spent over 35 years of Springs, and no few Winters, watching so many skiers completely defy these two timeless truths that I start to question their sanity. I am talking about extremely smart people in the workplace, very successful in all phases of their life, but are completely insane when it comes to skiing.
If a definition for insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, yet expecting a different result, then the two skiers in the following examples have their picture in the dictionary.
The Professor skied with some friends this Spring who are running slalom at 90%, or greater, FAILURE rate. I’m talking veterans, decades of slalom skiing, who never consider Truth #1 and, therefore, are a victim of Truth #2. Let’s take a look at some real numbers from some real people.
Skier A loves to Winter ski, which is quite easy in _____, his home. He even agrees that Winter skiing, averaging once a week, should involve running passes and staying dry. Falling is to be avoided. So what does he do? From October through February he runs about 40 sets, at least 6 passes per set. He has completed, actually run, no more than 15 passes, some sets not making a single pass. He has either trailed, or fallen, over 220 passes. That is over a 90% failure rate according to my slide rule.
Plus, he refuses to slow the boat or lengthen the rope.
Class, this is insanity; his approach to skiing goes without examination (Truth #1) and, therefore, he does nothing but practice failure (Truth #2).
Skier B does no Winter skiing, but comes out in February to begin the season. He steps right out of his vehicle, onto the dock, puts his ski on, and starts with his usual opener. No warmup, no free skiing, no shadowing, just automatically resuming everything from a few months ago when he last skied.
He does not run a pass the first set (6 tries), runs a very shaky pass the second set, and immediately shortens the rope. Shall we guess the results? So the first day back after at least 4 months of no skiing, skier B is 1 for 12. In case you are keeping score at home, that, too, is over 90% failure.
Unfortunately for Skier B, this is repeated about 10 days later, his second time back. Now he is still sore from the first time and figures he needs to ski to get back in shape. But instead of skiing, he practices falling. No warmups to get the juices flowing, no slowing the boat to actually run some passes, no lengthening the rope to actually build up some rhythm, no shadowing to actually ski the length of the lake to build a little stamina, no free skiing at all.
In other words, he approaches his skiing UNLIKE any other phase of his life – totally unexamined, and (let’s say it together) spends his time practicing failure.
Class, I would say this is insanity, but I would be repeating myself.
The Professor has been with skier B the 10 sets he attempted this Spring. Our skier is 4 for 60, yet the next time he skis he will repeat the same process. In fact, skier B is beyond upset that things are not like they were just a few short months ago and he is beginning to think that
skiing is just not that much fun anymore.
Class, if the fun in slalom is going around the balls, then I can understand our two skier’s frustrations. They are always trailing or falling, and how much fun is that? Of course skiing is supposed to be fun! But, we forget that it is an extremely athletic event that takes some real attention to detail. Could we, by chance, learn a little something from the people who do this skiing thing for a living?
There is not a professional skier in the world who does not do some kind of warmup activity. I’m not talking about the Winter months of weights or gym or cycling (hit a sore spot, anybody?). I’m talking about 10 minutes before their turn to ski. Hopping out of your vehicle and onto the water just makes no sense. Would our skiers approach any other sport this way? (Well, bowling, perhaps, but don’t distract The Professor.)
I know, class, that you have read countless articles on returning to the water after a long Winter of no skiing. They all encourage slowing the boat, lengthening the line, shadowing the balls the first few sets, establishing some rhythm by free skiing. But when is the last time you saw that employed? Certainly not from our examples above, and remember, skiers A and B are veterans of decades of skiing. They should know better than anyone.
How do our pros approach training? They run passes! A big part of their sessions are what we call muscle memory sets. They run the same pass, at least two or three below their money pass, until they are blue in the face. Then they run it some more until they are sick of it, only they never get sick of it because they are building confidence and training muscles with repetition. Going around the balls has never been known to make one sick.
Class, I hope you get my point. Examine what you are doing. Don’t practice failure. Don’t reinforce bad habits. Do whatever it takes to go around those balls. Run a ton of passes before that next loop. Reinforce success. Practice good technique, consistently.
You will be glad you did, and when you cruise around 6 ball and out the gate, you will always be reminded of why our sport is so great and so much fun.
A Good Ski Season To All,