Inside the Ski Racing Mind: Prime Ski Racing Pyramid
Note: In my excitement to share my ideas with skiracing.com visitors, I forgot to publish what should have been the third article directed toward racers (if you had noticed, I've tried to alternate racer and parent topics). This article is so important that I'm going to take a few steps back in the process of introducing you to the value of Prime Ski Racing so you can get the big picture of where I am heading.
In an earlier post, I defined Prime Ski Racing as “skiing at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions.” Prime Ski Racing is a goal toward which every racer strives, the result of which is to maximize your ski racing efforts and enable you to achieve your racing goals. But few racers, coaches, or teams understand fully the information and strategies they must use to achieve their goals. Nor do many have a framework or a process for working toward Prime Ski Racing. And even fewer have implemented such important changes.
Prime Ski Racing Pyramid
The Prime Ski Racing Pyramid provides both a framework and a process for identifying and developing the key contributors to ski racing performance. The Prime Ski Racing Pyramid is comprised of five psychological factors that most directly impact ski racing performance (see pyramid at right). These factors can either facilitate or interfere with performance. Your goal is to understand your relationship with each of these factors and develop strategies and a plan of action for alleviating your psychological weaknesses and building on the psychological strengths.
The Prime Ski Racing Pyramid is ordered in a purposeful and logical manner. Its order is based on the sequence in which the factors impact ski racing performance. The first two factors (motivation and confidence) prepare you for races, while the next three (intensity, focus, and emotions) directly impact training and race performances.
Motivation. At the foundation of the Prime Ski Racing Pyramid lies motivation, because without the determination and drive to take action in pursuit of your goals, all efforts would stop and any other contributors to performance, whether physical, technical, tactical, or equipment, would be moot. Motivation ensures that you do everything you can to be totally prepared to achieve your goals. Essential to developing motivation is understanding what motivates you and how you can continue to work hard in the face of fatigue, boredom, setbacks, and frustration.
Confidence. There is no more important mental factor than confidence because you might have all ability in the world to ski fast and achieve your goals, but if you don’t have confidence in that ability, you won’t use that ability. Many racers defeat themselves even before the race begins with doubts and negative self-talk. Like all mental skills, confidence is a skill that develops with practice. A deep faith in your capabilities comes from total preparation, exposure to adversity, support from others, and training and race success.
Intensity. Intensity may be the most important contributor to performance once the race begins. It’s so important because all of the motivation, confidence, focus, and emotions in the world won’t help you if your body is not physiologically capable of doing what it needs to do for you to ski your best. Intensity involves the amount of physiological activation you feel before and during training and races and lies on a continuum between sleep (very low intensity) to terror (very high intensity). Somewhere between those two extremes you ski your best and your challenge is to find the ideal level of intensity that works best for you and reach and maintain that level in races.
Focus. Focus involves the ability to concentrate on those things that help you ski your best, shift focus when the demands of training or races change, and avoid distractions that are ever present in ski racing (e.g., start area). The ability to focus effectively is especially important in ski racing because it is so technically complex and when there are considerable expectations and pressure.
Emotions. Ski racing can evoke a wide range of emotions, from inspiration, pride, exhilaration, and satisfaction, to fear, frustration, anger, and despair. Emotions lie at the top of the Prime Ski Racing Pyramid because I have found that they are the ultimate determinant of your ability to ski consistently under the most challenging conditions. Most powerfully, emotional mastery gives you the power to use emotions as tools to help you ski your fastest rather than weapons that prevent you from achieving your goals.
Developing Prime Ski Racing
The Prime Ski Racing Pyramid gives you the framework from which to explore the psychological factors that most impact your ski racing life. It should now act as the foundation for the process of improvement that will allow you to maximize your training and race performances and achieve your goals.
Inside the Ski Racer's Mind was created to assist you in just this process, ensuring that mentally you are your best ally rather than your worst enemy. Inside the Ski Racer's Mind will examine in depth these factors and offer you practical information and useful mental skills that you can use the next time you train or race.
Dr. Jim Taylor drjimtaylor.com,
knows the psychology of ski racing! He competed internationally for
Burke Mtn. Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado.
For the past 25 years, Dr. Jim has worked with many of America's leading
junior race programs as well as World Cup competitors from many
countries. He is the author of Prime Ski Racing Triumph of the Racer's Mind. Dr. Jim is also the author of two parenting books and speaks regularly to parents, students, and educators around the U.S..