For the last couple of years, I have been following all the editorials from Edith to the current owner of Ski Racing and all the others in between. At times I have chuckled at the various topics related to the costs, Tech vs Speed, and athlete management etc. All these topics and others have been recycled through the USST/USSA program numerous times in the last 50 years (yes, I am that old). To be honest, there are not that many new ideas, only old ones dressed up to look new.
In my opinion Chip and Todd are on the right track when it comes to managing the number of starts for our developing athletes. Racing results should validate the training that takes place prior to a competition. If you are not getting the improvement you expect, then you need to reevaluate your training. Rushing off to the next race is not going to necessarily solve the problem. If you feel that you need 50-60 starts to reach your goals, then you really need to reevaluate. To have that many starts year after year takes a toll on the athlete. You may eventually reach your goal of making a Team spot but at what cost? How much is left in the tank to move on to the next level?
What is important in the first two or three years of FIS racing is not the points earned but the results gained. Granted the races are seeded by FIS points and start positions will likely affect results. However, what I always look for when observing these younger racers is who started 20th and finished 4th or who started 50th and finished 20th. This should be more impactful than scoring FIS points in races with high penalties. As Todd said, over time the FIS points sort themselves out. So, when you are forced to select an athlete for some type of Regional or National project, don’t just look at who is winning but also look at start numbers and finish positions.
There is a process in this sport that requires time and patience. Every athlete will develop at a different rate. An athlete born in January is going through a different process than one born in November of the same year. Therefore, having a system that manages their time of training, racing and rest in blocks through the season gives them the opportunity to develop at their own pace. Having a system that limits starts and encourages more training and rest will allow these athletes the time necessary to focus on the technical, tactical, physical and mental skills necessary to succeed to the best of their ability level.
I know the coaches and program directors that voted against this part D of the program have strong convictions about their position. They have had this position for years and in some cases decades. More power to them for sticking to their guns. I know and respect all of them as high quality coaches and managers. However, in this case I support Chip and Todd because what has been the norm is not working. It is time to move forward with a program that focuses on the long term development of our athletes.
— Tim “Swampy” LaMarche
Editor’s note: This letter was submitted in response to the Health of Sport discussions that took place at Congress earlier this month and are ongoing within our sport. Have some thoughts on this? Send a letter to the editor. If it’s good, we’ll publish it.
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