Ski racing is a series of goals, decisions, successes, failures, and lessons, and the key to ultimate success in ski racing is the ability to understand, appreciate, and grow from this series of experiences. Looking back to assess and analyze a season is important in planning ahead for next season. “What did I do well this season? What do I need to do to repeat tor exceed his success? Where did I fail to reach a goal? How do I adjust to reach the goal this next season?”
At the end of a season, when pondering whether to sustain or extend a ski racing career, it is best to approach it with keen self-awareness, critical self-reflection, and considered goal-setting. More often than not, race results reveal a roller coaster of highs and lows; sometimes athletes reach the podium, sometimes they do not qualify, sometimes they make flip, sometimes they achieve a personal best, and sometimes they DNF. An excellent winning streak in ski racing would be three or four successful races in a row, because consistently putting together two solid runs in a single day is far more challenging than it might appear. This is why Mikaela Shiffrin’s record-breaking success is so other-worldly!
In addition to possessing technical aptitude, ski racers need an effective training approach that consists of a clear and honest state of self-awareness, a plan for metered progression, a strong base from which to build strength, agility, and power, and a dynamic, adaptive mindset for continual improvement; all are necessary to “stay the course” of ski racing. A ski racer’s progress begins with self-reflection. “What are my strengths?” “What are my weaknesses?” are excellent and meaningful questions, especially when addressed honestly.
As the snow melts in these next few months and athletes get ready to wrap up the 2019 winter, they should take time to reflect upon events of the past season and determine the positives and negatives of their ski racing life: training methods, nutrition and self-care regimens, sleep patterns, focus and visioning mindset, coaching rapport and response, equipment management, social engagement, etc. This valuable self-reflection skill can be developed and sharpened with discipline and effort. Athletes are the one consistent and perpetual influence on their own decisions, actions and accomplishments, so understanding themselves is critical for continual growth. Honest self-reflection is a fundamentally self-critical process and, therefore, can be emotionally challenging; yet, many athletes find that making the extra effort to engage in self-reflection is well worth the demand.
Below are the components of self-reflection that give athletes the best chance to set goals for their long-term development.
Before beginning the work of introspection for the 2019 season, let’s consider the definition of self-reflection. Self-reflection is the conscious act of evaluating choices, actions, successes, mistakes, and beliefs. A ski racer’s season often gets so busy with the daily details of training, travel, and competing that athletes rarely have time to examine why races happen the way they do. Self-reflection allows athletes to more deeply understand their results. By “looking in the mirror”, they can develop and hone improved skills, polish training practices and processes in a constructive way, and create a plan that leverages experience and encourages growth.
Set the Stage
Beyond willingness and commitment, two important components of self-reflection are scheduling and location. Athletes need to find both enough time and the right place to effectively review their season. Introspection and self-reflection is all about understanding and making sense of what happened in the past. Purposefully creating an opportune time and comfortable place to reflect on the season or a career can be worthwhile and valuable. Once a ski racer has the insight to know what occurred and why, they can develop a new vision, set new goals to reach that vision, and determine new tactics to reach those goals.
Created by a former Olympic mogul skier (Troy Murphy), these suggestions below are terrific nuggets of wisdom on how to approach a season or career transition and are also relevant for alpine racers!
- Know when it’s time… “be willing and open to yourself and know when it’s time to exit”
- Have a plan, at least a hint of one… “If you’ve got the bandwidth to focus on all of your athletic needs as well as plan for the future then props to you”
- Keep up on fitness… “keeping capacity of a fitness program is essential for mental health, and obviously for physical health as well.”
- Reconnect with old passions or develop new ones… “Something about being a beginner is so liberating. There are no expectations and improvements come rapidly. So, give that thing you’ve been wanting to do a try.” (specifically, important for athletes managing career transitions)
- Have a carrot… “it’s always important to have something to look forward to, so find that opportunity and chase it!”
- Have fun, learn, grow… “be busy, and productive, and most importantly, have so much fun in the process. Life (after sport) goes on, and it is what you make it!”