Like many sports that require dedication, organization, sacrifice, and tenacity, ski racing is an excellent environment within which athletes can practice and hone their whole human development. Skiers of all levels must frequently cope with challenges, including weather, equipment, terrain, injury, finances, logistics, sacrifice, discomfort, adversity, and even (yes) success. Skiers must learn to listen, attempt, follow, fail, adjust, try again, and practice. They ultimately need to master technique and skill and also must learn to lead as competitors and teammates. All of this development occurs in an iterative process every day on the slopes, in the gym, on the trails, in the classroom, or in a workplace.

Beyond the joy and passion generated by its physical play, adrenaline, risk and entertainment aspects (the raw, pure fun factors), skiing prepares athletes to face many kinds of challenges that lie ahead in life. Participation in skiing, therefore, can be a valuable and critical framework from which to develop life skills.


Some of the key challenges (and, conversely, opportunities) ski racers face leading into each competitive winter season include the funding, education, and personal development aspects of their lives. How do they stay on track with everything beyond the travel, training, and gear needed to succeed on the slopes? In some cases, this might be necessary from a purely functional perspective’ depending on their age or their competitive level, they must fund their athletic goals, or they need to finish high school or apply to college, or they desire to explore a career interest for future purpose. In other cases, taking care of the various aspects of life can help athletes feel their lives are better balanced and directed, they avoid burnout from myopic focus on or stress about the competitive season, they can curtail a sense of “being left behind” or FOMO (“Fear of missing out”), and they can build a most vital identity beyond their sport.  A little planning can go a long way to help skiers achieve balance and feel and be organized, prepared, and productive, and their ability to create a workable whole athlete development plan can help the entire process of their performance.

A whole athlete development plan provides a detailed outline of activities and tasks required to accomplish a goal, and it  breaks down the process into actionable steps based on a given timeline. No matter the end goal, a plan offers a clear roadmap for how to get there.

Here is a checklist of whole athlete development items (funding, education, and career development) and considerations that skiers should consider as the season approaches:

  • Athlete Funding
    • What is your funding goal? Determine your goal and budget based on how much you need to raise for your season; think about a specific amount that you need or want to raise to compete successfully.
    • How long do you need to achieve your goal? Determine a realistic timeline and set a deadline for raising your funding.
    • Consider the different tools/methods you can use to raise these funds. What tools will you utilize? Fundraising events, sponsors, donors, scholarships/grants, and crowdfunding (e.g. RallyMe, GoFundMe, etc.), letters, emails, phone calls, a website.
    • Who can help you? Family, friends, hometown and home resort fans, former club or teams, Sponsor, industry support.
    • Determine the most relevant and effective ways to organize, manage, and communicate your athlete funding efforts.
    • Always be ready to thank your supporters!
  • Education
    • What are realistic and relevant academic goals for skiers during the season? These will depend upon an athlete’s age or status along the education pathway as well as their level of competitive commitment to their sport.
    • Do they attend middle school, high school, college, and even graduate school. Are they a junior, FIS, World Cup or Olympic level racer?
    • Will they complete 2-3 college level classes or credits this year? Complete a grade level/year of high school? Complete a grade level/year of middle school?
    • What are their ultimate academic/learning school goals? What systems of support do they need or have?
  • Career Development / Life Skills
    • Do you have or need work experience?
    • What skills have you learned or acquired?
    • Have you considered networking?
    • Have you conducted a career search?
    • Have you prepared a resume or set up an interview?

Whole athlete development teaches athletes about organizing, communicating, planning and problem solving in a way applicable to every other facet of life. Perhaps well-known author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy said it best when he wrote, “A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” Athletes begin learning how to progress through their sport and lives while paying attention to their own development. This skill will reap rewards as they transition to life beyond skiing as they also learn critical skills to apply in their future realms of education, employment and personal interactions.


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A lifelong educator, coach, and mentor in the classroom and on the field of play, Julie brings passion, grit, community, and fun to her athlete advocacy role as the Director of Athlete Career & Education (ACE) at U.S. Ski & Snowboard. Julie promotes whole athlete development to enhance athletic performance, increase sport longevity, support career development, and encourage long term association to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. Her fate as an educator was sealed in 1st grade, when she wrote “I love school!” on the chalkboard. She also loves skiing and has resided in Park City, Utah with her husband and three daughters since 1997.