How fast is fast enough?
Management guru Peter Drucker said "if you can't measure it, you can't improve it." So how do we know we are improving skiing? The classic answer is to trust the coach, coach knows. But this creates an authoritarian structure and our goal is to empower racers, parents and coaches. We use an external measurement, one we don't control and is available to everyone interested. Nastar, is a nation wide program using a handicap system that is accessible to all skiers. This works well for our development team as Gold means they are competitive for US Ski and Snowboard races. They won't win, but they won't be last either.
What about our Gold team who are already skiing Gold or Platinum times in Nastar, how do we measure them? In short, its time per gate. World Cup racers ski a Slalom course at about 0.8 seconds per gate, finish time divided by number of gates. For example a time of 22.56 seconds on a 28 gate course is .8057 seconds per gate. In GS this per gate time is 1.4-1.5 seconds per gate. It could be asked, why does this matter for such young racers? Because we have kids that ski these times in our region. There are a handful of U14s that ski GS in that 1.5 sec/gate time and are skiing in the .9 sec/gate in Slalom!
What about my racer?
Those may seem like steep expectations. Don't worry, there are no tryouts for this team. No new racer comes into a race team skiing world cup times, nor is it expected. But it does provide context by showing possibility and room for growth. We have high goals and low expectations. We know where we need to go and have a plan to get there. And we know it takes a lot of work and work is more fun with friends. Most of our racers ski the 24-28 gate course in 40+ seconds and that is just fine, the bigger question is are they having fun? As coaches, we know there is room for improvement, and it's our job to keep them moving forward and progressing in their skiing.
Being great on the snow and in a race course doesn't end once we are off the snow. The hard work and focus needed in training needs to be practiced off the snow too. We get better at what we practise, when we bring our all as students, friends, and siblings, it helps us bring it all on the race course.