Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why is Coaches Education under the USSA unbrella so difficult to establish.

What happened at a coaches educational meeting during the winter of 1980 in New Hampshire? Georg Capaul, at that time,  Head Coach at Waterville Valley and I, at the time, I was program Director at MWV Ski Ed. Fd. George and I saw a need to work together not apart as program competitors, to get coaching more constant for New Hampshire race programs. We invited coaches from around the State to attend and we introduced a series of basic ski racer needs. We came up with some fundamental skiing requirements for developing racers. The coaches that attended put together a skiing movement program for racer development and we presented it to the clubs.

Comments by Crawford Pierce: Ex-US Ski Team Coach, Burke Mt Coach and Rocky/Central Development Region coach about that event.
"They were the most innovative and instructional coaching clinics I have ever attended."

A few years later USSA formed a US Coaches Association. With it, coaches education began at a national level. Unfortunately, coaches education at the National Level didn't get much traction, although there were accreditation levels established with certain criteria. This languished for a few decades; and two or three coaches education directors were hired by USSA, but no real viable coaching approach or system developed that US Development coaching could use. Definitely nothing that "US Coaches Education" did  lasted and carried over into anything worthwhile for today's coaching needs. Most of the well established race programs and academies gave the National Coaches Education programs lip service and continued to do what they thought was the best way to develop their racers.

Now to the present day. There are numerous coaches education titles such national educational director, or development director, being throw around at Park City the center for all US racing. However none of these positions, individuals or committees have come up with a viable US coaches system. Sure they have the "Skills Quest", actually this is in my opinion, a horrid system of contrived skiing maneuvers that has very little to do with teaching basic racing and skiing abilities needed for kids. And now it's part of the selection process, a disaster. The more we go forward, further we go back.

However, they did choose the correct name " Skills Quest"?? Shouldn't USSA know how to develop skills and tell coaches around the country how to develop these skills, not be on a "Quest" for Skills??? The irony in the name tells the story.

Now USSA had really done it, thrown in the towel and admitted defeat: they are using and going to PSIA for their ideas about the coaching of basic skills. This is a huge slap in the face to any coach who has been working in the USSA system for the last 20 to 30 years.

USSA is telling the US coaches that they have failed and they are saying with this, that USSA  has failed, as well, with the Coaches Educational programs over the last 5 to 30 years.

Now the present brain trust rather than coming up with a universal movement based teaching system for racers, from reputable national level race coaches, they have relinquished this responsibility to PSIA, the ski instructors of America.

 I have been with PSIA, for 4 years I was on the National Demonstration Team. I was also a trainer and an examiner in PSIA for 4 years. I left it because it had nothing to offer me and it is stagnated. My background before joining PSIA was with USSA and development coaching, in three major race programs.  I also was Head Coach of two US Ski Team development programs, one for Harald Scheonhaar and one for Bob Harkins.

When I make the comparisons between what the reputable coaches in the country know about ski racing and coaching compared to PSIA's trainers and technical base, it's amazing to me that anyone would encourage the use of PSIA for ski racing technique. PSIA technique and racer needs and development are incompatible and have technically opposite needs and outcomes.

Why has the brain trust at USSA reached out to using a ski teaching program that has not shown success with the general skiing public, let alone with elite or development athletes?

Few of the general skiing public take PSIA lessons, beyond beginner levels. There are so few middle and upper level lessons given in PSIA because skiers don't see advancement. In my opinion this is because skiers at middle to higher levels don't get instruction that helps then become better skiers. Yet USSA is applying PSIA training methods to ski racer development at the national level.

The general public in general doesn't take PSIA teaching, especially at the middle to upper levels for their development.  If  recreational skiers see limited progress or have little desire to take lessons to become better from  PSIA, I shouldn't have to enlighten anyone about what this means for the nations junior racers.

How desperate is USSA Education that this is their answer for teaching and coaching ideas? Anyone from mature, major race programs,  I mean Ski Academy coaches, in the East and West, can develop a coaching program that meets the needs of 90% of racers. There are programs in the East and West that are doing an outstanding job, for example: Burke back east and out West, Steve Bounous's program at Snowbird. And why can't USSA develop a task force of established coaches, who have a wealth of experience, and can be called upon to create a development coaching program?

USSA is glad and immediately ready to take credit for the Shiffrins and Goldbergs, even if they had nothing to do with their development. We are in a cycle where we have to wait for the next "child phenom" to show up. We don't produce top skiers in this country from the development pipeline .

Let me have a guess at why a development pipeline doesn't exist and why it is not happening?  Are the wrong people in charge of USSA Coaching and Development? Are they totally out of touch with racer development? Do they have a racing background?  Can they communicate with the development programs. Do they understand or know US ski racing and how it's structured? In my opinion, they don't understand the needs of racing at the highest levels. It could be any one of these and probably a combination of them.


This is just the tip of the systemic failure of USSA development, that needs immediate addressing. The racer numbers are down, the athletes are paying enormous amounts of money to train and prepare for a shot at the US Ski Team. The development pipeline is weak, empty or even non-existent.

Tiger Shaw has some serious issues to address in his new position, he will either go with the status quo or he will shake things up. If the second of these two options is not chosen,  USSA is in line, in my humble opinion, for the biggest drought in it's racing history.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

US Ski Team is not the answer to domestic coaching and development.

Whenever there seems to be a drought or a crisis looming in US ski racing everyone starts to point fingers. Tiger Shaw basically said, " There is not much talent in the pipeline."

Sasha Rearick, Head US team coach,  "“We’ve fallen off the mark in the technical disciplines, slalom and GS, without a doubt."
US Ski Team coaches have finally realized what I've been saying for the last 15 years. However, do they have the "technical coaching skills", to raise the level properly or quickly?It's too late for the 16 years olds, you have to start with the 8 year olds or 10 year olds, in their home programs. This isn't anything the US Ski Team can solve, it needs to be done at the entry levels. By the time it gets to the US Ski Team level, it's too late.

More details in this Ski Racing article,  however this is a public relations article it has little content or offers no real solutions.


I'll make these statements not because I want to damage USSA coaching, but the reality is this. I've observed domestic racing for 35 years. The US national coaches association is where the trouble is, it's not the kids.. And USSA should not try to blame the US domestic coaches. USSA has the power to dictate what and how skiing is coached in this country, but it has failed. Now even a branch of USSA, the Ski Team, recognizes this.

It's easy to identify the problems,  they are obvious, at least to me. These problems go right to the top racers in the US, look at Ligety's slalom? Technically it's terrible and he's been working on it for the last three years, without change, that's a coaching issue. This has been documented in detail on this Blog. 

It's another thing to know what to do about your overall skiing problems. Where is the solution? USSA needs to totally revamp the coaches association and start to educate coaches, starting with biomechanics and movement fundamentals. But it's not getting done, because human nature is, not built to look internally. 
And the changes needed,  will never happen with PSIA as the driving force for, US coaching and athlete development, that should depend on elite world class skiing knowledge. PSIA isn't designed to for this, they don't develop athletes,  and doesn't have the credentials to coach elite racers or train US coaches. That's like asking your lawn mower mechanic to build you a Ferrari racing engine. PSIA is a ski instructor organization, it's strength is to give tune-ups to recreational skiers.

Do US ski team coaches have the skills, time and influence to make it happen? Can they make happen what they have identified as problems in US development? 

Is a one time spring ski camp the beginning of a national development resurgence? Even if the coaches did have the perfect program at this camp, is it a development solution or a PR attempt. The problems for US skiing go much deeper and require much more attention.  This has been substantiated (not that I needed this confirmation) to me by numerous coaches who attended the national forums at Park City this spring.
US skiing is in world of hurt, there is at the moment very little going on in the pipeline behind the present team, sorry.
This may sound negative, but it's not, you have to identify the problems to be able to fix them. I'm not against US Skiing, but I am very critical of the way it's been managed.

Tiger Shaw has his hands full, and not just with this issue. It's not going to be solved with a few camps and a Press release, it will take a mini revolution within the US Coaching and Education. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Harb Ski Systems Summer Race Camps, Mt Hood.

                     Another great skiing experience coming in August

                                   Harb Ski Systems

This isn't just another Ski Race Camp, it's not just silly drills to keep kids busy. This is an education about skiing and skiing the way the best skiers ski. It's focus is on learning movements, not words and silly maneuvers. This is a ski education that will last and that you can use when you need it to ski fast, but in control. This camp has no fancy World Cup  names or celebrities, just honest to goodness ski education and improvement.


Here is the information  about our junior race camp at Mt. Hood, in August. Please contact us with any questions you have after reading this.


 philosophy:
Our camp is private, and not offered to the public. It is offered by special request and for invited athletes. We are not one of the mass-production camps that stays at Mt Hood for the whole summer. We are interested in working with highly-motivated athletes who want the best coaching and educational experience. Our involvement with attending athletes is usually long-term: once they experience PMTS race training, they want to continue with that program and level of coaching. We provide a technical skiing base and technical understanding of skiing that the athletes will carry with them as they evolve as skiers and racers. This is not just a week's ski camp experience; it's an education for their lives in skiing.

Parental/coach involvement:
We ask that a parent, guardian, or a current coach be involved in the camp, including:
  • providing lodging & meals
  • supervision during the non-ski hours
  • transportation to and from Timberline Lodge each day

You can stay at Timberline Lodge, which has dining options. This simplifies access to the lodge and slopes each day – no driving needed!

The town of Government Camp offers many different options for lodging, from renting private homes, to condominiums (Collins Lake), to hotels & restaurants, to hotels with meal plans (Huckleberry's)...

You can find private homes & rentals on vrbo.com

A google search for “government camp or lodging” shows many results...

Here is the web page for Huckleberry's, if you prefer not to cook...

Dates:
August 4-10, 2014
The camp offers 6 days on snow. The starting plan is 3 days on / rest day / 3 days on. We will adjust this schedule if needed for weather.

Cost:
Please contact us.

Coaching groups:
We plan to have 4-5 racers per coach (maximum 6). Coaches are Harald Harb & Diana Rogers. We will have one or two assistants to help with set up.

Skis & equipment to bring:
Athletes should bring slalom and giant slalom skis (ok to bring GS only). We will be running GS gates. We will not be running SL gates, so you do not need full armor.

Ski & training plan:
The first three days of camp are technical free skiing. Day 1 is on SL skis; days 2 & 3 on GS skis. Days 4-6 are GS gate training. We may modify the schedule if weather or conditions dictate.

Daily plan:
The coaching is from lift opening (scheduled 7 AM) to approximately 12 PM, with a snack/rest break on-hill. Video and technical review will be held each afternoon, for approximately 2 hours total, at a location to be determined. No other physical activities or dryland are scheduled. The athletes should be working on physical preparation before and after the camp week, but we want full energy from them on-snow during camp. There are plenty of fun, light activities in Government Camp after the video/tech sessions.

Attending athletes:
So far we have 5 athletes confirmed from West Virginia. We tentatively have 3-4 coming from Alaska and the Midwest.

Deposit and payment:
Since enrollment in this camp is very limited, please send us a deposit as soon as you enroll. We accept payment by check/money order; Paypal; and Visa, Mastercard, or Amex credit cards.

Gate training









Sincerely,

Harald and Diana

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring days mean mountain roads and lots of twists.

First day with the 911 on an extended mountain trip.




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For 65 year old athletes, precision in your training, creates success.

It's hard for me to even speak that title out load, let alone write it. Yes, I am a 65 year old athlete, hard to admit. Sometimes saying it makes it more real, wake up it's reality. We are in a different world then when I was growing up. 65 year old men sat on the couch, watched TV,  drank beer, (martinis) and played bridge.

Now 65 year olds are training for sports, staying fit and flexible.

In the active part of my life, every season brings on a monumental change in physical conditioning required to change sports. Much has to do with the sport you choose and the conditioning needs of that sport.


Changing from skiing to road cycling for the summer isn't too bad or that difficult a transition.




A change over however from skiing to rock climbing is long and painful; and the same goes for the reversal back to skiing in the fall.





It always starts out as a daunting process, but when you get into it and get on the rock, motivation for climbing at higher levels and or for the same levels you finished the previous season with, comes on strong. 

The annual quest for the same upper body power, grip strength and endurance I remember having, has already begun. Out on the rock I know the first attempts will be dismal, we always compare ourselves to the levels of performance we had or want. 





This is challenging not only from a physical stand point, but also mentally. It's not dissimilar from what many athletes confront when recovering from injury or stepping up to a higher level of competition. The mental game, the physical challenges and technique all require higher levels of   development for an athlete to be competitive again.

And pacing yourself in your training is surely one of the most frustrating parts of this process. As we age the body reacts differently and has different needs. Rest and sleep are high on the list, without them hard workouts wear you down,  rather than build you up. The formula for precisely moving and varying the type of training and workouts you do has to be much more strategic than when you were 25 or even 45 years old.

You can no longer pound out 7 days of weight training and aerobic training in one week, you have to mix up your rest, intensity and type of activity. The goal is to keep improving without a major set back, like overtraining, getting sick or causing an injury. Fatigue or overtraining is likely in the first few weeks of the transition because you are motivated and in a hurry.

This is where a training journal and a written plan can be huge in developing success. Also keep your training log from year to year and consult with it, keep track of your previous year's success and failures. You can learn so much from your own experience, and that's the best way to refine your program from year to year.

I know where I was last October preparing for skiing and I know where I was last June, getting ready for my climbing season. I'll tweak my workouts to increase the fun and enjoyment of the training activity and also the effectiveness of it. Time is of the essence, the climbing season is short and I know I have to be ready for a long ski season again by October. Precision is my overall goal, training smart, means planning. Planning perfectly, may take a year or two to establish, but it's worth the effort,  it's scientific and personally satisfying.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

PMTS Direct Parallel Skiing, "The Two Ways to Ski".

You can learn to ski with your skis in the snow surface or ski by barely scratching the surface?




Things to look for in this video of PMTS Skiing? Into this video, the first 5 seconds will demonstrate the difference between "The Two Ways to Ski".  Notice the group of skiers flying by, (noisy skis) they are barely scratching the surface of the snow, granted it's hard snow some places even ice. Then compare that skiing, to the skiing in the rest of the video. 99% of skiers on the slopes ski like the group that flies by.

This is fine on a groomed slopes with no obstacles, bumps or deep snow, however at any big mountain this skiing will not hold up. Yes, the skiing of the two in the red suits will hold up everywhere, in powder, bumps and be enjoyable on any snow.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Two Ways to Ski" "PMTS Direct Parallel" Skiing Demonstrations,

                                          "Two Ways to Ski"

                (Video of this skiing is available on the Blog.)

There are two ways to ski, two ways to learn to ski. If you start on the correct path from the beginning everything will be much easier and more enjoyable as you head toward advanced intermediate levels. Most skiers never experience the true joy of the sport because they are compromised by the way they were introduced to the movements of skiing.

Below in these photos is one of the "Two Ways to Learn Skiing". This of course is the end result, but the process is just as rewarding as the end result.

Take note of the sometimes less obvious performance highlights of this "PMTS Direct Parallel" way to learn skiing.

This is a steep slope rated "Black Diamond Run" every photo is from a different run and set of turns, yet there is amazing consistency of performance in every set of photos. Take particular note of the lack of extra movements, the angles of the skis and the body. This is sustainable in all conditions and all slopes no matter what snow or surface, when skiing with this method. This is not "Old Fashion Ski Instruction". This is PMTS skiing, derived directly from World Cup skiing techniques.


               The Slope is on one of the Steepest in the Mid-West, at Welch Village.
                                                            Dual Carving with Diana Rogers


                               Above is a simultaneous release, knees flexed, and in transition.
       This is on the Welch Village Upper Snow Field. Who says the Mid West doesn't have Glaciers?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hirscher not skiing like Hirscher: Something has changed in his boot set up.

After this series of 3 races where Hirscher had the worst results of his great career, he switched his set-up or went back to his old boots and won the last slalom at the World Cup Finals, to ice the Overall and Slalom Globes.  
In the years I have been studying Marcel Hirscher's skiing, I have never seen the following.


Up date: Fortunately they changed it back to the season beginning set up, before the last slalom of the season.


In these photo clips, he's extremely counter rotated, and knocked kneed, this is not how he was set up or how he naturally skis or how he skied at the beginning of the season. He is  adapting to boot changes, and not good ones. I don't know what,  exactly,  has happened to his boots. It could be a number of things.

1. The boots are breaking down.
2. He has new boots and the new set up has changed and it's not working.
3. Someone changed his present boot setup.
Which ever of the three has happened, it's not working.

.
The above photo is so untypical of Hirscher's skiing. He has never needed to counter rotate his hips like this, this is not functional, it is adaptive. An incorrect boot set up, cuff change or poor sole alignment can cause this. This is easy to fix, but no one has done anything in the last 4 races about it. I started to notice something wrong about 4 slaloms ago.


Here we see the same thing again and this is happening frequently in his last races. It's more obvious on his left leg, but his right side turn, it is also not as good as it was early in the season.

This set up is causing him to load the ski late and hard. He's atypically getting far back on his skis and often leaving the ground, normally he could absorb these impacts, not any longer. I'm afraid with his strength and will power, he will try to overcome this with brute force and it might result in injuries.



This again shows far too much leaning and rotation for typical Hirscher skiing.

Lots of comments are being made about Hirscher's skiing lately, on Universal sports and elsewhere.. Most has to do with the Olympics and his results being behind his rivals, due to "pressure to perform". I did an article about his lack of performance a month ago on this Blog. Things have not gotten better.  He has lost confidence because his skis are not performing the way he likes, but it's not the skis, it is the boots.

Marcel himself says he's not skiing loose. No one can ski loose when you are fighting a boot set up to this extent.