Saturday, May 12, 2018

US Racer Development by USSA on the wrong track again.

USSA and PSIA junior development

The most recent efforts by the US Ski Team, PSIA and USSA were demonstrated in a video I received following a Spring US Development camp. Many different approaches were used with exercises and maneuvers demonstrated and explained by the coaches.  Again management at USSA and the US Ski Team have failed to realize that doing the same thing over and over without results has a definition. 

I reviewed most of the video clips from the latest USSA Develop program.  Here is the take away from what I saw, and some of my beginning thoughts. There are so many glaring errors in this system of technical skiing training, it is difficult to point them out in one post. 

The individuals involved 

The newly appointed US Ski Team Development Director is Sasha Rearick. Rearick was men's head coach for approximately 10 years? Four years ago Rearick, stated that he and his team were going to focus on creating and developing the best slalom in the world,  in other words, a total focus on the slalom team. Now we have no slalom skiers in the top 30 in the world. My take on this is if he wasn't successful with our top racers in the US, why would you put that person in charge of the next generation of possible US skiers? I don't understand what Executive Director, Tiger Shaw is doing, nothing he has done makes sense.

 From the technical perspective watching the videos is very frustrating, this Development Program Camp is like a clown show on snow.  One of the worst pieces of coaching I've seen in years.

Just one example, in the video, they are still coaching juniors to move up and forward to achieve and understand dynamic fore-aft balance. This is a ski instructor method of skiing derived form ski school and also used by PSIA, They are still using this 35-year old mistake in ski coaching; the "moving up and forward" approach, to getting the hips ahead of the feet. 

The best world cup skiers have not been using this method for the last 20 years. It's slow, it makes you late for the next gate and it fails to build the correct angles and balance. That's just not what the best skiers on the world cup are doing. So the consequences of this coaching are actually a detriment to US Development skiers. Yet USSA, PSIA and the coaches surrounding US development are still coaching it. This is highly frustrating and confusing for anyone with the knowledge of world-class skiing techniques.

Another area of total misunderstanding by US coaching is the "Transition" changing the body from one turn to the next. After observing the videos it is astounding that there is little or no movement information or examples given to the athletes about how to release using the lower body. Good lower body releasing and engagement is totally dependent on counter-acting the hip and is in proper balance at the point of releasing pressure and angles. World class releasing is dependant on the relationship of the hips to the skis at the end of the arc, especially with slow speed exercise training. There is no reference to this movement in this coaching. In fact, the coaching that is given eliminates the ability for a skier to perform movements that are being used by the best racers in the world.

What is being taught, extending and moving the hips forward is in conflict biomechanically with lower body releasing and tipping to engage. You can not angle the skis for a new arc while pushing your hip up and forward. Releasing is a combination of integrated movements with leg bending and ski unweighting. There is no connection offered by this group of coaches regarding these essential movements. There is no given structured logical way for these "Essential" movements to be developed, based on what I saw in these videos. Basically, these approaches used in this session are a bunch of random, unconnected, antiquated exercises done incorrectly. Unfortunately, this is what I've come to expect from USSA and US Ski Coaches Ass.

 In these sessions, there was some emphasis given to hip dumping. The reference to "Hip Dumping" discussed is correct and true. It's an epidemic in US skiing development racers. One major reason for this problem is that young kids, (8 to12)  in our programs ski on 9-meter slalom skis, which turn no matter how incorrectly you ski or how poor your technique is or how you move. Therefore the kids can get away with poor technique and failed approaches, while the skis still make it around the corner. however, this stops once they grow and need to use longer skis with less sidecut. The kids aren't prepared for this eventuality from the technical movement development offered in USSA or PSIA.

So when the kids get to the levels and age demonstrated in this video they have never learned how to use the lower body and tipping movements to create angles. Instead, they lean, drop the hip and rotate. These are all poor movements and deadly if you are competing against Europeans.  In my view. These coaches have not figured out the connections relating to movements and technique used by world-class skiers; especially not for slow speed exercises and learning. Relating slow speed exercises to world cup skiing requires a complete understanding of the vital sequences between releasing turns and ski engaging movements, which these coaches do not demonstrate in these video clips. 

Other comments:

1. The explanations for what is to be done are extremely poor and confusing and no reasons are given for them, or for why the exercise is important. This is a motivation killer.

2. The coaches use or give mostly negative advice. Example: They yell out, "No up movement". instead of advising the skiers to stay flexed or increase flexing and tipping movements. Another motivation killer. 

3. The biomechanical approaches offered in the videos are mostly incorrect and poorly demonstrated. Poor relationships are given between what the roles are between upper and lower body.

4. The level of "motivational coaching" is extremely poor, no enthusiasm for the movement efforts. The exercises have to make sense to the athletes, this was never approached, from what I observed.

5. I don't see any athlete here walking away from these sessions with anything they will use in practice or race training.

There are so many flaws in this coaching approach it's again a wasted effort, while in many ways also detrimental, in my view. 

There are so many better opportunities for a more professional approach to coaching.
In the programs of coaching and teaching my company runs, none of these USSA and PSIA coaches is qualified to teach.

Every one of my coaches is trained to have the skills to point out better exercises and give much higher level feedback with motivational responses than what is demonstrated in the USSA video. These coaches need to get some "real" coaching training. The USSA coaches can benefit tremendously from training in "Motivational Coaching" and biomechanical understanding of skiing movements, and how skiing movements integrate and connect from one phase of a turn to the next. None of this was in their coaching repertoire demonstrated in the video.

I'll watch more of this and will offer more detailed in-depth strategies for what can be done correctly. I will point out what can be done instead of what I'm seeing here. I am not surprised that our development kids go nowhere beyond the junior ranks and USSA levels, this only continues to confirm what a pitiful effort USSA puts out. It's not a surprise therefore that we are not competitive as a team in any discipline at the international level.

Many are trying to point out that the failure of the US Ski Team is due to the lack of funding for the athletes. I disagree, it is primarily due to the lack of coaches education, training, and certification. Sure we have huge and great facilities in Park City that have cost members an arm and leg, yet these structures don't produce world-class skiing. Good coaching and a solid development programs do.  Is it therefore surprising that there is a proliferation of independent and individual coaching outside of the USSA umbrella in the US?

Sorry about the negativity of this evaluation, I'd was hoping for better. On a positive note, in my next Blog Post, I'll write up a program that is more accurate and much more directed to the needs of US skiing and development.
Below is a link to the topic of this article.