This article was written back in 2013 and is still very much relevant today.
With all the excitement surrounding the approaching World Ski Racing Championships and the hype on social media connected to high profile international events such as The Diamond Race in Belgium and Catalina this July, it is interesting to consider what it takes from a ski racing athlete to get to the level that allows them to compete on a world stage.
Some may argue money…and there is no doubt that our sport requires lots of it. But, one of the toughest challenges for an elite ski racing athlete is finding the motivation and dedication to commit to a sport that does not enjoy any public acknowledgement. Ski racing is not what would be classified as an ‘above-the-line’ sport, with a huge public profile that other sports enjoy. It is in fact, very much a ‘below-the-line’ sport, with more a cult following.
It’s easy to imagine that many professional athletes find the motivation to train effortless, as their on-field (or in-pool, or on-court) success can often lead to endorsements, limelight and even celebrity status. Ski Racing does not enjoy any of this credibility, yet the training and dedication required of a world class ski racer does compare to that of many professional Australian athletes.
At a recent fundraising event in Sydney, former Australian cricketer Gavin Robertson spoke about training for his charity run as a skier in last year’s Sydney Bridge. He commented that he was “completely shocked” by the level of commitment given by the likes of Jake Tegart, Kris Knights and Ellen Jones as they were training with him in specialised sessions conducted by Alex Ross. Gavin has had the opportunity to be part of training sessions with both NRL and AFL players yet he was left in awe of what ski racing athletes can do and need to do to be fit for competition.
Training for ski racing is usually done in a lonesome place. Either a couple of hundred feet behind a boat or in an off-water training facility away from the masses, and behind closed doors. Races are usually won and lost in front of small crowds and a win does not guarantee a cheque nor a glimpse of yourself on TV.
So what does all this mean?
It means that as ski racers we have to look further for our motivation. Further into ourselves or beyond the chance of notoriety to succeed. What motivates you? Is there a particular competitor that you are trying to beat? Is it the clock? Are you trying to improve on last year’s time? Are you focussed on finishing the race without a missed start or a fall?
Choose your motivating factor as your benchmark for success and use it to drag yourself out of bed or off the lounge for your next training session. The hardest part about training is starting and the pain while your training is fleeting. The high after a good session lasts much longer as does the memory of success after a race.
There is no reason why ski racing can’t enjoy a higher public profile and expand on our ‘cult’ following and there is no reason to ‘hound’ the association to make this happen. If you want to see ski racing celebrated by more people – then share it with more people.
Social media is the most powerful force for promoting a message that the world has ever seen – and it’s FREE! All you need to do is post your successes on Facebook and share ski racing with the world. If you are too proud to post about your own success (not a bad thing…) post about someone else’s, you’ll get taken care of eventually. Tag your non ski racing friends in your pics to engage them with our sport (something like “This could be you next season Robbie Kernohan”). Post your videos and live updates of the races constantly, the more we circulate ski racing in the social media, the stronger our following will be.
We need supporters tweeting updates and results from every race, don’t wait for someone to ask you to do this, or to be offered the position as ‘official tweeter’ just start sharing the information.
Don’t leave this copy of the WSR on the kitchen table at home. Once you’ve read it cover to cover and photocopied Zig’s Tips and stuck them to the fridge, take it to work or school and share it around. Introduce people from outside the sport to the world of ski racing.
Invite a different friend to every race to experience the intensity of the superclass boats starting, the joy in the faces of our tadpole skiers as they finish and the special family time enjoyed by many crews and spectators.
If we all this year vowed to introduce one new person to the sport we would double our memberships. Start talking to your friends with social boats about 60mph class, promote it to them as a great family sport or an activity that a group of mates can do together on a weekend (beats golf surely). Offer to lend your gear to a mate so they can have a run at Region V or at a ‘come and try’ day. Hand over your jacket and helmet to a potential observer one weekend and let them experience some time in the boat going backwards.
The problem with ‘cult’ like and exclusive sports is that often, outsiders don’t know how to break into them. And so, it is up to us as members to break down these barriers to increase memberships.
Be mindful that negativity on social media is very harmful, especially in a sport that demands self motivation from it’s competitors. We don’t need anyone feeling demoralised after reading negative, unfounded information about the sport.
I’m really looking forward to a competitive and successful 2013/14 season, enjoying ski racing for what it is and anticipating what it can become.
Go and talk about ski racing today,