Dear Team. The Lessons of Our Sport, Part 1.

I thought I would use my blog to share some of the letters I am sending to our ski team. Since our students are so busy I will probably have to deliver the information in this letter during post practice meetings, but it helps me to write it down in letter form.

My goal is for them to see what we are trying to teach them through an athletic curriculum. A recent visitor to our school commented that what differentiates boarding schools from independent and public day schools is the fact that everything at a boarding school strives to be curriculum based, not just the academic program. 

My hope is that this letter is the first of a few letters that I will write over the course of the season. I know that our other coaches approach these topics in their own way and I think it is helpful for us to share what our various goals are for a given season. Please let me know what I am missing here!  -Brad

Dear Ski Team,

Someone recently asked me what we hope our skiers learn over the course of the season. While I think they might have been referring to the nine or ten different techniques for skate and classic skiing that we plan to teach you, I have been thinking more about the other skills you will develop as part of the ski team (or any team that you might join at Dublin School). I would like to send you a few letters during the season and I thought I would send out this first letter talking about preparation and how preparing for ski practice will provide you with skills that will take you far in life as well.

The number of tasks and details that you have to process, organize in your head, and execute on a daily basis to have a successful practice is substantial. The good news is that the skills you are learning to carry out these tasks will serve you for the remainder of your lives. Part of a boarding school education involves learning how to take care of yourself, independent from adults, and learning how to be a fully functioning member of a team. Our Group 1 skiers have learned through this sport that if they come to practice not fully hydrated, if they are late, if they are missing a piece of equipment, or if they are carrying the emotional baggage of their day with them, the whole group’s effectiveness will suffer. They know that to be part of this group they need to be prepared. 

As I have mentioned many times, I started cross country skiing because I hated being cold in the winter. You need to take care of your body and prepare for the elements so you are never cold during a season. You should use layering to keep yourself warm and to make sure you are not sweating; sweating is our enemy. You should avoid cotton clothing and wear warm socks, long underwear, a hat, and gloves. Do not go outside until you are fully clothed and your gloves and hat are on your body. Only go outside when you are ready to ski, and then start skiing as soon as you get to the trailhead. As you get warmer you can start taking layers off. Soon you will be very warm. As soon as you stop training, put the layers back on your body. After practice you want to quickly change into dry clothing— this is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy!

Make sure that your name is taped onto all of your equipment. Learn to enjoy preparing your skis with the fast glide wax so that you feel fast in every training session. Take good care of your skis and do not ski across rocks or dirt. After practice you might want to remove any old wax and put a nice blanket of glide wax on your skis so that they will absorb the wax overnight. Always keep your equipment in your locker and have it ready to go before practice starts. If you have problems with your equipment, please let the coaches know in a timely fashion. We will rarely have time to address your problems at the beginning of a practice. Remember that there are 35 other skiers who want to get started. You want to be one of the people who is ready to go and helping other skiers get started so that practice can begin and end on time. Either you, your parents, or some of our dedicated alumni have paid for your equipment. Take pride in your possessions and make them last as long as possible. Pass your equipment off to the next person in excellent shape.

Those students who took my Physiology Class this fall know that we can control the effectiveness and enjoyment of a workout session by preparing our bodies nutritionally. Your body will not function properly unless it has a nice mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fats (we will talk more about this during the season). You need to be well hydrated. If you come into practice hydrated and well nourished you will maximize the training effect of the practice. If you are not prepared you will not only feel weak in practice, you will not be able to go very hard and will not enjoy the fitness gains that the coaches planned for that session. After practice you have a 45 minute “glycogen” window to replenish your glycogen stores that supercharge your recovery. We have a box of dates in the Outing Club that are a good glycogen source, but you may want to have your own. Eating sugar and carbs after practice is not something you “earn,” it is something you need to do to speed your recovery so you can work hard the next workout. You want to avoid sugary snacks outside of that 45 minute “glycogen” window, they have a completely different impact once the window closes. Since you do not have a parent telling you what to eat in the dining hall, you must be independent and responsible for yourself.

Student-athletes who learn how to be fully functioning, independent young adults through sport often do the following. They are proactive rather than reactive when approaching a training and racing week. They lay out their clothing the night before: boots, gloves, hat, jackets, pants, bottom layers and mid layers. They put out their water bottle, headlamp, and snacks for before, during and after practice. Rather than seeing ski waxing time as an extra thing to do, they use it for one of the following: “introvert” time, Netflix watching, or social time with other skiers. When everything is prepared ahead of time, practice becomes a relaxing and energizing time rather than a stressful time.

I mentioned in our meeting that for many people skiing is not a sport, but a way of life. Learning the skills and approaches mentioned above will help you in many other aspects of your life in the future. Our hope is to prepare you to have rewarding and exciting careers, be great family members and friends, and citizens who make a positive contribution to your communities. In another letter I will talk about the spirit of competition, sportsmanship, the growth mindset, and what we learn from commitment in endurance sports.

Think Snow,

Coach Bates