It is common to hear coaches yelling at racers along the race course, “Pressure!” “Forward!” Obviously we don’t see this in a world cup race, but even in world cup races, we could still hear coaches’ high-pitched voice before the racer takes off.   Hearing “Alice GO! GO! GO!” at the start gate is perfectly fine, but anything more than that may not help.  Actually, it could make things worse.

First of all, racers may not hear what you said at a high speed and in an intense mood.  If they hear you and try to follow your advice, it is either too late, or it could disrupt their rhythm.  Why talk about fundamentals now?  Why not do it in training sessions?

Second, skiing is a delicate sport.  It needs a smooth flow.  Any last-minute reminder could potentially interrupt the flow.  Mark Elling quoted a PSIA demo team member in his book The All-Mountain Skier — “Never Surprise the Ski”(p. 134).  It takes lots of time and effort to fine-tune pressure techniques.  How can we expect a fundamental change on the race course?

Third, a composed coach helps the skier relax and focus.  Because of the competitive atmosphere, skiers are inherently inclined to over-pressuring their skis and rushing into a rigid form.  At this moment, a composed coach can help them relax, and consequently gain an appropriate form and smooth flow.  Racers know they need to “give it all.”  If you cannot tell them how to fix a problem in a second, you’d better just tell them — “Take it easy.”

This is not to say that coaches shouldn’t give any advice to their racer at the start gate.  If you want to do it, please focus on one feasible piece and avoid stressing broad issues like pressure and edging.  In her book Ski Faster, Lisa Feinberg Densmore recalled a nice story of her own at a North American race:

“… By the time I reached the bottom on my first run, my legs were so tired that I was barely able to turn.  I just tried to maintain my speed without crashing.  I was in fourth place after the first run, itching to move up to the medals, but not sure I could ace the course on the second run because of the overwhelming fatigue I had felt.  My legs were still tired an hour after I had finished the first run.

… Just before I got into the starting gate, my coach, an Austrian named Fritz Vallant, whispered one word in my ear, ‘Breathe.’  … On ‘Go!,’ I exhaled as I gave a strong push.  I exhaled in every run.  When I reached the last few gates, my legs still felt strong and my head was clear. … When I heard my time, I nearly fainted.  I had beaten the rest of the field by 2.5 seconds, enough to win the race. It was the first significant victory of my ski-racing career.” (p. 199)

Smile.  It can make your racer run better.

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