Monday, May 19, 2014

Measuring Talent

Simi, Jessie, and Sophie doing skits at REG.  Acting is a good measure of performance under pressure.

The latest post from the satirical blog, Nordic Tribune, has some arch comments about the difficulty of using dryland tests to determine on-snow skiing talent:

I've coached many times at the Eastern REG camp and was there as the USST developed their testing and selection process for NEG.  I know what a challenge it was to come up with some sort of standardized testing program. Is it a perfect system?  No, far from it.   It does have the advantage of setting up some objective measures that can give coaches some performance numbers to attach to athletes.  Athletes who win ski races are the sort of people who rise to any challenge and figure out a way to do well.  As a measure of competitive fire they are useful tests.  The satirical blog makes fun of having a 180 degree jump in the agility test and it makes fun of Newell because he didn't win on the World Cup last year.  But, I've watched Andy do the agility test and I think being of the top ten fastest skiers in the world is amazing.  I can see that his speed and coordination on the agility test correlates directly to his ability to mix it up with the skiers from the Nordic powerhouse countries.   He is great on rollerskis and even better on snow.

Given that the current testing system isn't perfect, what would be better?  In an ideal world (and please note this is just a fantasy of an ideal world), I would have all skiers on matched rollerskis and have them do two tests.  First, an uphill double-pole test.  In our testing at CSU we have found that this test has an excellent correlation to on-snow race performance.  Comparison between results of different regions would not be possible, but within each region you would have an excellent measure.  Second, I'd like to see a 5K skate rollerski time-trial.  With matched skis you would have an excellent measure of fitness and technique.  Again, terrain difference would make region to region comparison poor, but within each region you would see who can ski fast.

Hope to see some of you in Lake Placid for Eastern REG.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back to Blogging (The Power of Goals)

Hi Coaches (et al.),

After an 18 month hiatus, I'm coming back for regular blogging.  I have no good excuse for not writing.  But, I've set a goal of weekly posts.  Hold me to it.

This brings up the subject of the power of goals.  Spring is the season when we CSU coaches meeting with our athletes to review the results of the past season and to set goals for the coming season.  We set outcome goals (i.e. race results) and also detailed process goals (i.e. the work we need to do) to help us reach the outcome goals.  I met on Sunday with a second year J2 skier.  He had a solid season this past winter and raced well at the NENSA J2 Championships.  For the coming year he set the goal for himself of making the NENSA Junior Nationals team.  I told him that he will need to lower his Double Pole Test time from 14:45 to 12:30 (among other improvements) to have the fitness to make the team.  One tool to achieve this goal will be using his homemade ski erg (the Robolina - directions on each week to build his specific power.  In the middle of the day on Monday I received an email from the skier with a copy of his training log showing that he had gotten up early that morning to use the Robolina before school.  Setting the outcome goal of making JNs and the process goal of improved double-pole power motivated the young man to put in the extra effort that it takes to reach the top levels of the sport.