This past weekend I attended my 35th reunion at Harvard College. While the parties were fun, the best part of the event were the sessions where classmates recounted their life stories with a special emphasis on overcoming setbacks and being resilient when life took a sudden wrong turn. Several people had known the ultimate pain of losing a child. How do you recover from something so traumatizing? Jody told us of her loss, and how her father's experience as a Holocaust survivor informed her recovery. She had learned that to be a survivor you must work to create other survivors. Cornelia told us that she recovered from an abusive marriage with three key tools: first, a great support system of caring people, second, engaging her creativity in rebuilding her own life, and third, giving back to others. In the area of support she told us about the four kinds of support that people can offer. The best is Active Positive support where you say "That's great what you did, tell me more about it". The next is Passive Positive where you just say "That's great that you succeeded". But, some are Passive Negative where they might say "Great that you did well, but isn't it pretty easy and there are others doing better?". Ouch. Worst of course is Active Negative where someone says "You didn't really do anything good and you are not worth much". To succeed we need to be very careful about who we surround ourselves with.
What does this have to do with ski coaching? I feel that one of the great benefits of ski racing is that it gives us many chances to learn resiliency in a safe and not debilitating way. Some day we will face a real trauma and perhaps the skills that we learned bouncing back from bad races will help us rebuild our broken lives. As coaches we can teach our athletes to learn to get Active Positive support, to be creative in building their own lives, and to support others in their efforts to reach their own goals.