Don’t Be A Winner Or Loser – Be A Chooser

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These days the pressure in skiing to get results seems to be increasing. Lets face it, it’s an expensive sport and many people commit much time, effort and hard earned cash to train and race. Travel, hotels, flights, ski passes, coaching, training stades and then there’s the equipment. Skis for Slalom, GS, Super G and that doesn’t account for training and race skis. So for some it’s at least a minimum of 5 or 6 pairs. I’m guessing just one set of Super G skis so 5, without Downhill. Get to World Cup and you don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the skis. Then you’ve got ski preparation, fitness, nutrition and all the other equipment; boots, poles (2 sets), cat suits, over trousers, rain jackets, sweaters, gloves, helmets, googles etc. The pressure can be on to get good results which means no doubt many athletes, coaches and parents will come away either upset or over the moon. In other words there will be winners and there will be losers. There will be those who are ecstatic and those who are upset, content or disappointed, pleased or sad, happy face or sad face. That’s not only the athletes, it’s the parents and coaches as well. Nobody has to fall into either of these groups. Instead of being a winner or loser you can be a ‘chooser’.

Being a chooser rather than a winner or loser is an incredibly powerful statement. To put it another way, your results or circumstances do not need to ‘define you’, how you choose to react to your results and circumstances is what ‘defines you’.

Being a winner or loser is an emotional roller coaster. Some are prepared to take this route but maybe they don’t realise they have a choice. It does not need to be win lose, win lose. You can choose how to react to your results and circumstances. Everyone can! Athletes, coaches and parents!

It’s very easy to blame other people and circumstances for your situation or allow other people and circumstances to shape your behaviour. The athlete doesn’t listen, the coach doesn’t understand me, my parents are putting too much pressure on me, our child is not taking it seriously enough for our investment, we got a bad start number, the snow was too soft, the gates too offset, the course too fast, we chose the wrong wax, we didn’t train enough. As an athlete you can choose how to react to a coach or parent, choose how to react to a poor result or a great result, how to react to a fellow competitor if they get the better of you, how to ski a course, how to be in the start gate, how much to train, whether to get up early, do your fitness training, eat well, recover, get enough sleep, choose whether to enjoy yourself, choose to take a bad result forwards and use it as a learning experience. As a coach you can choose how to react to your athlete when they do not seem to take something you’re coaching on board, choose how to communicate with your athletes, officials, parents and other coaches, choose how much research you do, how much studying you put in, choose to reflect on your coaching skills, choose to change your philosophies if they are not working, how you react after a good or bad result. It’s the same for parents, you can choose how much to invest, choose whether the result matters or the experience, whether the result is the be all and end all or is it the journey that counts. You can choose whether to get nervous or sit back and enjoy the experience, choose to hang around the scoreboard or glued to the live timing or chat with friends, choose to show disappointment at a poor result or offer support. It doesn’t have to be win or lose.

Being a chooser rather than a winner or loser puts you firmly in the driving seat of your emotions. I’m not saying it’s easy to get off the roller coaster emotions of competing. It takes courage, desire and commitment to control how you react to your circumstances. I’m also not suggesting to not take it seriously. On the contrary I’m talking about getting the best out of your potential. Being better than you currently are. Results are not something we can control. Results happen when we perform either as an athlete, coach or parent and the better we perform the better the results. The next time something does not seem to go your way, stop for a moment, reflect, then choose how to react. The next time you look at the time after a race; pause, reflect, choose how to react. The next time a competitor gets the better of you; pause, reflect, react. Maybe sport should be emotional, maybe for some that’s the entertainment, the interest, the motivation. Will I win, will I lose, will I get frustrated, angry, ecstatic? Football for example seems to thrive on it as do many of the spectators, coaches and managers and a result keeps people entertained days after. Discussing, arguing, debating. It’s pretty exciting stuff and for some, that’s sport. So it’s for you to decide, it’s your choice, whether you’re an athlete, coach or parent. You can either take charge of your choices, your emotions, how you react to your circumstances or you can ebb and flow like flotsam caught in tidal water. You can choose to let your circumstances define you or be defined by how you react to your circumstances.

Choice is something we all have. Sure there will always be things that happen that are not our choice. An unfortunate accident, an unforeseen event. But we still have a choice as to how we react to these events.

So the next ski race, the next coaching session, the next big event with the kids remember it’s your choice. Pause, reflect, react.

Photo: Pause, reflect, react. Courtesy of Racer Ready Ski-Magazine.

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Phil Smith is director and founder of Snoworks All-Mountain Ski Courses. Grew up as a young ski racer, didn’t quite make it to the top but loved every minute of it and then switched to coaching and instructing in ski racing and all-mountain skiing.
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