PRO ARTICLE: Is Basi Developing Skilful, Individual And Creative Performance In Their Instructors?

Phil Smith BASI ISTD discusses the relationship between being trained and assessed for BASI exams by the same people and whether BASI is creating individual, creative and skilful performance. Photo: Phil Smith Skilful or poor form?

It’s that time of year. The time when BASI instructors head to Hintertux for their end of season exams. It’s also around about this time that the BASI facebook page & newletters are seen with adverts for ‘instructor preparation courses’ for those members looking for pre-training prior to taking a BASI exam. But who should BASI instructors training for their exams head to for their pre-training?

There are many well qualified and experienced top level instructors, coaches and trainers that have the desire, experience and ability to train instructors for all BASI exams but for many BASI members ‘pre-training’ is preferred from someone who actually assesses for the association.

But why should ski instructors training for BASI exams head for someone who also assesses for the association rather than any ISTD level 4, ISIA level 3 or any other top level coach, instructor or trainer from anywhere in the world? Why should the ‘assessing position’ held within BASI be recognised as the defining factor when looking for training, rather than reputation, experience or word of mouth?

This is quite simple to answer. BASI instructors heading for their exams believe that those who ‘assess’ for the association have a better understanding of what is required to ‘pass’ the exam.

This belief is reinforced by statements advertised on BASI websites and BASI affiliated websites.
“You book on a course with the people who actually do the training and assessing”
“This means that the very people who are training you will be the ones examining you at the end”
“A seamless transition from training to assessment”
“Training you receive on the course is by our team of skiers, who are all trainers and assessors”

This begs the question. Does this mean BASI is looking for something that all us other ISTD’s, ISIA’s and other ski instructors, coaches and trainers throughout the world have not been trained to see when analysing and developing performance? Or is it just the perception of the membership reinforced by such statements on the BASI websites and BASI affiliated websites?

Is there a perception within the BASI membership that it’s better to train with someone who is actually going to assess you? If so why and does this have greater implications concerning the training of BASI instructors?

Recently I wrote an article discussing the benefits of developing skill and skilful skiing. I had some interesting responses from BASI members. It appears that many BASI members believe BASI is looking for some pre-defined ‘form based’ model that only those assessing for BASI are fully aware of. Hence it’s better to be trained by the same people that will assess you, as those who are not assessing may not know what those who are assessing know!

If we are looking at skilful skiing and the development of skill then surely all instructors no matter where they’ve been trained would be aware of skilful performance and how to become more skilful. Students will also recognise if they are improving as performance is much more ‘measurable’ as in ‘skill’ rather than ‘judged’ as in ‘form’. If we’re looking at ‘form based’ skiing then this is a different story. The assessors know what ‘form’ is required to pass an exam unfortunately us on the outside do not.

A number of years ago when I was involved in BASI I suggested that an assessment should cater for what is known as the four ‘Performance Threads’:
Technical Skills
Tactical Skills
Physical Skills
Psychological Skills
… and all four performance threads should be held in equal importance.

Thus, for example, a performer who has a high level of ‘Tactical’ judgement but a lower level of perceived ‘Technical’ skills would be marked the same as a performer who had a lower level of ‘Tactical’ judgement but a higher level of perceived ‘Technical’ skills. This would go all the way through the four performance threads. Performers who had a high level of skill in one particular thread would be recognised with the same degree of competency as a performer who had a high level of skill in another thread. Obviously there would need to be a minimum level of competency in each thread but strengths and weaknesses would be accepted, recognised and most importantly encouraged.

With this model in mind BASI would develop skilful skiers with creative, individual performance. All performers would ski differently and ski to their own strengths and weaknesses. The permutations of strengths and weaknesses in the four performance threads are endless so the variation in acceptable performance would also be endless.

However does this mean that assessment would be more difficult? How do you assess skilful performance? It’s easy to assess ‘technical form’. Are the knees and feet the same distance apart? Are the hands held hip high, forwards and away from the body? Is the skier able to leave two clean lines in the snow etc?

Skilful performance takes more skill to assess. Performances vary between individuals, are different and skiers play to their strengths.

Recently we had two skiers training with us. Both nice guys. One that was able to ski fast well, had high emotional thresholds, was athletic and skied competently everywhere on the mountain but had his knees closer than his feet. The other skier skied slower, was more cautious, had a lower emotional threshold, was not very athletic, not as skilful but skied with his knees the same distance apart as his feet. Both went for the same exam at the same time. The first one failed due to having an A-frame even though he was an incredibly skilful skier. The second, not such a skilful skier but had no A-frame passed.  Was skill being assessed or perceived correct ‘form’?

A good example of a test that recognises all four performance threads equally is the Eurotest. Agree with or not is a different argument. However the stop watch is not biased. Someone with a high level of emotional threshold but lower so called ‘technical’ proficiency stands as good a chance of getting the required time as someone with a lower emotional threshold but higher level of perceived ‘technical’ competence.

A long time ago I suggested that if BASI keeps the Eurotest as part of the level 4 ISTD (a different discussion) then this should be the performance test for the ISTD. The ISTD ‘technical’ course then just becomes an attendance course only where skiers can discuss, debate, learn and experiment about skiing whilst developing skilful individual and creative skiing performance. Anyone who can pass their Eurotest is a pretty skilful skier. They may not fit the ‘technical’ model of BASI (if there is one) as their strengths may lie in the other ‘performance threads’ but never the less they are undoubtedly skilful.

Other such tests of skill could be brought in to recognise skill as apposed to ‘technical form’ and these could be introduced right from the beginning of BASI at level 1 and 2. Thus creating individual, creative and skilful performance right from the beginning.

Bearing in mind that we are all different and everyone we teach is different should our governing body of ski teaching not lead the world in recognising that skiing is not a demonstration but a sport where self expression, a relationship with the mountain and the pure joy of skiing are the what makes this sport so great.

Let’s be an association of ski instructors who are individual, creative and skilful. Let’s all ski differently and be recognised for our differences.

Then BASI instructors looking for pre-training will be able to go to any instructor, coach or trainer anywhere in the world on their merits, experience and reputation not their ‘assessing position’ held within the association. We will all know what we are looking for in order to pass the BASI performance modules – individual, creative and skilful performance.

Any comments below agreeing or disagreeing are all welcome. Debate is healthy it helps to create change if change is needed!

Phil Smith

BASI Training (6) ski technique (22)