Friday, June 3, 2011

Sometimes taking a step forward means taking a step back

My new-found athletic career started off as being a coach for Alaska Pacific University's Nordic Ski Center.  I was offered the job after a successful interaction working with Erik Flora (now Program Director) at Junior Olympics in Houghton, Michigan.  At the time I was working as a part time coach for an Anchorage High School program and part time at an Environmental Consulting Agency in downtown Anchorage. When I was offered the job to be a full time ski coach I jumped at the opportunity.  Although it had it's inherent risks (would I like it? Did I want to take a pay cut?) I left the company I worked for on good terms and was assured that if my life on skis didn't work out I would be welcomed back to the office anytime. Five years later here I am still at APU. However, my capacity has changed.  As I've explained it before I went from a full time coach to a full time coach, part time athlete, to a full time athlete, part time coach to where I am today... A full time athlete and a part, part, part time coach.  

The year that I made the Olympics (2009-2010 season) I didn't even have a full training log to show. Last year was my first full year chasing the ski dream and I was able to improve upon my International results from the Olympics at World Championships in Oslo.  

I plan to begin racing the 2011-2012 season in Europe rather than West Yellowstone taking advantage of my Period 1 World Cup start rights earned from last season's overall Super Tour win.  My travels will start off in Beitestolen, Norway and continue onto racing weekends in Kuusamo Finland, Dusseldorf Germany, Davos Switzerland, and Rogla Slovenia.  My goal, naturally, is to improve upon my International results thus far; in order to do so, I've taken a look at my training and had made some personal evaluations as to what I can do better - what I can do more of, how I can improve and consequently, accomplish my goals. Last year I attended two glacier camps, this year, the plan is to attend four.  The obvious goal is more time on snow but the supplemental goal is to improve my efficiency in soft and tricky snow conditions. 

In addition to ski racing goals, I have slowly and quietly been chasing another goal - that is, a master's degree.  Yes, even ski racers need outside stimulus :)  I, for one, have never been someone who has too much of a narrow focus.  If anything I am the opposite - I like to do too many things.  I am an expert multi-tasker.  That said, I realize this and have fully come to terms with the fact that it could take me 6 years to get a 1.75 year degree. Right now I am in the beginning of an accelerated summer semester where I am taking two courses. The classes end July 11th but that is not without attending two weeks of online class from Eagle Glacier! I may need to hide out in the waxing connex to get some piece and quiet but I will make it happen!  Needless to say, my goals for the next six weeks are training and school.  I don't expect to have much time for anything else. 

You may ask, "What gives?"  I am not a dumb person. I know that I can't do it all. While I am taking a step forward in my ski training and in my education, I must take a step back in some other aspects of life.  For the time being, I have decided that the cut has to come in the form of coaching.  It's painful to say and even more painful to do but I know that I can't do it all, even if I'd like to believe that I can. In some ways, I often wonder if coaching is my calling beyond that of being a professional ski racer.  I love interacting with kids and adults on a daily basis, teaching something I am passionate about. In Fast and Female terms we would call this, "Spreading the Love!"  My coaching style has always been to lead by example and I've had a great time leading the charge up the sand dunes at Kincaid, teaching someone how to V2 and having it "click" for them, and most of all, getting to know people athletically but also emotionally.  I can attest to the fact that coaching is a labor of love and it takes a lot of energy. I can also vouch for the fact that the energy I expended was returned to me - coaching invigorates me.  When I wasn't having a good day I would lead a session and go home in a better mood than what I started with. 

So how did I make my decision? I love ski racing too.  As I've said before, my job's my passion and my passion is my job. If there is one thing that my parents have taught me, it's that; to pursue your passions. Many (wiser) people have told me and I believe them - the opportunity to pursue World Cup ski racing and another Olympic cycle is now. I will not get a second chance.  Despite what some people would like to believe, I will not have a second chance when I'm fifty :)  Will I be able to coach when I'm fifty? Heck yes!  As much as it pains me to not physically be there for the kids now I know that my heart will always be in it and that I will return to coaching sooner rather than later.  In some form or another, I expect to be coaching, or teaching, for the rest of my life. Thus, my roles at APU have changed from that as "Holly the head Junior coach and Noon Masters coach" to "Holly the ski racer who helps out with APU events drops in on APU groups for surprise visits when she can."  

I know I've been long winded with this description of my new role.... what does this really mean?  In order to take steps forward in my ski performance and in personal development, ie my education, I must take a step back with my coaching responsibilities at APU.  No, I will not be at practice everyday, or even every week. I will drop by to say hello when I can and encourage from afar. I already miss coaching and those that I've worked with dearly but life is full of adventures and for now, they are calling me.