The Power of One Lesson
Shortly after I became an instructor and completed my instructor training course at Hunter Mountain, NY, I was asked to attend a clinic taught by a skier from California . Because I was new to ski instructing I did not recognize his name at the time. The focus of the clinic that day was moguls. Up until this point in my skiing career, I had successfully managed to avoid moguls. To say I was inexperienced was an understatement.
After arriving at the beginning of the trail, the clinician provided some guidance and we started to ski down the trail. I look back at my performance and it makes me think of a famous Chicken Restaurant, pieces and parts everywhere. Obviously, I was the last one down the trail and was having a rough time, but I was learning. While there were at least 30 ski instructors in the group, the clinician took the time to work with me and showed me how to commit my body more downhill, which had an immediate impact. I felt like when he was talking with me, it was all about me. I felt a bond and I trusted him. We continued to work on this same trail and my performance improved with each run. At the end of the clinic, I was exhausted. The clinician came up to me and told me great job and way to hang in there.
Afterwards, I found out the clinician was Michael Rogan, a member of the PSIA Alpine Demonstration Team. Later, while attending Snow Jam (Eastern division's version of National Academy ), I spoke to Michael and had the opportunity to thank him for his guidance and patience with me during that long December day. The impact of that one lesson is something I take with me to every lesson I have with students today.
When students arrive for a lesson, they may be feeling some degree of uncertainty or anxiety. Anything you can do to make them relax will not only make their learning more enjoyable, but also increase their retention of new information. Additionally, my experience was very humbling, yet it is no different than what a first time skier experiences on a beginner hill. Every student has a unique background or reason they came to try skiing. By asking the reason they are at the mountain today or where they are from you can start to break down the barriers and begin developing a sense of trust that will facilitate the learning process. Without a sense of trust within the lesson, the learning process will be stiff and awkward rather than an enjoyable experience.
Since that lesson, I have been fortunate enough to become a full-time instructor, teach overseas and progress within the ranks of PSIA. While there were many contributing factors in the growth of my professional skiing career, i.e. mentors, excellent training and a supportive family, that one lesson in December is something that I will always remember and try to share with each of my students. Never underestimate the value of what you are sharing with your student and the importance of the passion that you bring to the sport. It may have a profound impact on your student.