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How to learn to ski with confidence (Part 2)

A Couple skiing downhill

How to learn to ski with confidence (Part 2)

In part 1 of this series on how to learn to ski with confidence I focused on the physical aspect of elements that contribute to or subtract from your confidence level.

When you are proposing to do anything that you have reason to believe has some level of danger, however small that may be, there are many things that can impinge on your likely level of confidence. If in aggregate they enhance it you'll approach the task with no hesitation. If they reduce it, the opposite, and maybe not at all.

There are many ways to address factors which are likely to affect your thinking when a stressful performance is in prospect. In crack forces' regiments they spend a lot of time training soldiers how to switch-on aggression, which can help overcome hesitation and fear.

They train to accustom fighters not to care about pain – pain (usually) subsides. Don't fear it. Anything that “tightens you up” slows you down – in sport the Nike company came up with the slogan “Just Do It”. I don't know the process through which they landed on that, but I suspect it was something similar.

Your psychology in skiing

We investigated some aspects of the effects of physical fitness on your skiing. Now let's muse on a few psychological ones. We considered the Perception-Emotion-Technique model, and added “fitness” to it which you could think of as an environment in which the others reside.

All of the aspects we're looking at interact with one another. We are discussing a highly complex system. Skiing itself – what to do, when and how are relatively simple: I always say “skiing is simple, not easy”. What makes it difficult is the complexity of all these other aspects inter-relating. Every one affects the system, and therefore each of the others.

Skiing isn't really very risky, there are accidents of course but when you consider how many person-ski-miles are done every year, they are nothing like as frequent or damaging as you might expect. So what are the psychological aspects that we could do something about for ourselves? There are many.

How to increase your level of self-belief

Like self-confidence our level of self-belief is not delivered by hand from outside of us. We have to generate it, and nurture it. In all my years as a coach one of the most common limiters of a skier's performance is a lack of self-belief. Not being able to allow ourselves to accommodate what we actually can do. I'm still not sure why this is, but I think it's to do with the way we bring ourselves up.

Years ago I heard on the wireless (oh alright, radio!) an Irish fellow who was apparently one of the richest men in Ireland, possibly the richest. He had been born into an extremely poor family; so poor that he was shipped out to his grandma to be brought up.

His grandma was also extremely poor and lived in one room on the first floor of some sort of tenament. At night she got a semblance of privacy by pulling a blanket across the room on a piece of washing line. She was wise; she knew the potential for this start in life to become self-repeating for him.

So she placed a full length mirror by the only door out onto the stairway. As he grew up he was under strict instructions every time he passed through that door, to stop, look himself in the mirror, and say outloud “I'm o.k., I'm great”. It may not have been exactly those words, I can't remember, but you get the point.

There was immense potential for him to grow up thinking of himself as naturally at the bottom of the heap. She would have none of it. Indeed if ever she caught him going out and not doing it, she was after him like a rat up a drain, grabbed him by the collar, took him back and made him do it.

No one could write a guarantee that this was instrumental in taking him to where he got, but I would personally put money on it's being an important factor. It reminds me of Michael Gladwell's “Nudge” idea – all the time, shaping his thinking and nudging it in one direction.

I have had hundreds of skiing pupils on my ski coaching courses who have difficulty in thinking well of themselves. But it is not “conceit”, you are not “getting above yourself” by simply acknowledging that you've got some skill and a lot of potential – at least as much as anyone else – to develop it further. Top performers are not super-women, they are ordinary women who think differently, and consequently perform differently to the majority.

An effective tool to begin thinking better of your skiing self

To do any job usually requires some kind of tool. So it is with sport psychology. A huge amount of research, money, and effort has gone into sport psychology in recent decades, and it has produced some very simple, very effective tools that anyone can use.

We are looking for something that we can use, on a daily basis – even when we're not skiing – to help us “nudge” our thinking away from negativity, and toward a happier more fulfilling future (by however small an amount, it doesn't matter, it will be that much better).

Below is one of them, developed by Drs. Bull, Albinson, and Shambrook who's Mental Questionnaire they permitted me to adapt for my skiing pupils. It's called “My Achievements”.

The key – and the only requirement – to make this tool a help for you, is to use it. Regularly. It won't make you a “big-head”, but it will help

you stop under-rating yourself. And you can do it in bed! You don't have to be on a ski slope. Good luck with it.

Download the questionnaire below

Questionaire - click on me to download
Download P • 162KB

Bob T

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