This year’s Bend camp is going down in the books as one of the very best. Despite it being the 3rd lowest snow year that they’ve had, the skiing held out until the very end of camp. We had some awesome klister skiing and easy kicking conditions to work on improving our technique in! This camp is all about getting back into shape and laying down solid volume to build a base for the rest of the summer. It’s also about getting the team back together after spring break to start the year fresh!
A huge, warm thank you to the staff of the Mt. Bachelor Nordic center for their hospitality in keeping the trails open for us, their awesome grooming and keeping the trails clean in fast-melting conditions, and their great support of the team! Another shoutout goes to all the junior skiers out on the trails with us. It was so cool seeing everyone working hard and not being afraid to jump in behind us and learn from the older skiers! Trust me, it’s fun for us too, to have younger athletes learning from us and hopping in the tracks.
When I was about 16 year old, I was at a camp in Lake Placid, NY at the Olympic Training Center. We were doing our intervals on the same hill as a few of the US Ski Team members, and we were told that if we wanted to we should hop in behind them. I jumped in behind Liz Stephen, who was doing smooth L3 intervals, and I was hammering away in what might have been the hardest interval of my entire life in order to stay with her. I was super self-conscious about breathing so hard behind her, but simultaneously thrilled to be skiing near her! At the end of the workout Liz turned around and said “hey, great job! It was really fun to have you ski with me”. It was just a few words, and a tiny sliver in time. But I kept those words with me the entire next 2 years. Whenever I’d do hard intervals, I’d pretend Liz was right in front of me, saying “Good job!” I wanted to be fast enough to ski with her someday and be her teammate. Those few words from a hero of mine motivated me for years…and 10 years later, I still remember that moment. As older athletes, coaches, parents or friends we sometimes forget the amazing power of just a few positive words, but the ripple effect from reaching out can be astounding. I know, because it was powerful for me.
Before we left camp, our strength coach Tschanna sent us an amazing article with a speech that Abby Wambach, US Soccer Player, gave. It focused on some awesome topics, but one line that really resonated with me was this:
“During that last World Cup, my teammates told me that my presence, my support, my vocal and relentless belief in them from the bench is what gave them the confidence they needed to win us that championship. If you’re not a leader on the bench, don’t call yourself a leader on the field. You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere.”
I liked it because I have found that to be true in every team I’ve ever been on. It also emphasizes the importance of being there for your team, of taking the responsibility upon yourself to help lead from wherever you are.
Being fast doesn’t automatically make you a good leader.
Not winning doesn’t mean you aren’t winning in the ways that matter.
You don’t have to be the oldest person in the group to show leadership.
The oldest person doesn’t have to shoulder all responsibilities alone.
Bottom line is…YOU DON’T NEED PERMISSION TO LEAD.
And you shouldn’t have to be asked.
On our team, we don’t have a team captain. That is intentional. It takes everyone contributing their own unique style of leadership to make the team function, and it’s not right – nor is it as effective – to put the title of “team leader” on one set of shoulders alone.
We also don’t build the team around one person, because we are trying to create a solid foundation, not a house of cards. If you build a team around one individual and they are suddenly gone, the entire team will collapse, and if it does, then you never had anything real to begin with. But if a team is built collectively with every single member feeling ownership and responsibility to contribute, then when you remove people here and there you still have a team the survives, that thrives, and that lasts long after we’re gone.
Find your own style of leadership. Figure out what your strengths are, and use them. You don’t have to be the big loud cheerleader if that’s not your style. You don’t have to be the logistics manager and meeting note-taker if that’s not your forte. You just have to be yourself, and share yourself with the team. Because who you are is enough. Be present. Be part of the group. When you care about the group, it shows and helps lift the team up.
You also don’t have to be best friends with everyone on the team. Frankly, that’s totally unrealistic. Like any family, within a team people’s little quirks and habits can start to drive each other nuts. But just because you might not naturally be “besties” with someone doesn’t mean you can’t find things about them you respect. And if there’s something they do that’s really bugging you, have the courage to address it and give some constructive feedback. If it’s something they can’t change, then find a way to move on. Communicating openly and honestly is the number one way I’ve seen to prevent little annoyances from stewing and bubbling over, and becoming bigger than they need to be.
A good leader also knows when to be an advocate for others and take care of the group, but also when to take care of themselves. As the airlines always say; “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. If you’re not taking good care of yourself, how can you take good care of your teammates? For me, I am STILL trying to figure out how to say “sorry, I can’t” sometimes…because when I say “yes” to everything, I become burned out and then I’m of no help to anyone!
I’m so excited about the team that we have here because everyone is excited, working hard, and working together. We have a huge development team with so much energy and leadership of their own, and seeing everyone come together made me so excited about the year ahead.
A typical day of training in Bend, for those of you who are going “this team stuff is so cute, Jessie, but TELL ME ABOUT THE TRAINING, DARN IT!” looks like this:
6:00am: alarm goes off. I’m not a early morning person. Actually…I’m just not a morning person. Period. So this is a hard one for me. Thank goodness for coffee!
7:00am: Team loads up the skis, poles and backpacks into the van and drives up to Mt. Bachelor. Before starting our ski, we have a quick team meeting to go over what we’re working on for the day and watch some technique video.
7:45-10:15am: Skiing! Most mornings we ski for 2.5 hours, but each individual adjusts that to their own needs. We will usually ski easy distance at this camp, just getting a lot of volume, but in the middle of the workout we will spin shorter loops, working on specific technique drills with the coaches.
11:30: Eat a huge lunch. It’s so important to fuel enough to sustain this load of training, and a huge thanks to Chef Allen from the ski team who cooked for us this camp so we could focus on training and sleeping as much as possible!
1:00pm: take a nap. I’m not usually a big napper, but this camp takes a lot out of me so I need to make sure I’m resting as much as I’m training! I’d easily sleep for around 1.5 hours if I had the time every day.
3:30pm: depart for afternoon training. This was either a 1.5 hour run or bike, or a lift at the gym with our ski team strength coach, Tschanna! If it was a lift, we’d warm up for half an hour then spend about an hour in the gym with Tschanna, working to build strength not only in our “skier muscles” but the opposing muscle sets so that we don’t get injured.
6:30pm: Eat a huge dinner. Yum.
9:00pm: Get into bed! I normally need around 9 hours of sleep a night (but I’ll gladly take 10 when I’m training a lot) so getting as much sleep as possible is crucial at this camp.
Now I’m flying back to Stratton, Vermont, where I’ll spend the month of June getting in a solid block of training with my SMST2 teammates!