You are the parent of a child who really loves skiing? A child who cannot stop thinking about it and wants to hit the slopes whenever possible? Passion is a great thing to have as it develop a child from within and contribute to happiness. However, a child should not be forced into doing too much, more importantly should progressively and carefully be encouraged into racing if he or she so desires and not be pushed into it following other people’s interests.
When a child is brilliantly talented, its talent requires support. For this reason, many parents take the decision of accepting expert’s offers of having their child join a semi-professional program, train and travel like adult competitors do, helping them reach their potential by taking charge, providing expert training, high level coaching, bringing them to world class competition. Such offers are almost irresistible but might not be the right thing to do for a young child.
A better alternative should focus on valuing the daily skill development process over competition, and maintaining family normalcy, not through splashy public accomplishments but by something quieter and closer to a child’s environment.
Some of today’s most unique and successful ski and snowboard racers did not come out of such heavy ski programs where they were put in at an early age. Their development was built on “homestyle” or “do it yourself” methods involving a wide range of carefully adapted skill development processes, playing rather than “practicing” and having fun on multi terrain and on all sorts of snow, not putting aside the daily life activities such as schooling, other sport and art activities, family time, etc.
In big programs, the power is held by the coaches, creating a tendency for the child to become a highly obedient automatons achieving for others, not themselves. In the free range approach, the dynamic is reversed. The child and parents remain the master of the daily process, able to innovate, test, and ultimately drive the improvement process. Big programs, by necessity, tend to put everyone into categories and timelines, with the associated grid of expectations. But talent development is never a one size fits all experience, and the line of progression is rarely smooth. Keeping things loose is beneficial in the long run.
A child’s desire is a fragile thing, and nothing extinguishes it faster than getting crushed on a big stage. Controlling the competitive environment allows skills – especially emotional skills – to grow at their own pace. And doing so embracing the power of normalcy will give a child so much more in short and long term benefits as skiing has so much to offer on and off the slopes…