Saturday, February 12, 2011

Emir, Derin and Defne

All three children appeared in and this season it is the first time I'd skied with any of them. All of them had grown but Emir in particular had grown an amazing amount. Derin no longer looked like a baby but had turned into the cutest 6 yo imaginable - with a strong ability to speak English and very chatty into the bargain.

Emir is physically stronger than last year and his skiing is stronger too. He is comfortable at high speed and on steep slopes on a prepared piste (not so comfortable off piste or on difficult snow). He has a determined attitude and is well coordinated with good reflexes. He uses his Centre of Mass (CM) effectively and is aware of its importance.

Areas requiring development are in edge awareness, speed control and turn radius (especially turn completion. Legs need to become more active and the hips more supple with less throwing sideways of the skis in slalom and less bracing against the outside leg - plus less rotation of the upper body.

Turn Completion
Emir was not completing his turns, which is symptomatic of having recently skied a lot on piste with no constraints other than going fast. Completing the turn is the hardest part that requires the most discipline and best ski technique. I explained to Emir that he had to think of skiing in a certain way: His job is to "fall over" and the ski's job is to "bring him up". Towards the end of the turn the ski is very powerfully bringing the skier up and so if the skier is not fully aware of this he will be brought up and out of the turn too early. To prevent this from happening the skier has to be able to drop even more into the turn as the turn progresses - or there will be no real turn completion and no real control of speed and line. To make this happen the skier has to be soft at the hip and able to bend there creating what is called "angulation". If the skier "pushes out" the skis to the side at all - or braces against the turn - then this softness in the hip becomes impossible. I stood behind Emir and held him as he slumped down into my arms - from where I manipulated his body into a flexed, inclined and angulated position. Even there his hip was rock stiff and I had to get him to release the hip joint to feel the relaxation that a skier is required to have to get into this position. This total rubbery like relaxation is necessary if just for a moment to get the Centre of Mass to drop correctly into a turn - loading up the skis and preventing the skier from being thrown up out of the turn at the same time. Emir's skis were across the hill but I turned his back to face uphill to show him how he could bend even better this way at the hip compared to his current  ineffective tendency to bend  sideways (which he shows in scene two on the video).

Emir worked on this in the slalom and although this didn't increase his speed immediately it did permit him better control over body rotation (caused by being thrown up and out of a turn). Unfortunately he compensated somewhat by throwing his skis to the side at the start of the turns on the steeps instead of throwing his CM downhill - but this tends to happen when people try to deliberately hold the upper-body facing downhill. It requires some work now to correct this - but he is working in the right direction.

To soften up Emir's legs a bit I decided to introduce him to the bumps as well. This immediately revealed the problem that he could only initiate a turn using the inside edge of the uphill ski - so he would shoot off out of control and be in a constant struggle in the bumps. Some technique work was necessary.

I had to teach Emir to initiate the turn from the top edge of the uphill ski in a pivoting manner, but we didn't have a lot of time to spend on this. Later I taught him about the adductor muscles by "pulling in" instead of "pushing out" when we were in our ski boots indoors to look at the slalom video. He seemed to connect with this exercise and it should both help to reduce "bracing" and soften his hips plus it will be useful for developing his pivoting skills in future.

Derin was skiing faster than before and was also bigger and stronger than a year ago. She has a great attitude and is very outgoing in general. This personality shines though in her skiing. She had retained a lot of her natural motion from her previous training and also most of her edging skills - though it was clear that she was starting to lose some of those qualities and the dynamics and skating rhythm were not as obvious on her longer turns as I had hoped to see. Her short turns however did show good edge control but once again her awareness of why this was happening had completely disappeared.

Derin had completely forgotten the idea of the "magic wall" and "falling over" so all of this was made clear once again. Her body had still remembered it but she was clearly not trying to deliberately use dynamics any more in her skiing (unlike Emir who was aware of using dynamics) and only her body memory was keeping her on the right track. She quickly took on board the idea that her job was to fall over and the ski's job to bring her back up - and that she was always in charge of this process - but that the interaction of those tow things created the magic of the magic wall - which would never let her fall over. Derin used this to good effect in the slalom and improved her initial time by three seconds in hard/icy conditions.

Once we had worked on improving awareness of the dynamics and making her generally aware of how things worked, it was time to do the same for "edge control". Derin had not lost her edge control skills because they had been ingrained into her with about a week of holding on to my ski pole last year. She quickly understood my demands and was able to achieve pivot turns from the uphill edge of the top ski and to ski down a steep hill remaining completely in the fall line - with no forwards travel across the hill.

Derin still uses her adductor muscles to initiate the pivot turns (short radius) and so this helps her also to make good clean dynamics. The only reason she is slower than the others is because she is much smaller and also she skis very far away from the poles.

Defne was also bigger and stronger than last year and was certainly more comfortable at higher speeds on the pistes and even in the race course where today she was about three seconds faster than her little sister.

Defne has a nice stance on her skis and has stopped leaning on the back of her boots - which was something she used to do a lot. Her more centred stance is also noticeable in the slalom so she has gained that from recent instruction. She is also attempting to use a pole plant which is making her Centre of Mass move in the wrong direction and contributing to a two footed  heel push in short turns. She does however have good upper/Lower body separation in the short turns and so also good control over rotation - as does Derin. Derin's U/L separation however is linked to a natural skating action, independent leg use and active adductor muscles instead of a heel push.

Defne, as with Derin had forgotten everything about dynamics and so she received the same explanations as the others. At first she didn't understand how she could "fall over" without falling over, but then caught on to the idea that you could still stand strongly on one leg and fall over (shown by pushing hard against my shoulder with her shoulder). Defne tried to "fall over" but couldn't make it to the ground because the  invisible magic wall held her up every time - no matter how hard she tried. Once Defne was back on board with the intention of creating dynamics we tried it out in the slalom. Defne has the issue that due to her tendency to "push out" the leg and brace she sometimes completely locks out the outside leg. I explained how this would work against her in slalom and repeated the same exercise as with Emir to try to get her to drop down into a turn. Defne has skied a lot by pushing out and bracing so it is something very difficult for her to change because it is now ingrained and trained into her body. Even if she understands the alternative she cannot stop her body from doing the opposite. I taught her about the adductor muscles but she couldn't feel them when skiing - due to the pushing out effect. Predictably when I tried to coax her into a few bumps to learn about them she was unwilling. Probably previous experience in bumps with locked out legs has put her off the idea in advance. She did manage to side-slip down a few bumps and try to link the sides-lips with a pivot from the top edge of the top ski. This demonstrated to her that even in the pivot the adductor muscles were necessary. Defne was curious but easily discouraged by the difficulty in learning. - specifically in overcoming unconscious habits which can lead to complete confusion when trying to make the body carry out different and opposite actions. Her discouragement is due to not realising that this is not a limitation on her part - it is normal - but difficult for people to understand (even adults).

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