Today was unfortunately Alex’s last day training for this period. His progress has been clear and consistent and I know that he would desperately now want this to continue – but it’s good to bear in mind that this is an endless process – it never stops – there is no rush. People only stop learning when the stop being curious.
Leg retraction was the theme yesterday in Giant Slalom so today it the goal was to cultivate leg retraction in Special Slalom – which would be tricky as it generates higher speed and so fast reactions are required. Alex did manage to retract and did go faster. We used a course in two sections – one with a mix of stubbies and full (World Cup weight) poles and another with lighter full (ski club weight) poles. Alex did manage a great wipe-out but the main reason for this was simply due to being caught out by the higher speed by not being used to it.
Here’s a good still image of Alex using leg retraction to get out of his turn (around the blue pole). The speed has caught him out though as he hasn’t managed to get over the skis yet and change edges but is almost already at the next pole. This is what led to his eventual fall.
For future reference…. This timing could have been improved by A: not allowing the clearing of the pole to push the upper body back a little and to remain more centred over the skis. B: More skating forward of the new upper ski and active leg extension – driving the centre of mass down and into the new turn. C: Looking for the edge of the upper ski earlier in the turn and actively generating the turn from increased dynamics instead of pivoting. D: Exaggerating the activity of the legs more to generate more angulation. E: More suppleness of the legs – including particularly the hip joints. Note the right hip is consistently less flexed than the left – so he turns more securely on the left leg. F: Sensing how to work with the rhythm (resonance) to generate even more speed (like bouncing on a trampoline)
Bear in mind that Alex is doing extremely well in being able to work on very complex skills with a minimum of actual time and practice.
Mike is getting enough control through the turn transitions now to start to look nimble in the course – whereas initially just staying in the course was a problem. The next stage is to increase dynamics more and take a line closer to the poles – so that the body begins to cross over to the inside of the poles. This isn’t just a “slalom” issue it’s about how the motion of the centre of mass is the key to edge control. Mike is generally vague about edge control and it’s a “chicken and egg” scenario – where not having much edge control to begin with discourages motion of the centre of mass.
In Mike’s case the problem has been created from two sources. First of all there is the instinctive defensive pattern of movement that all people initially adopt on skis but more significantly Mike has had those negative issues reinforced through his early coaching - and then practiced over many years. In contrast Alex was trained directly away from those issues right from his first day ever on skis – with his coach, Philippe, using the MetaSki system.
Working on dynamics through the turn transitions during this week has clearly improved Mike’s edge control and reduced the defensive actions such as the rotation of the upper body into the turn, the stepping uphill to transfer weight to the uphill ski between turns, the turning of the skis (torque) and pushing out of the heels. The thing is that those issues vanish by themselves when better options are cultivated. They don’t have to be corrected (though we have to be aware of them – through coaching feedback). At the start of the week Alex was static on his skis, pushing his heels out and a actually moving his centre of mass in the wrong direction. We briefly mentioned this to explain that it was wrong and very undesirable (necessary due to his tendency to believe and be strongly influenced by peers and inappropriate adults) but after that all we did was focus on the correct and appropriate actions. Alex quickly recovered his previous skiing level and then moved further forward. The process is the same for Mike – but slower due to a stack of unlearning being required. My only actual criticisms of Alex were directed at the fact that he was aware of absolutely nothing that he had learned over the years and could not explain the first thing about a turn on skis and his use of diametrically wrong explanations with phrases such as “turning your skis”! He admitted to thinking about nothing at all when skiing poles – which meant that there was no skill development process being engaged and no thinking. This simply encourages the infiltration of defensive and reactive mechanisms – the likes of which Mike is dealing with. When that process is allowed to develop too far then it just multiplies the amount of work required to sort it out again. Alex understood the messages on all levels and experienced a dramatic improvement in his skiing during the week – with the acid test being his increase in speed in the slalom. He must be encouraged to read this report – not once but regularly – to reinforce his awareness and limit the chance of being misled again by his peers and the adults who would assume authority in those subjects.