Hello, reader. I previously mentioned that I coach part-time for a competitive snowboard team. The focus of my coaching is on developing skill in the slopestyle discipline, which includes every type of terrain park feature except the halfpipe. Over the last year, I have developed a handful of phrases that I teach the riders in my groups. They have used them as a psychological tool not only for learning but for competitions and filming. The following are my “Words to Shred by,” which are in bold, along with brief explanations of my reasoning behind them:
Why do I practice? Because discipline leads to skill, and skill allows for creativity. When our groups are doing drills and everyone is working on the same tricks, at times it can seem like our goal is to become some kind of robotic organism that moves down the hill as one, executing the same maneuvers in the same way. That is the way it may seem, but that is not the true purpose. The goal of building a common skill set is to achieve a level of ability that allows the riders to combine their skills into complex, unique tricks. In the end, skill allows a rider to execute their individual vision of what can be done on a snowboard.
Why should I practice patience? Because patience leads to poise, and poise leads to points. (Points in competition and/or style points on film.) At Saturday practices when the terrain park opens at 9:00 AM, things can get a little hectic. For example, I saw one snowboarder literally land on top of another snowboarder during the blitz that happens after the rope tow opens. I have required my group to wait at the bottom for those first few crazy minutes in order to practice patience. The idea is that a rider needs to be confident in their abilities and plan, whether on competition day or any other day on the hill. Rushing out on the hill without a plan and chucking and hucking off whatever feature is in your path significantly raises the probability of injury, and injury halts progression. On the other hand, patience built in practice means more confidence under pressure (poise), which will mean less injury and better performance in competition and on film.
I am a freestyle assassin. I visualize with my brain. I execute with my heart. This mantra is an adaptation of a “lesson” from the fictional Roland of Gilead, the knightly “Gunslinger” in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. If I remember correctly, the Gunslinger teaches his pupils to shoot with their hand and kill with their heart. When I read that part of the book, I knew Roland was on to something. Prowess with a gun and prowess with a snowboard are both reliant on mastery of body mechanics. However, for someone to achieve a mastery of body mechanics in any given discipline, that individual first needs to desire that mastery. (There is an excellent explanation of the importance of inspiration in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, www.thetalentcode.com.) You have to know how to do something with your brain, then your brain tells your body to do that thing, but the choice to do that thing has to be made in your heart. Hence - think with your brain, then do with your heart.
I am a one man (or woman) demolition crew. I tear the park down methodically - one feature at a time, one trick at a time. This is meant figuratively, of course. The park is torn down by doing every trick in the book on every feature. This especially applies to warming up, which I prefer to do by going from smaller to larger features, working my way through basic to more complex tricks. Some of my riders have referred to this technique as the “progression session.” Almost every practice, I get asked the question: “What are we going to do today?” Before getting more specific, I say, “Same thing we do every day. Try to tear the park down.”
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Anything worth doing well is worth doing switch. This is intended to encourage a rider to think of snowboarding as a never-ending process of learning and improvement. A snowboarder can always do a trick better, e.g. smoother spins, longer and more tweaked-out grabs, more squared-up boardslides, more elevated presses, etc. If the trick is done perfectly, it can always be learned switch, in its mirror image.
Pop! Trick! Stomp! Freestyle snowboarding maneuvers can be boiled down to three steps: 1. You pop. 2. You trick. 3. You stomp. After a rider has painstakingly “visualized with their brain,” then I tell them to “execute with their heart” while following the concise steps of “pop, trick, stomp.” If the visualization in the brain is complete and the rider truly wants to execute the trick (in their heart), the body will follow the words: “Pop! Trick! Stomp!.”
I hope, reader, that these words may help you with whatever sport, art, craft, or science you may be learning. If citations are needed for any of these words, please let me know. Thanks!