On with 2015/16


05 MAY 2015 AT 10:34:37

Finally managed to hit the off switch this weekend, if only for a few hours or days. For some the season finished a while ago, for others more recently. For me, I feel like the last 8 years have blurred into one.

When I started Ambition with my brother Paul, it was a leap into the unknown. I am sure I speak for us both when I say that we were relatively clueless as to what lay ahead. As we scrambled ideas down on an A2 sheet of paper, working crazily through the spring of 2007 I wasn’t sure if it would be possible to make Ambition work how I wanted it to work. I wasn’t sure there would be enough work. That worry soon faded - there is more than enough to keep me busy. What I was unaware of was the sheer volume of diverse work that goes with running an academy or any business for that matter. The coaching is the easy part - I love it & am as competitive with it now as I was aged 18 running my first dry-slope camps at High Wycombe. The tougher part is the planning, the logistics, the employment, the selections, the accounting & now of course, the upkeep & organization of the training base! Most people still ask me what I do in the summer. I don’t always have a specific answer but one thing I know is that I seem to be constantly working just like anyone else.

It means ‘switching off’ can be hard – if indeed it ever happens. I find myself doing most of my thinking whilst driving long hours alone or sitting in airports. Suddenly I’m on the outside looking back at Ambition and working out where it went wrong. Spotting success is not hard & does not constitute a true analysis. I prefer to work out what we did wrong, who we could have supported more effectively and how we can Ambition make a better programme. I wrote to the 14 / 15 Ambition team recently where i likened ski racing to an uncompletable video game. It doesn’t matter what success you have in skiing or sport – more is always possible. The project never ends & I do believe that is where the obsession comes from. I could work on Ambition (and probably will) my whole life but will never be totally satisfied with it. It will make me happy and I will enjoy the journey but it will never be totally finished.

As I reflect on this year though, there was one thing that we (or rather Rob and TJ) made a change to which helped to shape the results we had at U16 / 14 / 12 level & that was in the ski room. As a part time athlete in an academy set-up the weekly program can be incredibly tough and high-pressured. The athletes come out for short periods of time – they want to have fun, get better at skiing, stay up to date in school, ski a lot, eat well, develop as people, etc etc, the list goes on. A normal schedule for us in 2013/14 was breakfast, training, lunch, school, skis, dinner, video, bed. Literally without much let up in between. We had a decent amount of tiredness, illness and days off of the mountain – much of which I believe was simply down to young athletes being totally worn out.

Rob & TJ have (courtesy of some great support from Snow & Rock) been able to carve out some extra time in the day by using SnowGlide machines to service the athletes’ skis each day whilst they are in school. The production line they have set-up in the ski room is pretty impressive - they can be found tuning & waxing up to 35 pairs of skis in an afternoon ready for training the next day.

This system has had the following effect:

1. It has meant the athletes come back from school and have a little more time to do video, a little more time to rest and relax and a little more time to do physical recovery. It has given them some sort of life whilst they are away from home. Yes Ambition is about hard work (I think everyone knows that) but it should also be fun!

2. It has meant the skis for all the athletes are seriously well tuned; sharp, smooth & well looked after. This system has eliminated a potential limiting factor in performance.

3. A happier environment and way less days off of the mountain through tiredness, illness & fatigue in our younger groups.

4. It has meant that Rob and TJ are incredibly busy! It means we have two coaches who do not simply talk about putting in the hours & the work rate – they actually deliver on it too.

We know the first 2 advantages outweigh any potential disadvantages of this system. The only reason for not adopting the above would be to suit the coaches own complacency or laziness – luckily, we have 2 guys working selflessly towards producing the best results possible. I believe we have raised the bar with this system. Yes we need to ensure we run clinics for the young guys to learn how to prepare a ski properly with manual tools, but there is a time and place for that in the summer & autumn when they do not have 3.5 hours of school per day. Essentially the athletes have contributed £55 per person towards the maintenance of these machines & new stones to make sure they are cutting properly. When you consider the average cost of an athlete’s wax box – cost is not a limiting factor to other set-ups doing this & I would suggest they give it a go!