Ski coaching to combat nerves

Ski coaching to combat nerves is another service in short supply.  How often have you been told to “ski in the fall line“?

Ski coaching to combat nerves

This is not what your ski instructor meant – but it’s what she SAID!

Highly knowledgeable ski coaches refer to the “fall line”.  They do this because they make fine distinctions between the ‘fall line’ and the ‘flow line’.  By the ‘flow line’ they refer to the pathway taken by your centre of mass, or by your skis – “central and peripheral flows”.

However, ski instructors don’t teach many knowledgeable ski coaches;  they teach recreational skiers.  “Fall lines” don’t sound good to recreational skiers, so we need to provide ski coaching to help combat nerves.  Read on for more explanation

Words are the keystrokes that programme our minds.  They crucially important in creating moods, beliefs, and mis-understandings.

Priming, and Associative Coherence.

Don’t be put off by the fancy terminology.  The psychologists have their own language – every specialism needs one.  What these refer to is the way in which a single word can programme your mind – beneficially or adversely.

When I am coaching any of our club members, I frequently ask them to pause for a moment or two and listen to two words I’m about to say.  I advise them that I will say the two words with a slight pause between them.  I will do my best to deliver each word with equal tone / pitch / inflexion etc.

I then ask them NOT to think about them, but only to see if they notice any change within themselves, internally.  Any different feeling or sense.  Then I say the two words

Edge                             ( -pause-  )                                             Platform

Do you get a slightly different feeling about these two words?  Does one sound more pleasant or less challenging than the other?  Safer?

Fall line – or Flow line?

Which sounds better to you?  I have a horrible suspicion that ski instructors quite like the “fall line” one because it sounds tougher and more macho.  But to most of us it just sounds like not a good idea.

I want to quote you an extract from Prof. Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.  I think you’ll find it interesting.  I certainly hope so.  In his example the two words are –

Bananas                            and                                    Vomit

He refers to what goes on at the subconscious level and says –

“A lot happened to you during the last second or two.  You experienced some unpleasant images and memories.  Your face twisted slightly in an expression of disgust, and you may have pushed this book imperceptibly farther away.  Your heart rate increased, the hair on your arms rose a little, and your sweat glands were activated.  …. All this was completely automatic, beyond your control”

He goes on to say “The state of your memory has changed in other ways: you are now unusually ready to recognise and respond to objects and concepts associated with “Vomit”, such as sick, stink, or nausea;  and also to words associated with “bananas”, such as yellow,  fruit and perhaps apple and berries”.

The consequences of this programming.

He identifies what is happening with you as a self-reinforcing feedback loop.  He goes on to say “In just a second or so you accomplished, automatically and unconsciously a remarkable feat.  Starting from a completely unexpected event your ~System 1 [As he calls it] made as much sense as possible of the situation – two simple words oddly juxtaposed – by linking the words in a causal ‘story’.  It evaluated the possible threat and created a context for future developments by preparing you for events that had just become more likely; …”

The mechanism that causes these mental events has been known for a very long time: it is the association of ideas.  A word will act as a ‘primer’ that will set up a subconscious proclivity.  We need to be very careful what words we use.  When we are ski coaching to help combat nerves we must be especially careful when using phrases like “the fall line”.

The skiing flow line.

When I am coaching I refer my pupils to the flow line.  Technically speaking this is incorrect, but we are not technically speaking.  I suggest a mental image (a different associative idea):  I conjure-up an image of someone with a bucket of red ink.  They pour the red ink onto the ski slope, and my ‘flow line’ is the line down which the ink flows.  That is the line that has relevance to us at the time.

Flows of red ink are a whole lot less scary than “fall lines”!

So, if you are taking a lesson and your ski teacher starts talking about “fall lines” it will already be too late to stop your subconscious – your System 1 – from kicking-in.  What you will have to do is revert to your conscious mind and get it to help you out;  first of all by telling your ski instructor to stop using inappropriate language.


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