COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colorado. March 29, 2015. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been to the USASA National Championships a dozen times or if it’s your first time, nerves are bound to play a part in your experience.
How do the athletes and coaches deal with nervousness?
Seven year-old Sophia Capua, a Ruggie competitor from Aurora, CO is attending her second Nationals and nerves aren’t something she acknowledges. Her petiteness exudes confidence as she rode up the lift heading for her second half pipe run, “I do all of the events and I hope to win the Overall championship,” she said. “I think Boardercross is the hardest, usually because of the drop-in, but it’s also my favorite. I like it because I get to race against the other girls.” When asked what she might tell someone who is attending their first USASA National Championships, the precocious youngster answered with no hesitation, “Have fun and good luck.” And what might she say to a first time parent? “Have fun watching your daughter (or son).”
Acy Craig, last year’s Menehune Girls (10-11) Overall Champion who is competing as a Breaker in 2015 doesn’t feel that nerves are a big concern for her since she’s got a couple of years experience at the USASA National Championships and has had some success. “I feel more confident with Boardercross and pipe is my second favorite,” she said.
Standing with Craig following their Slalom runs were a pair of first time competitors, Northern Vermont Series rider, 15 year-old Maxine Senft Miller from Colchester, VT and Caitlin Doty, 13, of Shelburne, VT from the Southern Vermont Series. Both of the ladies felt that even though they had finished their first event they would still experience nervousness in their other events.
Coach Marcus Patterson from the Big Mountain West Series and Team Utah Snowboarding tries to help his athletes by impressing them that that the USASA National Championships should be considered a practice session for their future snowboarding. “I like to think about the original meaning of the work competition, which was to lift up and inspire those around, not to win,” he explained. I encourage the athletes to work toward their personal best and to be satisfied with their run, not to be worried with what others are doing.”
Tim McLaughlin, Snowboard Director at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley BBTS added his thoughts, “Every athlete is different and you have to learn how to help them with the situation. For a younger rider, distracting them during a long wait time might work before turning their focus toward the event when it’s closer to their time to drop. For older riders, helping them learn to channel their nervousness into a positive can work as well.”
Jake Vedder of Pinckney, MI is a boardercross athlete competing on the Holeshot Tour and is a rookie with the Nor Ams. A former USASA competitor, Vedder now trains in Park City, UT. The 16 year-old finished fifth in Sunday’s Nor Am event, “We have a team psychologist who helps us work through being nervous. I try to breathe and stay in the moment, it doesn’t matter who you’re racing, you just go out and run your race.”
Nick Stotz from Brooklyn Park, MN is attending his second Nationals and has a full plate. The Breaker Boy competitor ran GS today but will participate in the other four disciplines as well hoping for a shot at his age group’s overall title. “I get nervous (at the start of events), I pray that I’m going to have fun,” he remarked.
A third year Open Women Slopestyle and G Team competitor was enjoying a day off, “As the event gets closer my nerves get pumping. All I can do is try to put down my best run.” When asked what advice she would offer to the young USASA competitors to help quell a case of the nerves, she replied, “I’d tell them that you’ve earned your spot here, you can hold your own, believe in yourself.”
Sochi boardercross bronze medalist, Alex Diebold was at the BK Pro tent signing autographs and talking to athletes on Sunday afternoon. Diebold, who’s competed across the world at the highest of levels admitted that he still gets nervous. “At any given event it still happens, I have to focus on my snowboarding and realize that I can’t control the external stimuli (such as) the other racers, weather, course conditions. Once I key in on that it makes me less nervous.” Diebold mentioned that it is this philosophy that has helped him attain his recent successes on the World Cup stage. He concluded by saying, “Learn to enjoy the process, when you’re young, embrace your nerves. It takes years to not have them affect you as much.”
- by Marjorie Fay