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Finding Purpose In A Time Of No Ski Racing
It is a difficult time in the sports world and the world as a whole, as the COVID- 19 outbreak spreads. Cancellations and ski area closures have extended into the VARA and ski racing community. This is a time of uncertainty and never before has it been a way of life for us. We are asking the question, what do I do with myself now? It is time to share some ideas.

From the World Cup racing, to youth championship events, to the fun spring races, ski seasons have come to an abrupt halt. Sporting events across the globe have been shut down or cancelled. Whether you are a competitor, official, someone working in the ski industry, or have any other ski racing relations, how deeply this is affecting you is understood.

As with many sports, skiing goes beyond the race hill; skiing is a way to manage your mental health, skiing is a part of your daily life, skiing is your purpose, your medicine and whether it is the way you make a living or anything else, it means the world to you. The disappointment of cancelled championships of which you have worked so hard to qualify for, trained for years and sacrificed much, can be traumatic.

Feeling frustrated, sad, scared, angry or any other emotion does not mean that you scoff at the gravity of the situation and don’t approve of the precautions being taken. Your feelings are yours and you can own them, you are allowed this. What is IMPORTANT is what you do with those feelings and how you react to the situation at hand.

Here are some thoughts to help you cope and to know you are not alone:

For many, you’ve been preparing for your championship event all season, you’ve been waiting for this moment since you were a youngster, you’ve built your career around sports, or you have worked hard as a coach/parent or club director to get your athletes to this point.

It’s damn frustrating and not fair. Your pain of missing out on these things is real and it is allowed. You are allowed to feel this way. You are not alone in what you are feeling. Your feelings are not wrong and they count. You should not squash your emotions or pretend they don’t exist. Again, your feelings are valid, what is important is how you react and what you do within this time.

Sports and especially ski racing/training helps you to manage anxiety and keep your mental health in check. You have allies around you and others in the ski community who understand and support you.

Remember that this is temporary, this is important to keep in mind. Ski racing will be back and you can use this time to become stronger, better and ready when it returns.

How you react to your feelings is crucial. Your thoughts are valid, you can let your thoughts control you or you can make an effort to focus on things you actually can control through all of this, like how you think and how you react. This can help you gain some perspective.

Think about the things you can be grateful for and know that there are people out there who have far worse situations than not being able to finish out their championship season. Some are wondering where their next meal will come from.The current situation is bigger than sport, and at the same time its absence is making us shockingly aware of how much our sports mean to us.

Health takes priority, yours and others in our communities, cities and towns. The reason for the cancellations is to preserve your health and the health of those around you. You cannot change the situation but you can change how you handle the situation. Keep things in perspective.

Reflecting on your season may help you focus on the positives. Asking yourself some of the questions below, recording your answers and following some of the tips will provide a beneficial distraction.
  • What are your performance highlights from the season?
  • What did you learn this season?
  • What’s your favorite fun memory from this season?
  • What are you looking forward to next season? Competitively? Socially?
  • Tell your teammates, your kids, your friends how proud you are of them why you appreciate them.
  • Share encouragement with others (and in turn, you may find that focusing on others will help you feel better, too!)

With the proper mindset this situation can be viewed as an opportunity to turn a loss into a time to work on the little things and yourself!

Here are some ways you can use make this situation an opportunity:
Reflect on your season:
  • Whether you’re a competitor, parent, coach, supporter, or have a career in ski racing, reflecting on the season is important to ensure your future success and there’s no better time to do it than now!
  • Make a game plan for the future: What did you do well? What could you have done better? What do you want to improve for next season? How can you meet your goals? Where can you find resources to help you?
Focus on your mindset & mental health
  • Meditate, learn how..
  • Download an app like Calm to help guide you!
  • Link to VARA’s Winter Series Mindset Email
  • Go for a walks/hikes
  • Practice gratitude, list things you are thankful for
  • Work on controlling your mindset and practice changing the way you think.
  • Listen to podcasts or read books on mindset.
  • Start a journal – Link to the VARA Winter Series email on Journaling 
Get strong, stay strong:
  • Even if you can’t get to the gym, there’s still plenty you can do at home to ensure you stay in game-ready shape.
  • Core comes to mind and there are many strength programs that can be done using a picnic table and plyometric exercises. No need for a gym, use your body weight and jump, bound, shuffle, step up and you will be able to become as fit as if you were using a gym. Get back to basics.
  • Gather some ideas form VARA’s email on Conditioning, contact your coach for more ideas. Use internet resources and the ELITEAM site.                    
Connect with your teammates:
  • Be a leader on your team: reach out and ask your teammate how they’re doing, send encouragement, and offer your support.
  • While face to face communication may not be possible for a while you never know who may be struggling and need a call or check in from a friend
  • Reaching out to care for others can alleviate anxiety and give you sense of purpose greater than just being a ski racer.
Learn a new hobby or skill:
  • Is there something you’ve been wanting to learn or do, but you haven’t had the time? Now’s the time! Art projects or other hobbies.

At the end of the day, there are far bigger reasons that you ski race other than winning championships. Sure, that’s a big part of it, but the work that goes into getting to those championships, the skills you learn, the relationships you make, the life lessons you gain, and the impact it has on your mental wellbeing are all crucial parts to the sport.

Take some time to reflect on this; sometimes we don’t realize how important something is in our life until it’s taken away. Ski racing goes far beyond the competition and being reminded of that can be beneficial to understanding why it’s so important to us and re-fueling our love for the sport.

Sometimes, the best way to cope especially with all that is going on and your missed opportunities, is to share and talk it out.

Talk to your teammates, talk to your parents, talk to your friends, talk to your children, talk to the a trusted adult. You have people who will support you and people who may need to hear what you have to say. Even if you inspire one person, it’s worth it. We still have the ability to communicate, use it for good.

Whether you are a parent, coach or an athlete reading this, I hope that you can gain some insight for yourself and to help guide others through this uncertain time.

Be well. Be safe. Do the right things. Ski racing and sports will be back, in a new world, but they will be back!!

(Adapted from an article written by Women' Hockey Life)

Julie Woodworth
VARA Director
Vermont Alpine Racing Association