When she was seven years old, Beckie Scott watched a video of a World Cup cross country ski race. She decided then and there that she was going to be a ski racer. When I was twelve years old, I watched Beckie Scott win an Olympic bronze medal; that was when I decided to become a ski racer. So you can imagine that when I got the chance to meet her this past week, saying that I was beside myself with excitement is quite the understatement!
Beckie came, as a guest speaker in my sport and performance psychology class last Thursday to speak to us about her life as a professional ski racer from the mental skills perspective. Not only was I in awe of the fact that my idol was standing right in front of me, I also learned a lot! Here are a few lessons I took home from her talk that I would like to share with you, so that whether you are a ski racer or not, you too can be inspired.
Never, Never, Never give up. If you love something enough, it is worth fighting for. Sure Beckie Scott has two Olympic and 15 world cup medals, but all this fame only happened in the final years of her career. She was an active racer as a child, and always enjoyed what she did, but when it came to the big leagues, she definitely didn’t start out on top. She told us that the joke used to be if you wanted to see Beckie in the top 3, just turn the page upside down. Before the Salt Lake City Olympics, her best finish at an Olympics was 45th. The whole time she knew, deep in her core, that she wanted to be on top of that podium; she just needed the confidence to decide to do it, which leads into the next lesson...
Have the confidence to decide. Know that you have the ability to do anything you want to as long as you commit to it. Now I don’t mean just thinking about how “oh it would be nice if...” , I mean deciding with your whole heart to make your dream come true; “Do-ciding” as my professor likes to say. A year before the Salt Lake City Games, Beckie decided that she was going to do everything within her power to know the course she would race on at the Olympics better than any of her competition. This meant she ran on the course, skied on the course did pretty much every single one of her workouts there so that when she was in the most important race of her life, in so much pain that she could barely see anymore, she would know every turn even if she were to ski with her eyes closed. This is just one example of why, when she was standing on that start line in 2002, she knew she could win. She decided.
The mind is smart; the body is dumb. A pretty famous story for us ski nerds is the one about Beckie’s final race of her professional career. In 2006, she was ranked second for the overall World Cup circuit. The last race of the circuit, also the pre-decided last race of her career, was one to remember and not for the reasons you think. Flying from Japan to China where the race was held, Beckie became very sick. Not knowing whether she would be able to race at all, she stayed in bed for three days straight at the hotel and didn’t even pre-ski the course. The morning of her race she convinced herself that she was not sick (even though she hadn’t gotten out of bed in three days), and that she simply had allergies (even though she had never had allergies before in her life). She won the race.
Quality over Quantity. Something that Beckie said that really stuck with me is this: “When you line up at the start of a race, no one is there collecting and grading your training programs. It doesn’t matter if the person beside you has trained 800 hours and you have only trained 600, what matters is the quality of training you have put in. If you can say to yourself, that for every single one of those 600 hours you have been fully present and fully focused then you should be confident in your ability to win. Every person on that start line has the capability to win, it’s the person who believes they can who usually does.
Always learning, always lessons. This is actually something I have been doing for awhile...why? Well because Beckie Scott does it. One of the best ways to be committed to improving yourself as a ski racer is to keep a journal. Use it for races, time trials or even intensity sessions. Every entry follows a very simple structure: 1) What did I do well, 2) what did I not do well, 3) What am I going to improve next time. Although a lot of us may think that we can keep all of these thoughts organized fine in our heads, we often forget important thoughts or feelings we had during that race. Keeping a ski journal is a great way to ensure you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes and continue to improve.
Meeting Beckie Scott was truly a great experience that I will always remember. It is not very often that you get to meet the woman who is on multiple posters in your room. From the very start she has inspired me to become the best skier I can be, and now more than ever I know that when it’s really hurting during a race or the next time John makes me bound up penguin I will have that voice in my head asking me: “What would Beckie do?”
Thanks for reading J