Back in Argentina, at Interski 2015 we had a vision: to put together the first ever Demo Team for Ireland at Interski 2019.
"Something great can come from a modest beginning.
Don't give up on the project – Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!”
And so, when the team arrived on Bulgarian soil, on the 13th of March 2019, the reality of the mission came to light. Twelve Demo Team members arriving in Ireland branded Columbia uniforms ready to perform on the World stage.
Training for the International Stage
The team had experienced a small glimpse of the International friendship and team competitiveness during one of our training camps in Kitzsteinhorn, Austria where we were training alongside the Hungarian and Spanish demo teams and representatives from the French delegation. Over recent years we have had strong relations with the Hungarian team and Kati Egri, President of the Hungarian Association, helped us bring together the teams for introductions, photographs and a fantastic multi nation demo session. Our team rose to the challenge and gained a huge amount of confidence from this engagement.
The individuals in our team were all working, full time, in the industry and had many years of skiing and teaching experience, but only a few had competed at, or attended, a large international event never mind being part of the whole programme for the week. For some, it was a goal that they had set many years previously and now the opportunity had been seized and they were there, representing Irish Snowsports in 2019. We were a team made up of true Irish members, complimented by members from different nationalities, but all having some family, or personal route, linking us back to Ireland and we were all proud to be there as representatives.
We were all self-funded and assisted by the support from colleagues, families and our amazing equipment and technical sponsors - Rossignol, Columbia, Kymira, The Snow Centre, Parallel Dreams, IASI, Anatom, Vango, Jason Clark Photography, The Ultimate Promotion Company and Greystone Action Sports. Our thanks go out to them all.
It was an interesting journey for us all, being selected, put together as a team and expected to all agree and work together…well if any ski instructors/educators out there are reading this they will have some idea of how much a challenge that little task is…I mean the working together part!!
Discussions during the selection event, January 2018, Megeve
Cervinia April 2018. First team training since selection event!
So, on the 13th March we landed in Sofia, Bulgaria and immediately met up with one of our other close nations, the USA. Many familiar faces for Derek and myself and also some of our team who have worked in ski resorts in the states. Their demo team was headed up by none other than Jeb Boyd, (PSIA-AASI National Teams Manager and Coach), a very good friend of ours as well as his brother Matt, also a member of the USA/PSIA-ASSI Education and demo team.
Irish and USA Team members getting to know each other in Pamporovo
Telemark skiers from the USA Demo Team
It was really happening, we were here with these well-established, experienced skiing nations ready to put ourselves out there!
Over 30 countries attended this year’s congress, some nations with small delegations of just observers right up to those with over 30 in their delegation consisting of demo teams, on snow and off snow workshop deliverers. This time we were one of those, with 30 plus in our delegation…
All of the countries were there to showcase their associations talents, put forward their technical and teaching philosophies, enter into discussion and pick up information to take back to their associations and members.
It’s not a competition, but it is taken very seriously. It is interesting to see and experience the nerves of being part of it all, each country busy preparing their demo’s and workshops and keeping a close eye on the performance of other nations warming up for the event.
This is where Derek’s University Dissertation mindfulness interventions came into practice for the whole team. Whether we were aware of it by this time, or not, the exercises had prepared us for the enormity of the situation and event.
Top take-aways from other nations
It was such a busy schedule, but fortunately, at this event, we had more delegation members to follow more countries. There will be lots of information about workshops coming out in the next few months, but I want to share some of the nations that made an impact on me and I found shared some of our same key ideas in customer engagement and understanding the learner.
I attended the on-snow and off-snow workshops for Croatia on the 19th March. I very much related with the content as it matched with my own beliefs about teaching, what our learners go through and how they respond or react!
I had seen some of the Demo team warming up and been impressed with their performances and blown away with the content (with some surprises in their main performances).
Some incredible skiing performances in different disciplines
The Croatian workshop at Interski, Pamporovo.
A main focus was how we, as instructors, are trained to give the learners interventions that actually cause blockages in their learning and performances. They were looking at “Psychology of Learning and Improvement of Skiing”, how we as humans react or respond to what is asked of us, and whether that is producing the most appropriate learning situation and outcomes?
The first question, to us in the evening lecture, by Danijel Jurkovic, (Psychology Professor, Croatian Demo Team Coach, Croatian Snowsports Instructor Association Trainer/Examiner) was, “Do we teach what is relevant or what is easy to teach/examine (quantify)?
Definitely a question to ask yourself when you are out there as either a giver (instructor) or taker (learner) in a session. Don’t be afraid to self-analyse what you are delivering, this is how we improve and become better at what we do.
Danijel was encouraging us to think of the psychological and biomechanical justifications of the tasks we use. Keeping things simple, and specific, while building on every element learned at lower levels ensuring it to be functional at higher levels.
Last Interski (2015) the USA presented their new direction and philosophies but were still at a stage where they were gathering information and perceptions for their new system with a primary focus on instructor and customer engagement. Just before Interski 2019 their system was completed, and their new manuals came into circulation. It was wonderful to see the follow through from 2015 to now and I was delighted to attend their on-snow workshop which put all the words and diagrams into action.
The Learning Connection Model
One thing the Americans have learnt over recent years is that their customers take their initial lessons but then seem to either, not continue with snowsports, or do not take further lessons. This new system helps to change the connection between the customer and the instructor putting the student at the centre and providing a more inclusive process aimed at retaining the customers in their snowsport school systems for longer. They are very much about looking at the interpersonal skills between the instructor and learner and retaining customers by keeping them connected to the learning environment.
Click here or on the picture opposite to listen to an interview with Matt Boyd explaining why and how the Learning connection has come about.