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Expert Instruction Maximizes Performance

    I went skiing last month for the first time in two years. I was apprehensive the whole time my husband, Mark, and I were planning this trip from Ohio to New York. I didn�t want to hurt myself. Since I have a spinal cord injury, I don�t ski standing. I sit low to the ground in a seat that is positioned over one ski. My legs are straight out in front of me and my feet are strapped to the frame. I use an outrigger on each arm to steer and slow me down. I learned to ski in a monoski four years ago, and was beginning to gain confidence. This time, my confidence waned.

    I felt especially protective of my hands and arms. Since I use a manual wheelchair to get around, it is critical that my upper body stay in top shape. An injury to my arm would mean that I would not be independent in moving the wheelchair, dressing, transferring into bed, driving, and using a keyboard. An injury would also be painful and would take time to heal. There are risks in everything we do in life. I acknowledged the risks and knew I had to use caution when skiing. There came a point where I resolved to go skiing and have a good time.

    When I got on the slopes at the ski resort at 9:30 a.m., I knew my skills were rusty.

    I was with an adaptive ski instructor and two volunteers the first day. The volunteers helped keep other skiers away from me. I was tethered to the instructor so he could help control my speed, for the first few runs. I then proved to him that my skills were sufficient and he untied the rope. I was afraid much of the time. The equipment didn�t feel right. The ski was responding quicker than I expected and steered me across and up the hill, causing me to slow down momentarily. Then I was plummeting downhill backwards and immediately fell! Not the maneuver I anticipated!

    The instructor and volunteers quickly came to my aid many times to pick me up and reposition the monoski to orient me on the hill. I had to catch my breath and dust myself off while analyzing what I had done wrong. A new set of outriggers were provided early in the day to see if a longer pair would be easier for me. By lunchtime, I was exhausted and discouraged.

    After lunch, I was back on the slopes again, having the same troubling experiences. I kept asking if we could go to another part of the mountain and take easier runs. I was on the easiest runs available, and still was not �in the groove.� The instructor and volunteers monitored my progress and offered technique suggestions throughout the day, even though none of them had ever skied in a monoski.

    Getting on and off the chair lift even became a challenge. Somehow I was dropped getting off the chair, a volunteer stepped on my side with his ski, and we tumbled in a pile up. My confidence was destroyed. I had hit my helmeted head one too many times on the snow, and whacked it enough with my outriggers. I was happy to get off the mountain by 3:00 p.m. I felt a tension headache of major proportions coming on.

    I tried not to dwell on my failure that evening. When Mark and I had dinner, I focused my thoughts away from the slopes. The next morning I was stiff and very sore. I could hardly move my arms. My eagerness to ski was gone. I put on my ski clothes and soon we were headed back to the slopes for another lesson. On the way, I kept thinking, �Why am I doing this? This is no fun! I have lost it! I can�t ski anymore. Mark will have to ski the rest of his life without me.� I was close to telling Mark that I wanted to cancel my lesson, but I thought I should at least try one more time.

    I was met by a different instructor and volunteers at the ski school. They had read the report from the previous day, and we talked about my frustration. �I�ll bet you a dollar to a donut, you�ll have a better day today!� said one of the volunteers as he offered me a donut. That was a turning point. My attitude was beginning to improve. I focused on this hopeful thought. As I talked to the new instructor, I was reassured because he had skied in a monoski and had just returned from an adaptive ski clinic. It was a new day. I started with a �clean slate� and this instructor wanted to see me ski.

    He demonstrated to the volunteers how to set up the monoski in order to get me on and off the chair lift. A different procedure was utilized from the previous day in order to avoid an accident. When I got off the lift at the top of the hill, he encouraged me. As I started downhill, leading the way, he stayed close behind. He was telling me what to do for every turn. �Cut left, now a sharp right. Use the whole mountain. Slow down, turn now, outriggers in front of you. Turn left, turn your head left. Rock n� roll Rossetti!� What a difference this coaching made! He was reading the hill for me, helping me to maneuver the monoski precisely across the terrain. He was my partner and I his puppet. Each of my moves was conscious and deliberate. As I spent more time on the mountain, I was learning to move and anticipate future moves sooner. There were times when the instructor remained silent and my movement became spontaneous.

    Soon I got bored with the beginner slopes and we went to steeper parts of the mountain. Sure, I felt fear, but I knew that the instructor�s guidance would get me through. I trusted him exclusively and saw that working as a pair, I was a success. I didn�t fall all day.

    This experience has taught me to never give up. Even when my intuition says, �You�ve had enough!,� there is still a solution to problems. Oftentimes we need the advice of others who have the experience and the wisdom to guide us. This lesson also reinforced the value of expert instruction. This is true not only when learning to play a sport, but also when learning selling skills to develop my business, as well as learning writing and speaking skills. A good coach, instructor, or trainer facilitates the process by which you can move toward desired goals. The focus is results oriented. The process of coaching deepens learning, improves performance, and can enhance your quality of life.

    � Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

    Rossetti Enterprises Inc.
    Speaker - Trainer - Consultant - Writer
    1008 Eastchester Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43230-6230
    Phone: 614-471-6100
    North America: 1-866-471-6110 (toll free)
    Worldwide: 1-614-471-6100
    Fax: 614-471-5575
    E-mail: Rosemarie@RosemarieSpeaks.com

    Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is a speaker and writer. To book her to speak at a conference, or to subscribe to her free monthly inspirational column, go to: RosemarieSpeaks.com

    Author of "Take Back Your Life!" To order, go to: Take Back Your Life