SYNC Athlete + SYNC Marketing/Custom Manager Parker Biele skied her final race this past week and reflected on what the sport has taught her after so many years in gates.
Ski racing is one of those sports that is full of major ups and downs. In the end (other than the excitement of a perfect arc) you take away so many lessons that are truly invaluable for the rest of your life. The list of lessons is endless, but I broke it down to 5 that I think are truly “great”.
First and foremost, this sport teaches you “Grit”. The ability to push your mind and body to the max when 99% of the time you are disappointed with the result. But that 1% of the time you win or score to lower your FIS points, you are thrilled, and everything becomes worth it. That’s grit. The pull yourself up from your bootstraps mentality that helps you for the rest of your life. When things get hard, ski racers know how to lean on grit.
Next, with ski racing, you learn “Resilience”. The ability to quickly adapt when a race series is canceled or your plans change. Being resilient became even more apparent during the covid ski seasons. Sometimes you are supposed to be racing in one place, and instantly you end up somewhere else. It was a matter of seconds before I was supposed to be getting on a flight to Switzerland for the world university games. With covid cancellation, I was getting on a plane to go to Panorama, Canada instead. The ability to be resilient and flexible allows you to perform even when circumstances change.
One of the biggest lessons in ski racing is learning the “Execution” of your skills when the pressure is on. Not only does ski racing require you to be as close to perfect as possible with two race runs and minimum room for error. The NorAm circuit and the college circuit taught me how to be in the right mindset to be able to ski my fastest when I needed to. Or at least to try. The ability to execute on race day is crucial, and that’s the same in the professional world. You don’t win by being the best trainer; you win by being the best racer. Figuring out how to master your mind takes a lot of practice, and mine still isn’t perfect but learning how not to succumb to pressure and execute your skills is crucial.
“Attitude” in ski racing is critical. It’s really easy to dig yourself into a hole and get stuck thinking you aren’t good enough or don’t have what it takes to succeed. My attitude all along was to try and prove everyone wrong when they told me I wasn’t going to make it. That attitude pushed me harder in the gym, pushed me harder on the hill, and made a difference in my entire trajectory. My dad taught me that every bad day is a learning lesson so that you won’t make the same mistake next time and you can be that much closer to your goals. I had a lot of bad days, but that meant I learned a lot of lessons. How to handle the pressure, how to have a target on your back, how to stay calm and zoned. Those lessons came from bad races that helped me, so when I was in those positions again, I was ready and succeeded instead. It’s all about how you look at the picture and what your goals truly are. A bad U14 career didn’t mean I wasn’t going to be a great skier, it meant that I was just building up my tough skin so I could handle FIS starting in the back at 999.
Finally "Timing". Ski racing is a timed sport where you need to get from point A to point B the fastest. Unfortunately, due to puberty, I was slower getting to be the skier I knew I could be, so Point B got drawn out longer. Everyone is going to have a different time getting to their end result. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to end up being the fastest skier in the race. I didn’t go to U14 States, didn’t make U16 Easterns until my final year, and U16 Nationals was a dream that I didn’t even come close to. At the time, that felt like the end of the world, but the goal was bigger. I wanted to be the best skier I could be, and I knew with a little more time I would get there. When I got the opportunity to race in college, someone asked me if I was more relaxed now that I had made it on a team. I looked at them and said, “are you kidding? I worked my entire life to get here, and now I have the opportunity to do something really cool”. I would much rather be an NCAA championship athlete than a U14 champion. Time sometimes feels slow and sometimes feels like it isn’t on your side. But a wise man once told me "don’t worry, your time will come". So for everyone who may feel like they are running out of time, don’t because one day it will be your time, and you could end up with the win.
So I’m at the end looking back on the incredible ways ski racing taught me to be a great human being and someone who can have an impact in the professional world. I wouldn’t have changed any part of this wild ride and am so proud of what I was able to accomplish. I hope now I can be a part of making someone else realize they have what it takes to succeed even if it isn’t the clearest and easiest path to success.