Let Them See Your Fear

There was a professor at my university who used to commit to submitting a scholarly paper on the same date that his students had to submit their term papers. He felt like it gave him a connection to the students, especially when they all showed up for class on the due date, trying to study German on zero hours of sleep.

I ran into a similar situation of sorts during a ski lesson. When I show beginners how to scooter around on one foot, I often show them "ski yoga" where I drop into a position so that the thigh of my ski leg is parallel to the ground and my free foot is up on the thigh of the ski leg. I then put my hands together in prayer and it's sort of like a half-lotus. Kids often get a kick out of that.

One day, later in the lesson, a young skier asked me something nobody had asked and that I had never thought of: "Can you do ski yoga with both skis on?" Instantly, falling down in a tangle and torquing joints at all sorts of odd angles flashed through my mind. I was about to say no, but instead I said "You know what? I've never tried it. In fact, I've never thought of trying it and I'm scared. But I've asked you to do a lot of things that were scary for you today, so I'm going to give it a try. It's only fair. I might fall down, but let's see."

I have decent hip flexibility, so it turned out that I had the flexibility to get the foot up on the thigh even with the ski on it and, more importantly, to get it untangled and back on the snow. Still, I was surprised to find myself skiing outside my comfort zone in the context of a beginner lesson.

I often say that everyone I ski with, no matter their level, has at least one thing he can teach me. In this case, the young kid taught me a lot. First, he taught me how to do ski yoga with two skis on. Much more importantly, though, he taught me about being a perpetual student and about the importance of sharing all aspects of skiing with your students, including going outside your comfort zone. Finally, I felt that the class, which included adults and children, respected me for being frank about my fears and joining in the learning process as a peer. I also think it helped them a lot to see that I ski with fear sometimes too. And that was an important lesson too. Despite taking clinics with examiners and other experienced instructors, I think I learned more in that lesson I taught than in any other hour of the season.