When you grow up in Minnesota as I did, there is no doubt in your mind that nature intends for you to notice the cycles of life. If you study its-less-than-subtle mood swings, it becomes obvious that the four unique seasons are more than just changes in average temperature. Not only do you change your wardrobe significantly according to the seasons, but you actually change the way you think about life in general, and your favorite sport.
With my current perspective as a Florida resident, it’s all the more clear to me that skiers from the frozen tundra (all those above the Mason-Dixon Line) view their skiing season differently. The rest of us have something to learn, or relearn. I’ve adapted some concepts from leadership expert and writer John Maxwell into the following seasonal manual for skiers.
Winter is a time of recovery from the labors of the preceding seasons. During this reflective period, skiers rest and evaluate themselves. What went according to plan, and which plans went astray? Based upon that assessment, there is a recalibration. Skiers use this period to play a role Maxwell calls the Pathfinder. What’s the new heading for the next season? Should there be a new ski this year? What if I try wakeboarding for the first time? New goals are set, new strategies are mapped out. The bar is raised.
Spring is for the Gardener in us. It’s a time of preparing, planting and getting things ready for the coming battle. All physical preparations are made. We work out at the gym and adjust our eating habits. The equipment is readied with bindings and/or repairs. It’s exciting to make the soil fertile for the upcoming season. Ropes, handles, skis and vests are sorted out or replaced. The boat is cleaned and the slalom course put back in the lake. If you took time to recover and be a Pathfinder during the winter, you are full of anticipation now.
When summer comes, the struggle begins in earnest. As a skier, you are empowered and committed to the battle that must be won. Practice session after practice session, weekend upon weekend, you wage the love-hate war against the laws of physics and horsepower to reach the goals you set as a Pathfinder. Some give up during this time because the victories are not easy. But you will not give in because of your confidence in your Gardening and your tenacity as a Warrior. There are days when it’s tempting to throw in the towel out of pure discouragement, but your dream is too strong. You know your efforts will pay off.
As every farmer in the Midwest knows, hard work is always rewarded. What you sow, you shall reap. When fall arrives there is a thanksgiving for the victories won. Even if the crop turns out to be smaller than hoped for, there is still a Harvest. All progress is recognized and celebrated. The goals which were achieved are relived over and over. There is great joy in the land. Because you did not quit in the middle of the struggle, because you persevered, you get to witness and celebrate your accomplishments. At the conclusion of the Harvest, a recovery time begins. This recovery makes the transition into the season called winter, and the cycle begins again.
Like the farmer, the athlete must understand and appreciate life cycles. He must also use the cycle to his advantage. It is not possible to play the Warrior 10 or 12 months a year. And without the recovery of winter, and the preparation of spring, there will be very little Harvest.