For all you North Americans out there I’m sure you are familiar with the great piece Chelsea Little put together for FasterSkier this spring on US biathletes and school… For all you who are not familiar with these articles you can find them here, here, and here... and well also here AND here. (reading all those links might successfully eat up your entire afternoon)
As a newcomer to the sport it gave me a lot of background and history on my team mates, and made it clear that none of us have taken the same path to get where we are today. What went through my mind you ask? (humor me okay) “ Wait! Hold up! You mean they weren’t born as 26 year olds with rifles on their backs? They were kids once too!?” Mind blown.
It also brought up a lot of questions. Like… What choices have I made that got me to where I am today? College? No college? Going back to college? Is this really what I am suppose to be doing? BlahBlahBlah. *It should be noted that these articles started to come out as I was going through a major decision making process with our USBA staff about my own future in the sport and where school may or really may not fit in.
So what gives?
Well I sort of got here by mistake really… You could even say it was a long string of fortunate accidents that landed me on the national team.
My secret formula is not every parent’s dream, and although I have an unbelievably supportive family I’m sure they worry.
Here it goes. I’m giving out my secrets. So take notes.
Step One: Get hurt frequently.
Step Two: Get as late of an introduction to skiing as possible. Almost.
Step Three: Don’t quit. *Thank you Mr. Burger
Step Four: Turn down a full ride to college to move out west.
Step Five: Turn down another full ride to ski instead of run.
Step Six: Drop out of school forfeiting your academic scholarship for a sport you’ve never done.
It might not be the most finically sound or safest plan out there. But it’s mine. And now coaches can say things like, “Alright now remember kids, that is what you get with 60% of a college degree!” as you try to lead clinics. Dream role model, yes? …No? …at least I have passion and grit on my side.
When the going gets tough…
You have an amazing ability to second guess yourself.
Last year didn’t go as planned. I was ready to bust onto the senior circuit. I was ready to gallivant around Europe and maybe even kick a little butt here and there. I was ready…until I wasn’t. When you are sidelined by injury and sickness perspective is hard to come by. And when you’re left alone in the states to train all winter you have a lot of time to question everything you’ve done. Doubt can drown you.
I looked at my options. I even re-enrolled in school. Coming into the first training camp of the year I was 98% sure I would be heading to Bozeman in August ready and excited to tackle one of my few remaining semesters of college. That was… until I told my coaches.
Word trickled back to our high performance director and soon enough I was on the phone with him discussing my commitment to the sport. Discussing the Olympic cycles, discussing what is ‘truly best for me.’ Discussing my underlying motivations to want to head back to college in the first place. Would I feel such a strong desire to go back to school if this year had gone well? Honestly… probably not.
We are very lucky to have a staff that really does care about us as people. They understand that we are not going to perform well if we are not happy. Many conversations ensued.
“We see potential in you!”
“No I don’t think you know.”
“School is not going anywhere. It will always be waiting for you.”
“Well now you’ll have some money to buy a mountain bike since you aren’t spending it on tuition!”
I understand that bad years happen. I understand that by non-normal people standards 2014 is just around the corner. But most importantly I understand that this is really what I want to do. That although I may get frustrated at times biathlon makes me happy. I know there will be days when I feel like an ‘unproductive member of society’, days where I day dream about other things I could be doing.
It is so easy to get caught up in worrying about, “am I making the right choice?” But that’s the thing… There are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices… There are only options. Lots and lots of options.
So I might be a college drop out, but at least I’m living the Olympic dream.