Do you want to scratch the slope or ride it down?
Two years ago I started to learn to snowboard. Already as an „old boy“ who should have known how to snowboard a long time ago 😊. Well, I was not one of the lucky ones who learn to ski or snowboard at school, or even earlier. The beginners know, that the bigger and older you are, the more the falls hurt. As well as the fear of falls is increasing. However, in my life I am following the motto "better late than never". That's why I'm catching up with a lot of things, which I should have had learned as a child.
Well you have to admit, when a friend gives you a snowboard for Christmas, it's really stupid to look for excuses to not to do it. So, I stand on the slope with Michal, who gifted me my snowboard and shows me now the basics of snowboarding. As a professional coach, I have to admit that his approach was really brilliant. Michal is an entrepreneur, he is excellent at technical thinking. But still, his talent for teaching and understanding the human psyche fascinated me immediately. I've tried first-hand how useful it is when someone highlights my more successful attempts, when someone leads me to my own understanding of the mechanics of motion and let me figure out how to keep my balance and how to navigate. All this without a lot of overwhelming commands about what to do, what not to do and the subsequent criticism such as "you fell because you didn´t...". This is what many instructors do in good faith. They want to pass on all "their" wisdom to you in order to "move" you forward as quickly as possible.
My coaching heart danced with joy 😊 I identified a solution focused approach - in which we highlight more successful attempts instead of failures. He allowed me to advance quickly by letting me discover what I was doing when I was doing well. A pioneer of coaching - Timothy Gallwey with his famous theory of the inner game would also rejoice. Although Michal did not know these approaches, this did not prevent him from using them masterfully. After quite some time, I enjoyed being in the client's position and took it as a verification of Timothy's theory in practice. This has been unequivocally confirmed! In less than three days, I learned to: stand, start off, change direction and brake. Firstly, using beginner techniques and later more advanced ones. Starting on easier slopes and slowly moving to harder ones. Well, as a man of flesh and bone, I specially appreciated the fact that I fell only 4 times in 3 days!!!
I was already quite proud of myself. As I rushed down, the wind was blowing in my hair and I felt that in a few more seasons Ester Ledecka, the Olympic gold medalist, would feel threatened by me. But a problem occurred. I only focused on those tasks in snowboarding, where I felt confident. I repeated them over and over again. The feeling of overcoming a disobedient board, which I "tamed" thanks to certain techniques, overwhelmed me and my tendency to try something new was at freezing point. I just wanted to improve the already known techniques to a greater perfection. But most of all, I wanted to be in my safe zone, where there are no falls.
But Michal saw it. He let me enjoy the feeling of control for a moment. Later, however, he indicated that my feeling of wind in the hair is about 25km/h. And that it's nice to start with, but it's not a real "ride". But I stubbornly continued doing it my way. After all, I've already learned something, so I wanted to improve it. I was able to ride, but to direct the snowboard straight down and increase my speed made me scared to death. I did my curves all the time, which would not be such a problem in itself, but I also did them slowly. As soon as I felt an acceleration I was not completely in control of, I started to brake and scratch the ground. I braked even though I hadn't fallen yet. The most important thing to me was not getting into a dangerous situation, in which I wouldn't be in control.
My friend just shook his head. While we were still at the top of the slope he came to me and asked me:
„Do you want to scratch the slope or ride it down?“
And he continued: "Branko, you drive in such a safety zone, just not to fall. But that's not the joy, the adrenaline, the endorphins you can get from it. Look how I ride. I just let it run down so that I feel the "whoaaa" feeling and then at that speed I do the turns as I see fit. And don't think that I'm not afraid. I just focus on doing that great turn at that speed and enjoy it. I know you're scared, so try to let the board run progressively faster every time, before you brake it with the turn. You'll see, you'll be less tired in the end, because you'll actually get through it faster and without too much effort spent on braking. "
Right there, up on that slope, his phrase "If I want to scratch the slope or ride it down" hit me like lightning. I immediately saw a parallel to life itself in it. It has everything: the pain of falling and the fear of making a mistake, the joy of speed that is ruled out with too much caution, the risk and reward, the courage to overcome oneself. Getting stuck in a safe and familiar zone vs. trying the new and uncertain, fatigue from great (too much) control...
Thanks to this very tangible experience that question has remained engraved inside me. And since then, I ask myself this question not only on the slope, but also in different life situations:
Do you want to scratch the slope or ride it down?
Thank you Michal.
P.S.: Please bear in mind, that I am not a native English speaker, so an error in my speech/the text might occur occasionally. Thank you for understanding.