I keep replaying a conversation I had with a couple teammates and our strength coach early on this season. “How much better would you do if someone put a gun to your head and said, ‘you have to make this happen’?” he asked us. “You’d have to step up your game, right?” At the time, in the shelter of the Center of Excellence, budding with excitement for the upcoming competitions, I thought, Yeah sure, but...I don’t know, I’m doing about all I can. As easy as this was to say, it is nearly impossible to truly imagine this scenario.
I should have let me imagination run a little wilder. Turns out, I did have a gun to my head. We all did.
Skip past the winter, it’s now Monday, April 14, 2014. I’m out of town, riding bikes for a few days, so I got the news via text message. “Times are bad, “ Brett said. “Simply put, no program, no coaches, no prep or comp budgets,” coach Greg wrote in his email. The whole team is off the team. I didn’t tell my mom or brother (who were with me) until my mom found out for herself on Wednesday, sooner than I had thought the news would be out. Even then, it didn’t sink in and feel real. I told myself, they didn’t really cut us. We could come up with enough donors to stay on with USSA.
And this has some truth, but it isn’t too likely. Come July 31st, unless we come up with somewhere around a half a million dollars, we’re not a part of the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), and my coaches are without a job. We will be able to come up with some money, and nobody is throwing in the towel. But the fact is, we’ve been cut.
Would I have done better if I had known that this winter was so critical? Would my team have walked away from Sochi with medals and a “Vancouver repeat” story? Tough to say. But that’s history now. The gun was pointed right at us, a motivation that I, for one was not looking for. Now, however, things are different.
My beliefs in psychology: intrinsic motivation is better than external and the carrot is better than the stick. Bases on what my coaches had to say, they have similar beliefs.
“WE ARE IN THIS BOAT BECAUSE PEOPLE DON’T BELIEVE IN US!” Greg wrote in the aforementioned email. “SHOW THOSE PEOPLE THEY ARE WRONG – YOU ARE PODIUM POTENTIAL!!!” Cutting us from the USSA isn’t what anyone was asking for, don’t get me wrong. But it is also the most motivating thing that has ever happened to me.
Now, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. We’re all fired up. Finances will be tough and this year will be more uncertain and difficult for us all. But every time I leave to train, in the gym, outside, or on the jumps, I’m going to think, “You’re wrong.”
This type of motivation, this chip on our shoulder, is going to keep the team fighting harder than ever. We’re underdogs now – more than we have been in a decade. And it could just be the best thing that ever happened to me. I know that we have enough people who still believe and will stand by our side through the transition. I’m sincerely grateful for this support. And to those who don’t believe in us, I hope you come to regret your decision.
It's been a pretty incredible 11 years for US Nordic Combined. We took home 10 Olympic and World Championship medals in that time period. But now it's time for a new chapter of success from some new faces.
Where am I?