…a little something for those who are committing to skiing and school.
I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I was saving one for Christmas which was going to focus around my recent results etc. But I thought that would be a bit repetitive because I did one last year along those lines and my recent results can be seen on my Facebook page or FIS biography. So I thought I’d go for something a bit different.
Before I left school, I wrote an article for the school magazine 2013 edition. Having recently received a copy of the magazine, I re-read what I had written. Upon reading it, I realised how the openness of the article and the story I tell in it may be encouraging and helpful to young skiers who are trying to balance their school work with their pursuits in skiing. So I thought I’d post it, as an eye opener into what goes on behind the scenes…well behind the results on my FIS biography.
SKIING & EDUCATION
Article by Rachelle Rogers (U6) – Individual Sports Mentor
If I were to go back in time to when I was in Upper 3 (Year 7), I would never have thought I would be where I am now. I remember sitting in assemblies, watching the Sports Captains who stood up and read the weekly sports report and I would think to myself “that’s not going to be me”. But I was wrong. When I was given the role of Individual Sports Mentor, I was very shocked and completely taken by surprise. I did not expect to be given a role of responsibility within the school prefect system, because I was hardly ever in school as a result of my skiing commitments, so I thought I would not be able to commit to such a position. In addition to this role in school, I became a Youth Olympian, as well as improving and maintaining my fluency of the French language – two things I am proud of.
In Upper 3 I was quite shy and just got on with what I had to do until the Spring Term, when I continued the crazy commitment I had made to skiing earlier: my life often consisted of catching a plane Thursday or Friday evenings to France after school and coming back on Sundays or Mondays straight after I had finished training or competing, often going through airport security dressed in or carrying my ski gear (and getting odd looks from passers-by). Sometimes I would have a trophy in my hand luggage, which would always attract the attention of the security staff at Lyon or Geneva. In addition to the weekends, I would be granted the odd week off here and there from school; I continued this absurdity right through to Lower 5 (Year 10) – goodness knows how I managed to complete my prep. and achieve good grades in my end-of-year examinations, but I did!
By the end of Lower 5, I graduated from skiing at children level to Junior – it was time to hit the international circuit, which meant committing to taking the whole of the Spring Term away from school and living in the French Alps. This seemed even crazier, especially in such a crucial academic year, that I wanted to spend a whole term away from education. Asides missing a vast amount of the GCSE course sections studied in Upper 5 (Year 11), I also missed mock week, so compromises had to be made.
A typical day for me consisted of skiing in the morning, self-study for about three hours in the afternoon, fitness training in the gym, and then further study into the evening. My GCSE mocks were staggered over the whole of the Spring Term, sitting my last one only two weeks before my first examination of the summer! Whilst the rest of Britain were watching Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding, I was doing the whole of my preparatory studies for my Art exam. – a prime example of precision and last-minute fiascos! Miraculously, I managed to achieve respectable grades in my GCSEs, after all the struggles I had to face and hard work I put in. But more challenges were to come!
In Lower 6 (Year 12) I had a lot of expectations to meet, both in skiing and education because I set myself high goals. January 2012 was the time when the first Winter Youth Olympics were to be held and I wanted to go so desperately that I became entirely focused on it; I won the time trials, just, and therefore achieved my goal. However, what I failed to do was to reset myself goals after this, and so I started to lose motivation (but slowly, and without realising it). I also became consumed with the need to seek perfection, and as anyone who is a skier would know, this is practically impossible to achieve. As a result I failed every single race. The moment I made a mistake I would give up, I would not fight. This in return was affecting my education; I began to not bother to do any work at all during the winter. I became very restless, tired and stressed without knowing the cause; the price was injuries -minor ones which, if in succession, can be just as inhibiting as more serious ones. When the season ended, I was not in a good place. I had been unsuccessful in skiing and I had fallen dramatically behind in my school work, which was worrying my teachers. But a month of intensive learning and revision for PE and French allowed me to turn the situation around, and I achieved two A grades, of which I am very proud, especially considering the struggles I went through that year.
Moving into Upper 6 (Year 13), I knew things were not going to be easy as not only was I going to have to find a way to manage two more AS subjects and two A2s, I was also going to have one tall mountain to climb in order to recover from the mess I had got myself into with my skiing. The plan was for me to sit both of my RS AS examinations and one of my Geography AS examinations in January and then sit the other Geography AS exam in May, followed by PE and French A2 in June. Thankfully, this went reasonably smoothly despite having four subjects to study, by focusing and prioritising initially on my AS subjects in the first half of the school year then switching to my A2 subjects in the second half. I managed to sit the examinations feeling as prepared as I could have been. Turns out this was enough; over the course of last year, I achieved very high marks in my papers. I’ve now achieved four A grades at AS, with an A* and an A at A2.
Skiing was a whole different matter; unfortunately my psychological approach to the sport had turned into a self-destructive one; this had to be changed! It was a long procedure, but by turning my focus to process and performance, rather than outcome goals, I managed to achieve a much more stable state of mind. I improved my finishing rate of races and I was no longer giving up the moment something went wrong; instead I was fighting to finish. A few international podiums in lower level competitions gave me the confidence boost I needed and I ended the season by achieving three National Championship podiums and winning the first run of the British Junior Slalom Championships, beating all of the top female athletes in Britain. A bonus that came from this season was the disappearance of my fear of Super G; one day I woke up and told myself how fed up I was with being scared and doing badly, the fear just went away! Mind over matter at its best!
Despite not being reselected onto the British team this year, I am even more motivated and determined than before. I am beginning the new season ranked 460th in the world in Super G (a huge improvement on where I was a year ago at 1339th). This means I start the season with meeting the International Ski Federation’s Group A qualifying standards for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games – the top 500 is certainly a milestone to be proud of. With a switch of ski team, new ski coaches and new skis (I moved from Rossignol to Nordica), I am ready for a fresh start this year. I have decided to finish my A levels outside school, because I only have Geography A2 to complete; allowing me to become, in effect, a full-time athlete. This choice also prepares me very well for degree study because I am fine-tuning my independent studying skills. In addition, I can now commit more time to my Strength and Conditioning programme at the Surrey Sports Park, who have been very supportive of me the past year and I have a training programme that has brought out the best in me as an athlete, as well as a full season without interruption from examinations.
For the new season ahead I am aiming for World Junior Championships in Slalom (I’m currently 0.35 FIS points off the criteria, having dropped my points from 52 to 38 over just 5 SL races), and maybe have my Europa Cup debut if I hit the low 30s. We shall see what happens, but one thing I shall say is this: at the core of my personal philosophy is the belief that things do happen for a reason (both good and bad) which help develop us as a person and that hard work does, as it rightly should, eventually pay off.
Balancing school work and a secondary school education is a fine art. It’s not something you can be taught to do, but it is something you have to teach yourself, because only you can figure out a method that works for you. From my personal experience, it consists of prioritising, planning, and persisting when the challenge intensifies. As it does so, I believe it is vitally important to have a support team (friends, family, coaches and teachers etc.) who are there for you when you need them the most, because there are times when it is extremely tough and they can help you get through those times, even if it is just offering a smile!
Now my time at St Catherine’s as a student is coming to an end, I bid you farewell; in true St Catherine’s style: Let Us Go On!
I’d like to say a huge thank you, as I do, to everyone who supports me: Nordica, Leki via Ardblair Sports Importers, JCAD via Sport Haslemere and the Ladies Ski Club. I’m grateful to them all for their support. I also am grateful to my parents and my coaches for believing in me and helping me along the way. I hope my early season successes will continue on into 2014.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!