My path to NCAA skiing was similar to many others… I was on the Canadian Development Team for 2 years, the second year I was out of high school skiing full-time, and that was the first time I began to have doubts about my childhood dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. I was watching my teammates have success and began to wonder why I was different, I was doing the same training, I wanted it just as bad, I have always been at least as fast as them… but the whole season I felt as though something was missing. Perhaps I felt this way because I was a multi-sport athlete for so much of my life and now suddenly without any other sports or the distraction of school there were too many hours in the day to put all of my attention on skiing. I was only 18-years-old but I believe what I started to feel was "burnout," this is what led me on my search to find a healthier environment for me to continue chasing my ski racing dreams, an environment that encouraged me to expand my mind, learn how to be a better person and teammate, but ultimately still provide an elite program to move my ski racing development along. I ended up at the University of Utah.
It may not be the case that the NCAA system fosters the development of all ski racers or that all skiers racing in the NCAA will improve and reach national team criteria, but can't the same be said about the national development systems? I didn't leave the national team to "spite" them, I made the difficult decision to take a different path because it was better for my mental well-being and emotional health. Becoming a student-athlete and being part of an NCAA ski team made me happier, more confident, and it taught me a lot about who I am as a person. The stress management skills I've learned as a student-athlete have without a doubt contributed to who I am now as a ski racer. I have stood in the start gate at the Olympics, at World Champs, and I have even stood in the start gate for second run knowing that a World Cup podium is within reach if I can put that perfect run together… but none of those moments compare to the stress you feel while standing in the start gate at NCAA National Champs, when your whole team is down there counting on you to cross the finish and hit a podium position.
Our road is less traveled but the skills necessary to navigate an NCAA career should not be discredited, we are not giving up or losing focus of our goals, we know what it takes and we are as committed as ever to becoming the best ski racers we can be. We are simply asking to be given the same respect and opportunity as any other ski racers striving to be the best they can.
*This is taken from a letter I wrote (combined with letters from a number of other NCAA athletes) to Ski Racing Media to be featured during their conversation about National teams and their relationship with NCAA athletes in 2020.