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Wild Rumpus Sports

Team Nomination Discussion

As a U.S. Ski Team staff, we’ve noticed the recent scrutiny of the 2017-18 Cross Country Team Nominations. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts in response to some of the criticism.

First, as with any criteria or policy or nomination, the USST staff welcomes constructive criticism when it is fair and unbiased. We take criticism seriously, discuss is thoroughly, and if warranted, use that feedback to help guide future decision-making. We are not opposed to hearing new viewpoints and we welcome a healthy discussion. We are imperfect humans who have made mistakes in the past and will make mistakes in the future. Like everyone, we learn and improve as we move forward.

As I mentioned in the FasterSkier interview at the time of the team nomination, this year’s nomination was a very challenging one, and we spent many hours discussing the make-up of the team. In the end, we nominated an extremely talented group of athletes with a strong potential for success at the highest level, but I would also suggest that there are many USA athletes that were not nominated who also have the potential to reach the podium. In a sport like cross country ski racing, with a long-term athlete development timeframe, it’s quite challenging to pinpoint which athletes have the capacity to reach the podium in 2, 5, or 10 years from now. So just like being nominated to the USST does not guarantee future success, being left out of the nomination for a particular team certainly doesn’t preclude an athlete from reaching the top in the sport.

We stand by the nominations of every athlete selected to the 2017-18 team; these are great athletes with massive potential.

There is no bias or favoritism towards certain athletes over other athletes in nominations. When it comes to team nominations, we have one goal: to see the USA on the podium at the highest levels of international competition. That’s it. We are not taking personalities into consideration; only current results and our perceptions on an athlete’s future ability to secure podiums, often in specific events. We want to see USA athletes winning just as desperately as everyone in the greater cross country community. We all share this goal.

When it comes to the current USST nominations, the percentage of athletes chosen via objective criteria versus those chosen via discretion is very similar to past seasons. We’ve basically had the same criteria in place for many years and it’s been an effective tool. For 2017-18, we had 9 athletes selected via objective criteria and 7 athletes via discretion. In 2016-17, that split was 8 and 8. In fact, this 2017-18 team may be one of the nominations that includes the smallest percentage of discretionary selections in decades, and reflects the fact that we have more athletes than ever skiing at a high international standard, securing World Cup podiums, World Champs and World Junior Champs medals, and thereby making the team via the objective criteria.

When it comes to crafting a selection criteria for the US Ski Team, our experience has been that discretion works better with young athletes than objective criteria. This is especially true in our sport where it can be challenging to capture the wide scope of the competition pipeline, where athletes are simultaneously racing in North America and Europe throughout the season. As we’ve seen in almost every selection criteria ever written, objective criteria works well at the top of the selection, but often somewhat poorly at the end of the selection. Every criteria is imperfect in its attempt to predict what will happen in a future competition season. Even if we were to create objective criteria to select the B and D Teams, we would still be forced to use discretion at the end of the selection to ensure that our best performing young skiers are not being missed, sick or injured athletes were captured, etc.

As we discussed with the Cross Country Committee at USSA Congress this month, the USST Cross Country staff is committed to providing as many paths for USA athletes to the top of our sport as we can find. We have a new World Championship and Olympic Winter Games selection criteria in place that provides athletes with the most visible and concrete path towards team nomination possible. We have recently expanded quotas on the World Cup and we are working with our senior clubs to increase our presence on the World Cup. You’ll see more USA athletes getting more start opportunities at the highest level of the sport this coming season than ever before. There will be many pathways to the top.

Thanks for reading. Sincerely, Chris