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

Lahti 2017 World Champs Criteria

Dear Athletes and Coaches, You can now find the new selection criteria for the upcoming 2017 Lahti World Championships posted here: http://nordic.usskiteam.com/cross-country-programs/athletes/criteria/world-championships We are excited about this new criteria, which has been a work-in-progress between US Ski Team staff, top club coaches and program directors, and a USSA athlete representative for the past 2 years. As you’ll see, the Objective and Discretionary selection procedures in this criteria are very similar to what we have used in the past. The big change, however, comes in how Additional Team Selections are made. In the past, additional selections have been made using FIS or USSA points, which are created by scoring points races on a year-round continuum. This new criteria relies on head-to-head SuperTour and U.S. Nationals racing in the fall/early winter of the season of the Lahti Championships themselves. Here are some of the advantages of this new criteria: Because the criteria…

Summer Racing and National Team Exposure

I recently encountered Marty Hall’s comments following an article in SkiTrax about the Climb to the Castle that were misinformed in several important ways, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with the community, and hopefully clear up some of these misconceptions. The comments can be found here: http://skitrax.com/85688/?c The first comment had to do with summer racing: A real shame that the national team passed up the hill climb—it would have been a fitting effort after the week of intensity focus they had just completed. Biathlon had just finished a 3 week intensity block and fit the hill climb into their final workout. One of the things that has been evident over the past few years is that the Euros race a lot more in the summer (on RS) then the NAs do—way more, which keeps them closer to their top fitness then the NAs…

2015-16 Canadian World Cup Selection Criteria

Dear Athletes and Coaches,   The World Cup selection criteria for this season, including the Canadian World Cup Tour, is now posted, and can be found here:   http://nordic.usskiteam.com/cross-country-programs/coaches/criteria/world-cup   A working group of 12 senior club coaches, along with the U.S. Ski Team staff, collaborated to create the Selection Criteria.   Here is a summary of start spots allotted to the USA for the Canadian Tour:   Women National World Cup Tour Quota for 2015-16: 7 SuperTour Overall Leader: 1 Nation’s Group: 5 Total: 13 women   Men National World Cup Tour Quota for 2015-16: 5 SuperTour Overall Leader: 1 Nation’s Group: 5 Total: 11 men   In addition to the usual World Cup quotas, which are determined by results from the previous World Cup season, the overall leaders of the SuperTour on February 7, 2016 (one man and one woman) will be selected to the Canadian Tour. As…

Development: Part 1

All sorts of comments are springing up on my blog about development, so it’s a good time to share some thoughts. As someone suggested, the topic of development is broad, and makes it hard to know where to begin, much less to structure the discussion in a meaningful way. But let’s dive in. The U.S. XC program is currently not investing enough on Development. We are being greatly outspent by some of our competitors. As an athletic staff, we know this. We talk about this all the time. We have development strategies created that detail how we would spend additional funds if we were to have them, specifically in the area of infrastructure. We recognize that there is much more we could be doing. The U.S. XC program is also not investing enough in the elite side. Some of our competitors have resources that are on scale far beyond our…

Cross Country Skill Development

When skill development is discussed in cross-country ski racing, the concepts of technique, aerobic capacity, and general strength soon follow, and rightly so, but they are not the only areas worth including in the discussion. An elite cross-country ski racer boasts a cadre of advanced skills. Here are several additional difference-makers that come to mind after witnessing the World Cup races in Davos this December.   Balance   Because of the thin snow in Davos, and being limited to man-made snow, we often had icy training and racing days there. Sometimes extremely icy conditions. If you’ve watched the video from the races, you can readily see the difference between the athletes who felt comfortable skiing fast in those conditions, and those who didn’t. Skiers who were comfortable looked relatively balanced, stable, relaxed, and fast; able to correct easily in the event that their ski failed to edge on the ice…

Falun 2015 World Championship Selection Dates

As we approach the close of the Falun WSC selection period, here are a few dates for coaches and athletes to keep in mind: Sunday January 11 Tour de Ski Final Climb.  Last World Cup distance race in the selection period. Saturday January 17 Otepää Sprint C.  Last World Cup sprint race in the selection period. Monday January 19 The close of the USSA National Ranking List #4. Friday January 23 USSA National Ranking List #4 becomes valid. Monday January 26 Team Announcement (tentative). The full selection criteria can be viewed here: http://nordic.usskiteam.com/cross-country-programs/officials/criteria/world-championships

The Power of the Team

First of all, a big thanks to the editorial staff at FasterSkier for agreeing to host this blog.  I was looking for an outlet for sharing insights and observations with the greater cross-country skiing community and recognized that FS has the most reach of any Nordic media outlet in the U.S.  It was the first place I went, and I appreciate their willingness to give me a platform.  I’d also like to thank FasterSkier for helping to advance U.S. XC ski racing over the years.  In a country where it’s often impossible to view a World Cup ski race on TV, FasterSkier has been instrumental in telling the story.  The Internet has been where young American cross-country skiers learn about their sport, and FasterSkier is often the website they visit first. My intention with the blog is to share occasional thoughts from the road.  The FS staff does an excellent…