Taken from the Mountain Athlete website, read the full piece there!
Fear and Flipping in Park City
“Sometimes the best thing to do is just do it. When my athletes are trying a new trick, I never give them any direction the first time. I just tell them to try,” Coach Tony told me. This was completely opposite from how I’d ever learned a new trick. I meticulously study where to spot, where my hips go and where I put my hands, before I ever try anything new. “Just throw your arms in front like you’re throwing a basketball. You’ll get it.”
At the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation facility in Park City, Utah, I stood at the top of the water ramp, procrastinating my first front-flip attempt. I allowed Hadley, then Monica, then Tess to jump in line before me as I stared at the ramp, the pool, and the sky. My teeth chattered in the cool breeze and I thought about everything that could go wrong.
“You can do this Pip,” I told myself. “What’s the worse thing that could happen? I’ll land funny, maybe douse my sinuses in chlorine, and lose a little bit of my pride.” I took three deep breaths and stepped out on the plastic ramp. I visualized my take-off, my hands pushing into the air, my legs tucking in behind me, the splash as I hit the pool. I waited for the signal. I hop turned so hard I nearly crashed on the ramp, steadied myself, and took off, throwing my hands forward into a superman dive…
But wait, let’s back up: the water ramps have long been a place of trepidation and excitement. Every summer, both professional and amateur winter athletes flock to the pool to practice flips and spins. Aerialists complete graceful triple and quad flips, while seven- and eight-year-olds learn the basics.
We started on the trampolines, focusing on fundamental jumping skills first; back flips, front flips, spotting, and full hip extension. As sport-specific athletes, it can be difficult to understand how applicable the resistance training we’ve been doing since mid-May is to our sport, but as coaches Tony and Meg constantly reiterated the importance of fully extending the hips, all the hang cleans, box jumps, and kettlebell swings made sense. Hip extension is a fundamental component to jumping and the initiation of any trick.
The water ramps presented a completely different challenge than the trampolines, and while hip extension was still important, mental strength was key. The first couple of jumps progressed slowly, as all athletes manipulated their take-off on the dry slope. Soon Sam, Shay, and Griffin were experimenting with flatspins, backflips, and corks. Hadley dialed her 360, progressively executing a cleaner grab and overall smoother trick each time.
While seemingly everyone else is moving on, I just wanted to nail my straight–airs before trying to spin or flip. But, after two hard landings, and a mild onset of whiplash, Jen Hudak, my volunteer coach of the day, suggested I move onto front flips. I was terrified. I have never attempted a front flip on a trampoline until today, let alone on skis. Here was Jen suggesting that I try without even having a steady take-off.
So, back to me in mid-air, hands thrust out like a caped superhero. “TUCK!” I heard Tony yell from the side of the pool. I pulled my knees in, just in time for my body to rotate and my skis to meet the water, base first.
My first front flip.