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AP photo by Schinichiro Tanaka

Ted Ligety – AP photo by Schinichiro Tanaka

To win is wonderful, but to win respect is divine.

Hero worship is way overrated. But I make an exception with Ted Ligety. When you have the world’s best skier (today, and on many other days) who also runs a successful business, makes fun a priority, takes a stand on issues for the benefit of fellow athletes, literally shrugs off disappointing runs and takes time to fist-bump his pint-sized fans on the way up to the podium—when you find all that in one person, I’m good with having my kids worship at his altar.

Truthfully, as a parent and a coach I feel somewhat indebted to Ligety for filling this role in their religious training. To be sure, we are not churchgoing people. My kids, however, are well-acquainted with sermons. Our sermons are usually on Sundays on the way to a ski race and they go something like this: About 15 minutes from the mountain I turn down the music of choice, and look in the rearview mirror to see that I have the majority of their attention. Then I dive in.

“What’s the most important thing you need to do today?”

“Be a good sport,” they answer. To their credit, they do not groan or roll their eyes, yet. Then we go in to a brief review of what that involves, chiefly about being a good winner and a good loser.

We have a little quiz about things good winners do: accept congratulations gratefully and graciously, ask others how they did, support teammates, refrain from gloating, thank coaches and race workers, etc. And then, even though it is less fun to imagine, we review what good losers do: congratulate the winners, control frustration, be happy for teammates, avoid making scenes or excuses, etc.

It’s not over until I bust out my favorite line, because while preaching is easily forgotten, scare tactics often stick: “Twenty years from now nobody is going to remember how you do in this race. But everyone will remember if you’re a bad sport.” I know this is true because of a story my Dad once told me about a famous ski racer who, after the awards ceremony, disassembled her trophy and loudly proclaimed it “cheap.” To this day I cannot recall one of that athlete’s racing accomplishments, but I have a crystal clear vision of that unfortunate scene played out before my birth. And now my kids do too. I doubt that racer would be proud if she knew.

They indulge me these sermons, and all the little stories that go along with them, perhaps because they know I can’t help myself from yammering into them the messages that were yammered in to me as a kid. But they are also building their own image library of good vs. poor sportsmanship from real time scenarios. What stands out at the end of the race day is rarely an exceptional run, but often particular comments, gestures or behaviors that range from endearing to appalling. Especially in the heat of competition, sportsmanship matters. It shows that you can see beyond your own performance. It shows that you respect the efforts of everyone out there, and it shows that you are worthy of their respect as well.

That sense isn’t innate–it is learned, usually at home. Phil Mahre grew up being reminded to “be nice to the people on the way up because they’re the same ones you’ll meet on the way down.” Last summer I asked Ted Ligety about what or who instilled his sense of sportsmanship. “My parents I guess,” he grinned, adding, “I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have kept paying for me to do this if I was a jerk.” Note that these parents are not obsessed with outcomes and even if they’d had the opportunity, I doubt they would have tweeted or posted their kids’ results.

Parents may have the most opportunities to instill and support the value of sportsmanship, but they are not the only influencers. Recently I asked my parents about a particular race day ritual that was set in stone in our household. After every race, no matter how much we felt like slinking away, we had to congratulate the winner. And win or lose we had to thank the person who put on the race. It was often a mad scramble to track down the right  people so I could get on with the rest of the day’s shenanigans, but I always did it because I liked the way it made those people smile.

And let’s be real. I did it because it was a rule. I asked my parents how they, who were not hugely into sports as kids, knew to prioritize sportsmanship by requiring those acts?

“That doesn’t sound like anything I’d have made you do,” my Dad replied with an honesty that can only come from complete disassociation with a concept.

“I wish it was me,” my mom admitted, “but I think it was your coach.”

I thought back to that coach, the one I remembered as a quaint fixture of my junior racing days, who happened to be at the helm of many fun adventures. But then I remembered how he’d host the race families at his house to wax our skis the night before a race. To prepare for our most challenging race of the year, at a place notorious for complicated course sets, he’d unfurl a roll of toilet paper onto which he had copied the entire course as we would see it the next day.  He clearly wanted us to do well, and took pride in our performance but he also had a higher purpose. He wanted us to be a team, to love the sport and to be good sports first.

So here’s to you Paul Arthur. It may have taken me close to 40 years to recognize all that you taught me, but God knows as a parent and a coach you had to have patience.

And speaking of God, here’s to you Ted Ligety, for being a hero worthy of worship. Thank you for not throwing a fit when you fell six gates into the Kitzbuhel slalom or when your ski came off just before the finish in Wengen. Thank you for remembering to smile and laugh and keep it fun even when the pressure is on. There is a reason the competition smiles when congratulating you. Thank you for showing your many fans, large and small, that you can take the high road all the way to the top.

58 Comments

  1. Barbara J. Tierney Feb 11, 2013 at 18:46

    Edie……This is another winner …..love the sensible and easy lessons that are always so important to instill in the mind of all competitors. I am sure that both Ted Ligety and Paul Arthur will be filled with a happy pride knowing that the lessons they taught have a lasting importance for those who are taking up the teaching and coaching for the skiers of the future.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:42

      Thanks Barbara!

      Reply

  2. Mitzi Sayler Feb 11, 2013 at 19:38

    Thank you so much for this “note”. Its a great one, and I have lots of folks to share it with .
    You rock {:

    mitzi

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:41

      Please do share it! More smiling and less tweeting on the sidelines. Thanks Mitzi!

      Reply

  3. Brent Hansen Feb 11, 2013 at 19:58

    Thanks for this Edie – it is great. I have been feeling unsure about ski racing for my children and in the general big picture. This helped a lot. Big hugs. Brent Hansen

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:40

      Hi back atcha Brent! I hope those kids of yours keep racing. Lots of good lessons to be learned and lots of fun along the way. But you know that:-)

      Reply

  4. Andrea Stevenson Feb 11, 2013 at 20:58

    Edie-printing this out right this very minute to share with my family. Thank you for knowing that being a good ski racer means being a better person! Hope you are happy, healthy and soakin’ up winter time.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:43

      Hope you and yours are well too. Thanks for writing and happy ted appreciation day to your tribe!

      Reply

  5. Derrick Agee Feb 11, 2013 at 22:04

    Love this Edie! Very well said!

    Reply

  6. Patrick McIntosh Feb 11, 2013 at 22:52

    I love the sermons and the message you give your kids. What a great habit to thank the people who put on the race. Ted certainly has these qualities that can only come from good parents.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:44

      Thanks for reading Patrick and for spreading the gospel of Ted! Hope you are well out west.

      Reply

  7. Darcy Ahl Feb 12, 2013 at 04:34

    Amen, Edie!

    Reply

  8. Paul Quinlan Feb 12, 2013 at 08:44

    Thank you for reminding me that it’s not just about tuning skis and getting to the hill.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:34

      And don’t forget French fries. All part of the deal!

      Reply

  9. Cindy Hayhurst Feb 12, 2013 at 09:12

    Thanks for such a level-headed post, one that I will be sharing with my three ski racing boys. We talk a lot about good sportsmanship and how important it is to be a good loser as well as winner. It’s tough, especially on the days when we might go home with one of each.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 09:33

      Yes, it’s not easy, especially when you have a split decision! But what better scenario to show why being a good sport matters. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  10. Amie Bervy Feb 12, 2013 at 11:41

    You hit it on the head again, Edie. Thanks so much for sharing your incredible passion for the sport and your writing. Can’t wait to share this. Thank you.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 18:20

      Thanks Amie! You had a turn or two with Paul Arthur I am sure. Hope you and yours are all well. E

      Reply

  11. Russ McCoy Feb 12, 2013 at 13:33

    Edith, not only were you fast you were a good sportsman and nice to see you writing about this subject.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 12, 2013 at 18:20

      I was in good company!

      Reply

  12. ashley sargent Feb 12, 2013 at 15:31

    just read this to my kids at the dinner table, loved it, thank you!

    Reply

  13. Heather Black Feb 12, 2013 at 20:49

    When Lexi was 7 she won the “Kinder Cup” here in Sun Valley. She just nudged out Samantha Busby. Having grown up in a family much immersed in the world of competitive skiing, she’d seen athletes shake hands on their way to the podium with fellow athletes. I’ll never forget watching her go up to Sam and shake her hand and congratulate her! She didn’t know this girl (yet…now they are great friends and Sam dominates in skiing!), but it was a very proud moment to see her do that unprompted. I think it’s great, too, though to thank volunteers and organizers. Think I’ll plant that seed… Great piece!

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 13, 2013 at 03:23

      Love that story. Lexi sure has seen it at all levels. Hope you guys are all well!

      Reply

  14. kara Feb 13, 2013 at 01:24

    edie, thanks for putting ski racing racing into perspective and reminding us what’s really important. bravo!

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 15, 2013 at 21:07

      Thank you for reading and passing the message along Kara. By the way, my ace webmaster Monique Andersen added a subscribe button so you can now do that.

      Reply

  15. Megan Brown Brent Feb 13, 2013 at 10:31

    Edie-
    This is an article that every parent, coach and ski academy should read!! Thank you! Thank you!

    Hope you are well!

    Megan Brown Brent

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 14, 2013 at 10:12

      Glad you liked it megan and thanks for passing on the message. I am sure you do! Hope you and yours are well and skiing lots.

      Reply

  16. Ryan Boissonneault Feb 13, 2013 at 15:24

    We are really struggling at Cannon right now educating the parents and kids about focusing on the process and not the results. It is so tough now because the qualifying races have just started. Its amazing how people react when the word qualifier is mentioned! This will help. Thanks so much.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 13, 2013 at 15:52

      Thanks Ryan and I hope it helps. Check out my blog post called “it’s a long road.” It was written especially for qualifier season last year. I am quite sure it will apply this march, and every march. Good luck and thanks for spreading the good word!

      Reply

  17. Chris Knudsen Feb 14, 2013 at 07:20

    Hey Edie,

    this is fantastic, i just started my kids at the Sugar Bowl ski team. I am having a great time re-learning with them and helping out. You have so eloquently put in words the heart of what is important in sports and life.

    best,

    -chris

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 14, 2013 at 10:10

      Thanks chris! Glad you are getting the tribe in to it. It’s a great way to grow up and learn a lot more than how to turn a ski. Have a great winter!

      Reply

  18. Bob Harkins Feb 14, 2013 at 13:07

    A great message to share, Edie… you make your parents proud! Thanks for putting this out there. I can’t wait to read your book! See you on the hill…

    Reply

  19. Becky Stone Feb 15, 2013 at 09:04

    Thanks for writing this! Love all of it, and just shared it with our ski team families! Always looking for ways to help parents understand the sport and what the kids can learn from it BESIDES going fast! And it is so great to hear how awesome Ted is as a person for our ski kids, thank you!

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 15, 2013 at 21:05

      Thank YOU for passing it on. That’s the way it works. Good luck to all the Brighton kids and may they always keep the bigger picture in sight.

      Reply

  20. Kristian Omland Feb 15, 2013 at 18:47

    Great stories! Even though I wasn’t there, it’s easy to picture you thanking the race organizer and congratulating the winner. I think you and Mari were birds of a feather.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 15, 2013 at 21:02

      We certainly were. I remember connecting with Mari the first time we met. She’s a gem! Thanks for reading and taking the time to chime in.

      Reply

  21. Gretchen Sproehnle Feb 15, 2013 at 19:17

    I can still hear Paul’s big booming voice at the start of those Far West races! Thanks for this article. A great reminder of what I need to remind my kids to do on race day!

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 15, 2013 at 21:00

      Me too! When you think of how many kids of our generation he influenced, and how that influenced the next generation, it’s pretty cool. I know you and Rob are passing it on. Hope to see you in March out there!

      Reply

  22. Lad Lavicka Feb 18, 2013 at 20:55

    Bought your book “Shut Up and Ski” at Russ Shay’s Surefoot Shop in Vail and looked up your Blog to find this great piece on Ted and his humility and your shutout to Paul Arthur. I first met Paul when Mark Sullivan introduced me and Paul gave me my first carpentry job when I moved to Tahoe and taught me so much. My memories of coaching at Squaw and skiing with you and Tamara and all the best little rippers while letting the mountain do the coaching as we put on the miles with smiles on all our faces. Now I’ve come full circle as I coach my Carver Corps girls at Ski Club Vail along with Amie Bervy… We relocated to Vail to allow our son to learn good life lessons while attending the ski academy for his high school education. I’m enjoying your story and will pass along it’s many gems. Keep up the good work…

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 20, 2013 at 19:00

      Hi Lad and I am so glad you found the book in Russ’s shop. It’s only available in the finest shops you know! I hope it brings back some good memories and am glad you are keeping the next gen of ski racers going. Thanks for reading and Happy spring!

      Reply

  23. Dollie Armstrong Feb 19, 2013 at 19:46

    Edie,
    Love reading all of your articles. They are “gifts” to all parents who read them. I miss alot of your stuff, but when I actually “bump ” into your thoughts I love it! Dollie

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 20, 2013 at 18:57

      Awwww. Thanks so much. That means a lot coming from a master at raising good sports. I know the Armstrong’s always had their priorities in good order, all the way to the top!

      Reply

  24. Helen Olsson Feb 20, 2013 at 12:13

    Edie,
    great post! Sooooo true. I’m going to use some of your ideas this weekend. We have three kids racing at three mountains! Our coaches shared this with all the parents, so the gospel is getting spread.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 20, 2013 at 18:55

      Thanks Helen! Glad to hear the message is making the rounds in CO. Good luck with that three way split. Yikes!

      Reply

  25. Kari Hill Feb 21, 2013 at 07:53

    Hi from Calgary, Alberta, where, as a family, we watched last week’s World Championships in Austria and cheered for both Ted and Mikaela! Their results were outstanding but it was their demeanors that left a lasting imprint in our hearts and minds. One moment (or, in Ted’s case, 3!) encapsulated many, many years of communication with the community that raised them well.

    Reply

    • Edie Feb 21, 2013 at 09:39

      Well said! Our family enjoyed the show as well, and the stars did themselves proud. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  26. Kim Arthur Mar 2, 2013 at 17:08

    Edie,

    Your sister just told me about this post. Great piece and eloquently written. My Dad’s passion for the sport and sportsmanship definitely became teaching moments for those of us that were there and will continue with all of our kids. A big shout out to your Dad too who was motivating and wealth of knowledge that influenced me and continues to this day. Go Ted!

    Reply

    • Edie Mar 2, 2013 at 18:30

      Yes! I am so glad the Arthur clan is in on it. I am sorry it took me 40 years to give your dad a fraction of the props he deserves. It’s cool to think of how many generations he will influence with his enthusiasm for the sport. Thanks for tuning in Kim and all my best to you and yours. Hope we can make some runs some day!

      Reply

  27. Tracy Mar 27, 2013 at 17:37

    What a great article – I will be sharing this with our team.

    Reply

  28. PETRA PLAJBES Mar 31, 2013 at 11:08

    I’M PRINTING THIS ARTICLE RIGHT NOW FOR MY KIDS TO READ AND MEMORIZE! I HARP ON THEM WITH THIS KIND OF STUFF ALL THE TIME, BUT IT’S GOOD FOR THEM TO HEAR IT FROM AN “OFFICIAL” SOURCE. THANK YOU….SORRY TO HAVE MISSED YOU AT SQUAW…

    Reply

    • Edie Mar 31, 2013 at 19:13

      Thanks Petra! Yeah, we can’t say this stuff enough. And then just when you think the message has sunk in, it’s time to circle back! Hope you are well and happy spring.

      Reply

  29. Chris Apr 1, 2013 at 10:52

    In the words of my mother in-law “I vill find cheaper ways to make you cry”.It still works for my children,skiing is a privilege and we must treat it as such.

    Reply

    • Edie Apr 1, 2013 at 12:37

      I love that! I may adopt an accent and heritage just to be able to use that line. Thanks for reading and for an excellent perspective.

      Reply

  30. anne Dec 3, 2013 at 04:50

    perfect article for me this morning as Cat has decided she is the ONLY one not going to some kind of camp- this was just right for her as much better from someone else’s mom than her own:)

    Reply

    • Edie Dec 3, 2013 at 05:53

      Yeah- it’s a long road. Even harder for kids to see that when Shiffrin is World Champ at 17. There’s a reason patience is a virtue. I was just having this conversation Sunday, about being left home from camps or races, and how it was the best thing in the long run. Tell Cat to hang in there!

      Reply

  31. Travis Grant Dec 10, 2013 at 06:21

    Edie,

    We’ll be adopting the pre-race routine this season Edie. We’ve always wanted to impart sportsmanship, but I have a feeling we are about to get crisper!

    We are also looking forward to seeing this weekend at the Wachusett Youth Festival. We are all getting very excited as the weekend approaches.

    Travis
    @ttgrant

    Reply

    • Edie Dec 10, 2013 at 08:07

      Looking forward to being there! I was just in Vail and can attest that Ted is still killing it as a role model, as is Warner Nickerson among others. It’s great to see the big guys being cool to the little guys.

      Reply

  32. Speedy Jan 15, 2014 at 22:48

    Great article Edie keep it up Arch!

    Reply

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