“Keep the skill, lose the drill”

“Keep the skill, lose the drill”.  This was a mantra that I heard on a recent ski course.  The idea being that drills help to develop skills, but it is important to identify the key part of the drill and to put that into your “normal” skiing.
With this in mind, it is amazing how many people there are clearly practicing drills after their ski lessons.  It’s as though they have missed the point – drills are a means to an end, not the end itself.
Lots of people expect to be given drills to learn during their ski lesson.  They seem to think that if they can do all the drills ever invented they will become a better skier.  Well, yes, some people will become better skiers, but there are others who will simply become good at doing drills.

I’ve been wondering about this for a while.  Do students ask for drills because they believe that drills are the answer or simply because they have always been given drills in the past.  Do instructors give students drills to do because they believe that drills are the answer or simply because it is what the students are asking for and, to be honest, giving students a series of drills to practice is a pretty easy lesson plan to follow.

Whilst skiing there is no time to consciously think of doing drills i.e. this movement, followed by this movement, followed by this movement… The body must be able to respond to a constantly changing environment. The snow is not consistent, the slope is not uniform, the other people using the slope are not always predictable, to make the same specific movement is not always optimal.

To integrate drills usefully into a skiers development, one approach is to help the skier to identify what specific movement or feeling they get from performing the drill. If it is not the specific feeling that the instructor was hoping for then may be a different drill should be explored. Identify the feeling and analyse what effect that specific movement will have on the performance. Focus on the performance outcomes, then go skiing. Focus on the performance outcomes whilst skiing as opposed to the drill inputs.

Although as an instructor it is tempting to prescribe drills to help students to improve, with a little more thought and attention, you can help your students make the connection between drills and skiing / inputs and outcomes.
Having a toolbox full of drills is great but don’t forget the bigger picture.
The job becomes a whole lot more interesting, satisfying and enjoyable when you see your students skiing with confidence and flow, whooping with enjoyment! After all, that is why we all go skiing!