Nordic Combined is such an interesting sport. Sometime long ago someone had the idea to throw these two polar opposite sports together to make Nordic Combined. This brings on a very diverse and unique group of athletes. Some are natural ski jumpers; they have the natural genetics of fast twitch muscles and raw power. Others are the opposite, they are powerhouses on the cross-country course, where the skill of endurance and pain is a gift that comes welcomed. This can make the teams very diverse and unique and allows for more competition and progression.
Let us back up to my first years on the national team. Over the course of your development, it is most likely that you will become part of a national training group where different athletes from around the country start to train together because they are of similar abilities and ages. I was very lucky to have a great group of athletes to train with and help push the level year after year. From my first years as a world junior athlete, I had three or four from Lake placid, a couple from Park City, and a handful of hometown Steamboat athletes. This was great and we each had groups to train with at home and one very large group when we did national camps. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to make the National team but that also helps raise the level of performance. In 2009, I was nominated to the U.S. Ski Team with three of my national training group buddies. We were all fast skiers but needed to work hard on our jumping. We came into a team that was in their prime and was winning world championship medals and world cups consistently. The team atmosphere was extremely addicting and full of confidence. I took everything in stride and in a way did what I was told. I thought the atmosphere was so productive that as long as we were working together, benefits and were going to be reached.
One of the hardest aspects of a team is when there is a big change. Every coach comes in with a new mentality, some people love it, and some have issues. This causes a bit of division in the team which can negatively affect the atmosphere and culture. Over the years, there has been that change as we have gone through different coaches for many years. With the work USA Nordic has been doing, it has been incredible. USA Nordic is a small organization compared to say the U.S. Ski team, and we have to work so hard for each opportunity and dollar. With the new crop of Athletes that are in the team now, there is this incredible drive and commitment. It is noticed throughout the whole team from athletes and staff and the benefits are amazing. When I look back on my first year on the team, it feels oddly similar, but my role has changed. I was the young guy looking in and fighting for his place on the big team. Now I am the “old guy” and fighting to stay ahead of the young wolves on this team. It is this competitive structure that breads success. While we may not have the results we once had, I am confident that this next group of athletes will get there, and we will come full circle again. Each person on the team is here to do their job, the waxers are excited for every race, the coaches are there for whenever an athlete needs something, and the athletes are working as one unit every day of the year. One of the best aspects that I have noticed is how great the atmosphere is at team meals. Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner there is always contagious laughter and smiles and who doesn’t want to be a part of that! There is life and there is energy in USA Nordic, and I am proud to be a part of it.