Dave Shively: Saving the best for last | SteamboatToday.com

Dave Shively: Saving the best for last

Dave Shively

Steamboat Springs — This time of year, it becomes hard to ignore the NFL hype machine churning out power ratings and an endless stream of analysts dissecting teams (from other states) clinching division titles en route to the playoffs. — This time of year, it becomes hard to ignore the NFL hype machine churning out power ratings and an endless stream of analysts dissecting teams (from other states) clinching division titles en route to the playoffs.

— This time of year, it becomes hard to ignore the NFL hype machine churning out power ratings and an endless stream of analysts dissecting teams (from other states) clinching division titles en route to the playoffs.

Local team sports are no different.

It’s the same pattern – open the season with a handful of non-league games, hope to steadily improve team dynamics, fitness and systems, and then aim to produce peak performances “down the stretch” in big league games, carrying momentum into the postseason or regional/statewide competition.

But for a select group of local athletes, there is no stretch before the year’s defining competition. You hit the ground running – or the air. In the case of Steamboat’s top freestyle athletes, you hit the first real slope you see and hope to go as big and as smooth as possible.

In eight days, six Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freestyle skiers, having seen little more than the 50-meter length of bumps at Howelsen Hill, will compete at the U.S. Freestyle Team Selections in Winter Park.

Recommended Stories For You

“Selections could be a mental game, so early in the year with the whole U.S. team out there,” SSWSC freestyle program director Erik Skinner said. “It’s a pressure game – here, you can have a (U.S. Ski Team) suit if you ski well today.”

The stakes are high, but if picking the nation’s best is the point, why not separate the cream of the crop by uncovering each athlete’s base ability? In other words, by seeing which athletes accumulate the least summer rust?

“It’s such a year-round sport that it shows who’s been training the most, and if you’re not, you’re going to get left in the dust,” Skinner said.

The elite end of Steamboat’s freestyle snowboarders has it no easier. In just five days, the club’s pro-am team opens with the first of three U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix events – used in Olympic years to determine the national team.

Six of the eight team members will compete at the Grand Prix, Dec. 14 to 16 in Breckenridge. Fortunately, the team has confidence trickling down from one of its own, Matt Ladley, on the U.S. Snowboarding Rookie Team.

“He’ll come back from a big camp and the other kids will see you have good and bad days and can realize that it’s not an unattainable goal to make the U.S. team, that you don’t have to be perfect or superhuman,” pro-am freestyle coach Spencer Tamblyn said.

Pair that perspective with coaching from Tamblyn – recently named the halfpipe coach for the national six-member PacSun USASA Snowboard Team – and add in the local, PacSun and U.S. teams often training together and pushing one another, and you have a fertile breeding ground that is likely to catapult another Steamboat rider to the Grand Prix’s podium.

With a season that starts on such an immediate national stage, don’t be surprised to see these teenage athletes mature into adults just as ready for international competition.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.