Red Card Roberts
March 6, 2012
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, "Excellence, is not an act, but a habit." And, at least in Park City, the habit of excellence has an address. It’s 1 Victory Lane.
That’s the home office, also known as The Center of Excellence, for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) athletes, coaches and administrative staff, though it might be a little difficult to tell who is who. Because according to Luke Bodensteiner, they all act like champions.
Luke is the USSA’s executive vice president of athletics. And he’s convinced the team’s success is just that — the team’s.
"All of our teams are performing at the highest level right now, and there are probably 1,000 factors that influence our performance. But to drill it down to one thing, it’s our culture. It’s about being the best at all levels and that belief has really focused everyone on what matters when we make decisions. We make sure everything we do is pointed at that one thing: being the best," he said.
No doubt, that philosophy seems to be working. Nearly every sport under the USSA umbrella has had an athlete on the podium recently.
According to Margo Christiansen, the USSA’s communications director, "Lindsey Vonn is still dominating, claiming her 51st win, but we’re seeing similar results in other sports, too: Hannah Kearney’s 16 straight World Cup wins, Kelly Clark’s 15 straight wins, Sarah Hendrickson’s six wins in the inaugural World Cup season breaking hill records left and right, Kikkan Randall continuing to win World Cups and the women’s cross-country team posting the highest results ever. We’re also seeing it in freeskiing with Tom Wallisch winning all but one slopestyle contest this season that he’s entered, Devin Logan continuing to land on the podium in nearly every event, David Wise with back-to-back halfpipe skiing wins, among others."
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So why so many medalists across the board lately? Luke says it’s because of everyone’s sense of team.
"It’s really proliferated across all our sports. There’s a lot of crossover between our disciplines. In the past, athletes from different sports have been rivals for resources and attention. But we’ve really shifted our thinking and developed into one big team and all the athletes support each other and feed off that. We’ve emphasized our collective success as a team and everyone plays a role. Everyone understands that individual success is part of the system for all of us to take pride in," he said.
Luke didn’t have to look far to find a number of examples of the team celebrating the team’s success. But his favorite example is something that happened during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
That’s when a coach was videotaping his snowboard team in their house as they were all watching the moguls contest on TV. Hannah Kearney won the gold medal, and according to Luke, the snowboard team went positively crazy.
"They were so ecstatic for her. I believe the pride they took in Hannah’s performance inspired their own," he noted. "That video is something we show to all our athletes, to remind them that we’re all in this together."
And while we’ve all heard the saying: "There is no "I" in team," at the USSA, they seem to actually personify it.
"Everyone has a dog in the fight. We all take pride in the performances of our athletes. It started with a vision of becoming the best in the world, and we lived by that mantra and focused all of our planning around that, and it evolved out of those ethos," added Luke.
He might not be an ancient Greek philosopher, but it’s obvious Luke Bodensteiner is on to something pretty excellent, and habitual.
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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.