Camp at Utah Olympic Park aims to show athletes what it takes to be elite
Thirty-one years ago, Doug Lewis retired from competitive downhill ski racing. Armed with decades of knowledge after competing at the highest of levels, Lewis knew he wanted to do something that would allow him to pass along everything he’d learned in his career.
So he started ELITEAM (Elite Team) Day Camp, which he and his wife Kelley created 28 years ago aimed at fostering the next generation of athletes. Lewis’ accolades from his days as a downhill skier include a bronze medal at the FIS Ski World Championships in 1985 and representing Team USA in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, where he placed in the top-32 each time.
“It was all about being a complete athlete that allowed me to compete at that high of a level,” Lewis said. “I was only a good skier but to be one of the best, I had to be good at everything else. … So that’s why I reflected on my career, I was able to break it down into three pillars that made me who I was.”
For Lewis, those three pillars are what his ELITEAM camp is built on: physiology, psychology and nutrition.
“I realized that as I got older, my mind became the No. 1 thing,” Lewis said. “It wasn’t so much what I could do physically, but everything else, that allowed me to be as successful for as long as I was.”
Lewis’ camp, which he holds in collaboration with the Utah Olympic Park and Park City Ski and Snowboard, begins on Monday and will run through Friday as a day camp at the Utah Olympic Park.
Each day starts at 8:30 each morning and ends at 4:30 with each meticulously designed and intended to help improve the athletes participating. Lewis typically works with kids between the ages of 8-14 but for this camp, it’s open to kids between the ages of 9-13, an age group he particularly likes.
“This age group is gold. … They’re the best because they’ll do anything, they’re up for anything and their minds are sponges,” Lewis said. “Physically, they can learn agility and coordination but they’re also at a point where everything is starting to make sense. The best part is that they’re not ‘too cool for school’ at this point.”
Each attendee of the camp will receive a 40-plus page notebook to fill out and keep detailing Lewis’ three pillars.
“Half of our camp is learning, educating and teaching them,” Lewis said. “Part of what we do is explain ‘why.’ It’s part of what makes things click with people if they know why they’re doing what they’re doing, they will go out and do it instead of just being told what to do.”
Sports physiology makes up the first section, detailing strength, agility, power, mobility, cardio, core work and rest. Each camper will go through these different portions of the section to figure out what makes them individually successful.
The sports psychology section is centered on self-awareness, getting the kids to understand that what may make one person successful doesn’t necessarily translate to another. They’re taught how to deal with distractions and make a focus plan.
“We teach them how to embrace being a winner and how to embrace failure. … You can always learn something from winning or losing and we teach them how to reflect on the good and bad,” Lewis said. ‘We teach how to really do it all mentally because you can always be learning something, you just have to have the right frame of mind.”
Sports nutrition, which, according to Lewis, was the hardest thing to teach himself, makes up the final pillar of his success plan. Nutrition was a complete unknown back when he was training. Throughout the camp, the kids will learn what they should be eating and when they should eat, but also be taught how to cook certain foods to help make them self-sufficient.
“I may not win a race because of nutrition, but I do know that poor nutrition will lose you a race,” Lewis said.
ELITEAM camp has seen a multitude of national team athletes pass through it, including ski race phenom Mikaela Shiffrin, 2019 Junior World Ski Championships silver medalist Katie Hensien and two-time World Junior Champion River Radamus.
“Mikaela came when she was younger. She didn’t really stand out physically but I do remember that she would not quit practicing; nothing would stop her,” Lewis said of Shiffrin, who is now considered the world’s most dominant ski racer. “I had to drag her away from the course and make her go to dinner. … Even at a young age she had that motivation to work and be the best.”
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Over the last 12 years, the National Ability Center has funded organized and hosted the Summit Challenge, a bike ride for participants of all abilities.