Cody Marshall finds new success
You may have heard of Cody Marshall because of his mile-long list of skiing accolades, including winning NorAm titles and podiuming at Europa Cups. Or you might be familiar with his family, well-known in the ski racing world, with two of his three siblings also having made the U.S. Ski Team.
Or it may be you’re familiar with Marshall because of his accident a few years ago. And it’s not easy to forget. He sports a glaring reminder on the top of his shaved head — a gnarly scar that stretches from the top of his forehead to the back of his skull.
"It effectively ended my skiing career," Marshall said. "It was a stupid mistake that had huge consequences."
Marshall was horsing around with his friends on a broken-down escalator late at night in Park City in 2009 when he fell three stories to the ground, crushing his skull. He was rushed to the hospital, where he lay in a coma — his family unaware if he would ever come out of it.
But with the boundless determinism he was well-known for in ski racing, Marshall woke up. And little by little, he recovered, shattering every goal the doctors set. But it wasn’t enough for him.
"A big thing for me after my head injury was dealing with the changes and limitations that come along with sustaining massive brain trauma," said Marshall. "Things were never going to be the same and I had to learn to accept that. I needed to re-understand who I was and part of that was ski racing."
He attempted a comeback, but his processing speed was different.
"It’s like your internet is really slow. It was noticeable," said Marshall. "I was in touch with my body, but the biggest thing for me was I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take a lot of risk and put myself on the line physically. I’m much more calculated now."
He finished his skiing career on a high note, winning two USSA races at Snowbird and calling it good. But, ski racing was what he knew — he’d been racing since he was 10 — so he started coaching with the Park City Ski Team. Soon after, he met Bob Bennett, a local guy who owns a financial firm and wanted to be a competitive ski racer. Bob offered to pay Cody to coach him.
"So, I started private coaching him," said Marshall. "We would drive back and forth to camps and races, and eventually we got bored of just talking about skiing. So we started talking about business."
Bennett owns a private equity firm called GroundSwell Resources, but was working on a side project to teach college-aged kids about finance and private equity. It was a boot camp format with an apprenticeship-like model, in which students would finish the school and have the potential to buy a business and run it with Bob or get job placement opportunities with businesses needing their skills. They’d do between 800-1,000 hours of class time, and in conjunction, be working hands-on with real companies on the scenarios about which they were learning. Marshall volunteered to be Bennett’s test subject.
"I stopped the traditional education model when I was 11 years old," said Marshall. "I was mostly homeschooled while ski racing. So this nontraditional program made sense to me."
With the gritty resolution Marshall is known for, he jumped in and started learning from Bennett. His first project using his newly acquired skills was working with Bryon Friedman and his company SoulPoles.
"I did consulting work with Bryon through GroundSwell and helped him implement the strategies we came up with," said Marshall. "This process makes it interesting as a student and incredibly effective. There’s a balance between structure and freedom of actually doing something."
It was an ideal program for Friedman, as well.
"We’re a big manufacturing business, so we have a lot of labor costs. GroundSwell and Cody helped me truly understand those costs and how I could make things more efficient — or at least plan for true costs through specific processes," relayed Friedman. "He took the time to truly get granular. I use his findings every day."
Firsthand, Marshall saw the influence this program had on him and realized it could be productive for other athletes who wanted to balance their goals as ski racers with the development of a career. Enter GroundSwell Athletics, an offshoot of Bennett’s newly formed boot camp. Marshall realized that he could take postgraduates — kids who had finished going to high school, but weren’t quite at the level to make a D1 ski racing program or walk on to the U.S. Ski Team, as well as college graduates who were looking to continue to ski race — and train them in both skiing and finance.
"I was talking with Bob about the challenges of being a ski racer, his business and how quickly I could learn it and how enjoyable it was," said Marshall. "The opportunity was pretty crazy. Why don’t we offer this same program to PG skiers to address the issues that a PG athlete faces?"
GroundSwell Athletics is a combination of skiing and school addressing the challenges that are associated with "taking time off" to be a ski racer.
"We’re giving student athletes the ability to combine skiing with education in business through a scenario-based and experience-based learning method," Marshall said. "Plus, the program helps manage the risk of not finding a job after finishing school and a ski racing career."
This will be the first year that GroundSwell Athletics will be in action. The athletes will train for four hours a day under Marshall, an experienced coach. Then the skiers will go into the classroom. Depending on the time of year, it’ll be between two and six hours a day of class time. Bennett will be teaching, as will Marshall.
"I didn’t know what I was going to do when I was done with the ski team," said Marshall. "I was focused on being a ski racer and going after that dream. I want to address that question for these athletes, and help them in that transition."
Julie Glusker, who heads up USSA’s Athlete Career and Education program is equally as enthusiastic about the program’s potential.
"We are really excited about the opportunities that GroundSwell Athletics could bring to our athletes. The programs and content could be really relevant and impactful for driven, motivated, goal-setting athletes," said Glusker. "This allows our athletes, who are individually minded, to engage in more of an organization and something beyond sport."
GroundSwell Athletics will be having their first ski camp at Mammoth Mountain from May 24 to June 2.
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