USSA rookies take on ropes course |

USSA rookies take on ropes course

Every year, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) gathers its first-year athletes for a three-day Rookie Camp, where they learn about what it means to be part of the organization, how to handle media and many other aspects of a career in winter sports.

This year, the athletes learned about teamwork during an obstacle course training session at the National Ability Center in Park City. Climbing up, down and around on a three-level structure at the National Ability Center, the athletes learned to conquer their fears and place their trust in teammates to successfully cross unstable bridges, climb up and down poles and cargo nets and make their way across a wire high above the ground.

U.S. Ski Team rookie Caitlin Gregg, a Nordic skier who has competed independently on the World Cup and other tours for several years, said she was excited about the challenge the elevated obstacle course would present, but also a little bit nervous.

"I just had a big confession with the aerialists and the halfpipe snowboarders and skiers and told them I’m really afraid of heights," she laughed. "I’m a Nordic skier, so I tend to stay on the ground for a very long time. I just forewarned them that I might get up there and start crying."

Despite her trepidation about heights, Gregg said the time spent at the National Ability Center was filled with great activities.

"We’ve done a lot of team-building, camaraderie-type stuff," she said. "There’s a good level of support here. We just did some tarp-flipping exercise and we had to bear hug for the last 20 minutes, so I feel like it’s a pretty good group coming together already, which is a lot of fun."

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Even though many USSA athletes participate in sports that aren’t particularly team-oriented, Gregg said there are many lessons to learn about togetherness.

"One message we’ve heard a lot so far is how much team cohesion really raises the level of everyone else," she said. "It’s a good message, not just for cross-country, but for the entire USSA organization."

Gregg, 34, has competed in cross-country since 2001, so she said she’s already learned a lot of the things the younger rookies are learning this week. But, she added, it’s always nice to take a quick refresher course.

"So far, it’s been amazing," she said. "There’s a lot of information we’ve been given and a lot of opportunities to ask questions and really learn more about not only our own sports, but the other sports we’re with. I’m an older athlete, so it’s a lot of the stuff I’ve learned over the last 15 years of competing, but it’s kind of cool to get it all condensed into a three-day block. It’s been a lot of fun and super-informative. I’m glad they’re giving us these tools."

Gregg is excited to now be a part of the U.S. Ski Team and take advantage of the facilities at the Center of Excellence and the bonding experience that training together provides.

"We definitely feel [the cohesion] in the COE," she said. "There are a lot of people, all in different phases of their training, doing a lot of different types of training, and we all come together, whether it’s on the floor in the gym, the dining area or the [physical therapy] room. We can share stories and knowledge about what it takes to be the best in the world. What we’ve learned [at Rookie Camp] so far definitely will transfer over to some bigger things later on."

Training is already going well for Gregg and the women’s cross-country team, she said. She’s excited for this winter to roll around so she can compete with the squad for an entire season.

"From the outside, it’s hard not to notice how tight that group is and how well they get together and how much it raises the level of everyone on the team’s performance," she said. "For sure, I’d say it’s been incredibly fun and exciting to be a part of. We had our first camp here a couple weeks ago and, right away, I felt like I was part of the team — there was no transition time or anything like that. It’s just one team. I’m really excited about that."