Wednesday, September 8, 2004 - Athlete Perspective
Haywood National Team Report: A Lesson Learned and One Opinion

By: Chris Jeffries

When I was growing up, my brother and I had a saying, ďcockiness breeds bad play.Ē It was used mostly when playing NHL í95 on our Sega Genesis, the ultimate video game. After many years since its first use, I realize now it holds meaning outside the world of video games and extends to most facets of life, including skiing. Our team arrived home last week from a long, but very productive training camp in New Zealand. Upon our arrival in New Zealand, I had adapted very well to the jet lag, my sleep patterns seemingly not being affected by the large time change. In fact, my last few trips overseas have been quite easy in that sense. So coming home from this trip, I casually threw out the window all the keys to adaptation that we normally†use. I napped at the airport in San Francisco, and I didnít go to sleep or wake up at my normal times when I got home, choosing instead to watch some Olympic coverage and then sleep in until noon. In this case, cockiness breeds bad sleep. The next two nights I split shifts lying in bed and watching the†Olympics until the early hours of the morning, compensating by sleeping in and being too tired to do all my training. Mike Cavaliere recounted to me a conversation he had with my Dad where he told him how I learned the importance of 10 hours of sleep after rooming with George for most of the winter. My fatherís response was, ďshouldnít he have learned that by now.Ē Sorry Dad, but Iím 26 years old and still learning. The only way you are going to improve is by learning from your mistakes. It would have been nice to get by this learning curve before now, but just like my training base, Iím a little behind.

Besides my continued effects from jet lag, today has been a bit of a down day. My roommate and friend Adam Hull has moved out and back to school, and for the first time in two weeks, there is no Olympic coverage to wake up to. Instead I found myself monitoring CBC newsworld for news out of Athens. I was treated to the usual post-games opinions of the athletes, coaches and bureaucrats. We seem to have created a vicious cycle of little to no coverage of amateur sports in the media in the two years between Olympics to being bombarded with the games in the news throughout the fortnight. The big topics are our underachieving athletes and our under funded programs.

I think itís extremely unfair that these athletes get berated like this. They are not being paid multi-million dollar contracts like professional athletes. These athletes, many of whom are students, are often working part or full time jobs. They do it because they love their sport, the lifestyle that comes with it, and competing for their country. Being a full time amateur athlete is an extremely tough decision. For your average athlete, it is not a financially good decision. Choosing to put school on hold and move to Canmore was a very difficult decision for me. It is clear that this country is for the most part not willing to support it's athletes, so why should our athletes have to answer to these standards. We are considered role models, yet are treated as such only when it is convenient. It is not just up to our government and the taxpayers to support our national programs. Just like sport, itís a team effort. Why would corporate Canada support amateur athletes when they are not likely to get much visibility in the media? Non-professional sport is lucky to get a small space in the sports scoreboard section or a brief side note on one of Canadaís sport networks. Sadly, itís business for these companies, and they want to get a return for there investment.

If you look through the sports section of a European newspaper, you will most likely run into numerous articles on their nation's athletes - granted you will have to make your way through ten plus pages of soccer first. And itís a lot of these reporters who donít give us the time of day all year but then rip into us if we donít meet expectations. If they arenít prepared to support us, what gives them the right to berate us? A reporter from the Globe and Mail once referred to us as the ďworldís most anonymous menís ski team.Ē Well, at least we were number one. Thanks for the press! They fail to look at the whole picture. We were young two years ago. On average we are still young. I believe whole-heartedly that by 2010, we will field both menís and womenís teams that will be competing for medals. Most likely you wonít hear about us until we finish the race. The Olympics showcase one day every four years of an athletes career. I donít think itís fair to evaluate anyone once every four years. The menís eight was considered a big disappointment. It was disappointing, but they also didnít lose a race for two years leading up to the games, an extremely rare feat in sport.

I donít mean to sound like a whiny athlete, but these attitudes rub me the wrong way. Compared to other sports, my teammates and I are very lucky. We have a terrific program that stretches our limited resources an extremely long way. We have a great Board that works very hard, many on a volunteer basis, extremely dedicated coaches who will do anything for their athletes, a group of outside resources who are very excited to work with our program, and sponsors who give us long term backing. On the contrary, Iíve heard horror stories from other athletes in other sports. Judo Canada pays for only one competition a year for their athletes. How as a nation can we expect international excellence when you have to work just has hard to afford to get to the start line as you do to reach the finish. Iíve heard from numerous sources that the phones of gymnastics programs in B.C. and Alberta are ringing off the hook as parents look to sign up their children after the gold medal performance of Kyle Shewfelt. This is the effect a role model can have on a nation. The major platform of our federal political partiesí election campaign was healthcare. I think this speaks volumes†for the state of our population. Isnít it better to solve a problem by attacking the root rather than simply applying a band-aid? This is a very comprehensive topic, one far to large to cover adequately in a Haywood Report. Itís not enough to improve our infrastructure; we need to improve our attitudes as well.

Haywood WC Report is powered by Haywood Securities Inc., proud sponsor of the†Senior†National Cross Country Ski Team

Source: Cross Country Canada

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