The Power of GRATITUDE

‘Tis the season of giving thanks….and of course, eating excessive turkey and heaps of mashed potatoes!!!  Every year, I am reminded how GOOD it feels to express out loud why I feel so lucky to be living the life I am, and how important the people in my life really are to me.  And I wonder why I don’t do it MORE.

Robert Emmons designed a series of studies to take a closer look at the science of happiness, and gratitudes role in it.  He took a group of people and split them into three groups:

Group 1: Write down 5 things that you are grateful for

Group 2: Write down 5 things  that were a hassle

Group 3: Write down whatever comes to your mind

After journaling once a week for ten weeks, the results were staggering: People in Group 1 practicing weekly gratitude reported better sleep, 1.5 hours increased exercise per week, and were 25% happier (Emmons and McCullough, 2003).  He even took it a step further and focused on participants who had been diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder, who had every reason to be unsatisfied with life’s circumstances.  The study showed that not only where they happier in day-to-day life, they were actually optimistic.

So then other scholars started questioning, does it last?  If I put in the effort to be intentional about expressing gratitude, do these “miracle benefits” actually stick around?  A follow-up study 6 months post showed that participants were happier, coped more efficiently with day-to-day stress, were more resilient in the face of emotional or physical trauma, and even showed declining feelings of depression (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).

I think a lot of times we tend to get wrapped up in trying to change our circumstances.  If only I won the lotto, then I would be happier.  If only I got that promotion, or won that competition, life would be better.  We focus on an idealized hypothetical future as the object of a better life.

Don’t misunderstand me; this is not an argument for complacency.  There is a striking difference between acceptance and complacency.  While complacency is a stagnant lack of growth, acceptance is finding contentment where you are, free of judgment, and using it as a platform for action.

People spend years thinking that if they were more successful, they’d be happier, when the truth of the matter is, if they were happier, they would be more successful.  If we can learn to appreciate where we ARE, who we are, what we have, we become open to possibility and growth.  Happiness makes things happen.

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This is a picture I took on an early morning dawn patrol on Berthoud Pass, and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for life and unbridled happiness.  I look at it every time I need a reminder that things are pretty darn good, and that at any point, I have the CHOICE to be happy.

So choose to be where you are.  Choose to be thankful where you are.  Choose to let that gratitude show in your actions and your behaviors.  That energy will take you places you never dreamed you could go.


Powering into the New Season!

As the leaves begin to change and the temperature starts to drop, excitement brews amongst the Winter Park Competition Center skiers and snowboarders, dreaming of that first day back on snow.  This past weekend, Comp Center athletes began their preparations for the season by assessing their fitness and getting stocked up on gear.

The weekend began with the Second Annual Ute Trail Challenge, a timed running race from the base of Winter Park Resort to the top of Sunspot.  A 1500 foot elevation gain in just two miles, the grueling run challenges both body and mind.  Coming in first for the boys was Nordic skier Alex Holinka, with an impressive time of 29 minutes and 11 seconds, closely followed by Freestyle Moguls skier Finn Balfe, only 48 seconds behind.  Coming in first for the ladies was Abby Wollan, improving her time from last year by an incredible 10 minutes!  The winners for both genders received $100 to the Columbia store in the Village.

Athletes finished off Saturday by attending Manufacturer’s Day to check out the latest and greatest gear from companies like Volkl, Atomic, Fischer, Swix, Zipline Poles, Shaman Skis, Fuxi, and Head.

Sunday morning, athletes gathered outside Fraser Valley Recreation Center to test their physical readiness in the Comp Center’s twice annual Fitness Assessment.  Participating in tests like the box jump, 1.5 mile run, and 20 meter sprint assessed their speed, anaerobic, and aerobic capacities, while tests like the broad jump and vertical jump looked at strength and power.  The athletes also engaged in the Y-Balance test, an assessment used to look at single leg symmetry with the goal of injury prevention.  Check out our top performers!

Vertical Jump Greyson Cromer, Alpine Megan Bausano, Alpine Chase Allen, Freestyle Liv Sroka, Freestyle Garrett Gillest, Alpine Keely Monkouski, Big Mountain
20m Dash Greyson Cromer, Alpine Emily Jensen, Nordic Chase Allen, Freestyle Liv Sroka, Freestyle Will Solomon, Snowboard Liz Lipscomb, Alpine
Broad Jump Tanner Murphy, Freestyle Emily Jensen, Nordic Chase Allen, Freestyle Jenna Blatchford, Alpine Micah Byrum, Alpine Keely Monkouski, Big Mountain
Pushups Sebastian Brower, Nordic AND Greyson Cromer, Alpine Megan Bausano, Alpine AND Emily Jensen, Nordic Jackson Harvey, Freestyle AND Chase Allen, Freestyle Liv Sroka, Freestyle Garrett Gillest, Alpine Keely Monkouski, Big Mountain
Box Jump Greyson Cromer, Alpine AND Tanner Murphy, Freestyle Emily Jensen, Nordic Chase Allen, Freestyle Liv Sroka, Freestyle Asher Michel, Freestyle Jay Valiquette, Alpine
1.5m Run Sebastian Brower, Nordic Sierra Smith, Nordic Jackson Harvey, Freestyle Maggie Schneider, Freestyle Kai Neff, Alpine Liz Lipscomb, Alpine

Overall, it was a great weekend of athletes pushing themselves and one another towards excellence.

The Science of THOUGHT: New Research with Compelling Applications

In the competitive ski and snowboard world, from an early age we are taught two things about our mental game:

  1. Think positive!
  2. Use visualization to imagine the course.

So we tell ourselves “I got this!” as we imagine ourselves ripping down the perfect line.  What we tend to forget is that this tools WORK, and they work even better when we use them in SPECIFIC and MEANINGFUL ways.

A new study was recently conducted that looked at the effect of the use of imagery and motivational self-talk on response time in martial arts athletes.  The results were quite telling:

  • Participants who used only IMAGERY improved their response time by 9.1%
  • Participants who used only SELF-TALK improved their response time by 9.4%
  • Participants who used BOTH imagery and self-talk improved their response time by 11%
  • Participants who DID NOT use either technique actually worsened their response time by 9.7%

11% improved response time – pretty incredible.  Sign me up! But HOW do we make our self-talk and imagery specific and meaningful enough to make a difference?  Here are some thoughts:

  • CUE WORDS – Focus the brain on ONE thing, whether that is a movement (“pull!” or “forward”), a feeling (“power”), an emotion (“confidence”), or a state of mind (“present”) – focusing on ONE thing quiets the mind and zones in focus on what we want to accomplish here and now, and cues the brain to DO what we are telling it to do!
  • IMAGERY FOR OVERCOMING OBSTACLES – Imagery isn’t just about seeing yourself on course, or about memorizing the gates; it can be used in many more specific ways, tailored to accomplish a certain goal:
    • See/feel a specific movement slowed down (like learning a new trick or technique)
    • See/feel yourself overcoming a fear of a particular movement/venue/condition (see yourself powerfully on your outside ski in icy conditions – see yourself stand at the top of the jump, take a deep breath, commit to it and land – see yourself dominate a course where you previously fell last year)
    • See/feel power in a recovering injury – see healing, strength, energy, going to the injured body part.  Envision yourself back on snow feeling confident on the injured part, feeling strong and powerful.

“Over and over in my mind, every day, maybe a thousand times a day, I see myself being the best. After awhile, the body just responds to that. You step into a situation and the body feels like it’s already done that, it’s already been the best, so it’s just going out there and doing it again.” ~USA track and field Olympic bronze medalist

The science shows that this stuff WORKS – start practicing it during the off-season so that when the snow starts falling, you are READY!

“You are creating the sights and sounds and smells, the atmosphere, the sensation, and the nerves, right down to the early morning wake-up call and that feeling in your stomach. It helps your body to get used to performing under pressure.” – Jonny Wilkinson, Rugby 

For more information about imagery, self-talk, of the science behind it all, contact Stephanie Zavilla at

Hanshaw, G., & Sukal, M. (2016). Effect of self-talk and imagery on the response time of trained martial artists Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 5(3), 259-265. Adapted from:

Sports Performance Season Overview

Check out this newsletter that covers all of the developments our Sports Performance Program has embarked on this year!!!  The Winter Park Competition Center is very proud of its commitment to supporting every avenue of athleticism and personal growth, and we are very thankful to our sponsors and support from programs like the Winter Park Ski Education Foundation for enabling us to do so!

16 17 Season Overview Newsletter

Proper Parent Protocol

Check out this blog article by Amy Cheney-Seymour on the “Proper Parent Protocol” – Hilariously accurate!!!

Congratulations. Your child participates in Nordic skiing. Wow, they made it to Junior Nationals, bravo!

How is your self-esteem?

That bad? Not surprising since unless you are part of the 1% of happy parents, your child is pretty much disgruntled, distant and disinterested in you. If you are not a one percenter, she or he hasn't hugged you after a ski race since the age of six.  Instead she or he complains, or swears when results are not as she or he imagined. Stop the madness, join the 1% of duck parents, who let results and emotional turbulence roll off their back.


Race day, 7 am. You are a short order cook. You would do anything to assist his nutritional performance. You spend an hour whipping organic free range happy hen eggs into a frenzy, pouring your homemade maple syrup on the multi-grain waffles you carefully kept warm, not dried out.  Skillfully browned organic turkey bacon, from farms where the turkey’s die of old age is on the platter. Cut fruit. A candle. Ta-dah!  Enter your cherub, who sits down, grunts, and takes out a yogurt from the fridge. You urge the steaming plate forward, on the place mat, next to the sparkling orange juice. He hastily eats the yogurt, leaves the dirty spoon in the cup, and begins the treasure hunt for his suit, socks, wind briefs. You feed the pancakes to the dog.

A week ago the child decided she need energy gel. A specific energy gel that helps her propel tirelessly forward. All natural energy gel that friend Henry says is the best. You like Henry. You like all natural.  It’s a victory.  You commit yourself to finding this energy gel, which does not exist in stores, but the all mighty Amazon sends it right along.  It arrives with cardboard fanfare and you present the gels to your child, on race morning, with an expectant air of, well, expecting a thank you. Your child grumbles, thumbs through them and asks if they have strawberry-kiwi- mango-lime because that is her new favorite flavor as of one hour ago. She sighs, shut the box and wanders away. Your happy morning further crumbles. You do the dishes, pack the lunch.

Upon departure you notice the child has forgotten the water bottle, energy gel, and gloves, your new gloves she requisitioned without a so much as by your leave.  These items go into the Parents Emergency Back Pack, which contains enough food for a week, surgical kit, an array of clothing for weather from -10 to 50 and raining, nine feet of ribbons, twenty pounds of wax, an iron, a portable wax table and cowbells. In the car you realize you forgot to eat your own breakfast and only had three gulps of tea.

As the child is in the zone, you let him plug in and listen to music. He doesn’t like your music. He is sick of you playing Pearl Jam in the car every day. This is against car rules, but you want happy.  So you let him plug in noticing on his phone that Given to Fly is currently playing. You say nothing, you say nothing, because you want harmony.

You experience this happy moment at drop off. Someone else can deal with your cantankerous brat, a brat you love, but one who is grating on your nerves.  Your child has a literal team of coaches to wax, urge, prep and direct his or her efforts. “Goodbye, honey. Good Luck.” Grunt.

You should wander down the hill, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the scenery.  You should chat with friends about your similar morning spent with an ingrate. You do not do this. You do not do this, because you do not understand Proper Parent Protocol. You don’t put your oxygen mask on first.  You miss the fleeting moment of solitude, instead you hover.

Admit it. Come on. I do it, I hover too.

Maybe you are a patient hoverer. You wait the appropriate 20 yards away trying to catch a glimpse of him so you can hand over the forgotten water, energy gel, and gloves (I barge right over. After 20 years of this skiing gig, I have no patience.) When you try and hand the forgotten items over, he doesn’t want the gel, but take the gloves and the water, and hurriedly commits himself single-mindedly to the pre-race anxiety routine (PRA).  PRA consists of pacing, leg swinging, changing head bands, braiding, unbraiding, and changes of hat, sunglasses and gloves. This can also include ski changes, including insisting the un-waxed skis are faster (which are not faster, and you will also pay for this poor choice later in the car ride home).  They may decide that 20 degrees is balmy, and to wear just a bib, or a bib and a jog bra. When you mention it is a bit nippy for such scantily foolhardy wardrobe changes, he glares at you like you are a very bad or very stupid person.  You are not bad or stupid, but you are the person who will be nursing him back to health in a week.

Now, feeling injured and unappreciated, you saunter down for that cup of tea, your heart weeping on your sleeve. You stand in line for that tea, squishing the energy gel back and forth in your pocket, sick to your stomach. You recognize you are anxious. Why? Your child has successfully transferred their angst to you. You are stress sponge at saturation point.

Where do you put his nervous energy? You manifest into Crazy Ski Parent. Own it, go ahead, choose from the following: All knowing: You know too much. Former coach, former ski racer, former super star. Every subtle nuance of the race day is weighing you down like retro doc martens.  You’re worried about the kick, or the glide, or ski. Have they double poled enough? Did they peak at the right time? You have checked the relative humidity, the humidity of the snow, the wind, angle of the sun, migratory patterns of native birds and placed all these factors into a mind bending Nordic skier algorithm that Will Hunting can’t solve.

The Organizer: You know all the players. You have a spreadsheet of all racers on your child’s team, what their average time is for each distance and discipline as well as their projected success on in varying conditions. You have told your child where he or she should finish. You spend hours collaborating the information after each race, in a color coded chart which you explain, at length, to your bored child. You play it super cool at the event, but you home crunching numbers until the wee hours.

NOTE: Danger Ahead

The Cheerleader: Woo hoo! Race time! You wear out three cow bells a season. As your child comes by, in Banshee like screech, you yodel the obvious statements such as:

a) Faster! Faster! Faster!

b) They are catching you!

c) You are ____ (insert random number) seconds out of ___ place.

Or you run uphill, screaming incoherent instructions. I asked a real, live ski racer if he heard his parents yelling. “No, I tune them out.” Honestly, you're gonna pull a hamstring. Tone it down.  You are embarrassing me.

Super Parent: Food and party person, yup you’re the planner!  You organize the food table, bring hot coffee to coaches, and spend hours creating the right atmosphere so the skiers have yummy food after the race. You bake individual cupcakes for the gluten free, dairy free and sugar free. The names of each skier is on the cupcake.   You organize purchasing team hats and off season trips. You were going to send your child to college, but you just dropped $200 on oranges, banana bread and 7 crock pot dinners.

The Parent Coach: You didn’t ski race, but you were an athlete back in the day, and have a background in coaching. You spend hours creating analogies that will “sink” into your child’s brain. You create a mediation schedule, and a nightly visualization planner that are both ignored. You refer to these things often when you child is ensconced in the aforementioned pre-race anxiety routine (PRA). You arrange the salt and pepper shakers at breakfast to display proper drafting technique, with the forgotten maple syrup acting as a sharp corner, the crumpled napkin is the tuck. See how low it is, the napkin hand just in front of it’s napkin-like- body, but not out so far it is scooping in air and causing resistance. See? Are you listening?

Author’s Note: Guilty as Charged

Join the One Percent. The club is free. It is quick to join and there are no dues. Everyone will be happier if you join, but I warn you, it ain’t easy, but it is simple. Let your child grow up. Follow the protocol.

Walk Like a Duck

Become impervious to the drama.

Proper Parent Protocol has rules:

1.    You cannot make your child happy.

2.    Let it go.

3.    Have fun.

4.    Repeat #1

That is it. Welcome!

Let it go. Let it all go, the sleep, and wax and their time and just let your child own it. Ignore their habitual bitching, the complaints about why their crumpled, wet suit they left in a backpack didn’t get washed. Give them a map to the laundry room. Continue the routine. Buy the food. Fold some clothes. Shake the cowbell. Remind yourself that your child is healthy and able to compete and the centrifuge of emotions involved in sport, puberty and life is a whirling you cannot control. Ultimately you got into this mess because you want your child to be happy. You cannot make them happy, but you can get real. Set real expectations. If your son made it to JN’s by the newly sprouted hair on his chin, remind him he is 15 and he will probably not win the sprint final if he was 29th in qualifications. This is ok. If your daughter is more concerned with her hair ribbons than her V2 on flagpole hill, buy her matching sparkles and celebrate her hard work that got her to this point. A glass slipper might not be in her future. This is also ok. While you’re getting real with your child, get real with you. Make breakfast and leave the kitchen. Leave the gel on the table. Let them fall a little and forget a lot, so they become responsible. Finish your tea and take the dog for a walk and let them wash their own clothes.

Set some boundaries. While you are letting it go, let yourself have fun.  Enjoy this fleeting time with your child, and try not to internalize his or her mood swings lest you be in traction. Plan something fun for after the race, and for the love of Skade, don’t bring his or her results up unless they do.  Be grateful they are dedicated to sport that requires them to put themselves on the line and they are surrounded by a really great community.

Finally, when they do come to you, panicked 14 minutes before start time asking for that energy gel they left on the table and didn’t want an hour ago don’t take it personal. This is not a time to lecture. Hand it over, say “have fun” and waddle away.

Amy Cheney-Seymour is a freelance writer who lives in Vermontville, New York.

Return to Sport Program IN THE NEWS!!!

Winter Park Competition Center has made it a priority the past couple of years to make sure that injured athletes are supported throughout every stage of their rehabilitation and eventual return to snow.  Through providing psychological, physical, social, and emotional support, our goal is to make the transition from injury to kicking back in the skis feeling CONFIDENT and POWERFUL as easy as possible for the athlete, coaches, and families.

Check out this article on Sports One Source, featuring the WPCC Return to Sport Program!!!  Check it out HERE!


Own Your Name

It was my first day of preschool, and I was nervous.  All these kids seemed to know exactly what they were doing – when snack time was, which cubby was theirs, which bike everyone wanted when recess came around… Feeling anxious, I decided to take solace by pulling a chair up to the fish tank to watch the fish swim around.  As I’m sitting there watching little gold fish swim in and out of their coral home, a little girl named Brittany comes up behind me and suddenly pulls the chair out from underneath me!  Shocked and now on the ground with a bruised bum, I looked behind me to see the perpetrator, who glared back at me from across the room.

Ever since then, the name “Brittany” has always left a bitter taste in my mouth (no offense to all you Brittany’s out there!).

Funny how one memory, one experience, can shape my perceptions almost subconsciously YEARS later!

But then I started thinking of other names – Like how the name Grace will always be associated with warmth and kindness.  And how the name George will make me think of grand adventures and living freely.

This past May, I found myself in the commencement ceremonies of the local high school, proudly watching some of my athletes graduating.  The honorary speaker, a much-loved science teacher, spoke about reaching new heights, opening new doors, cherishing the past, and moving forward with love and support, but it was his advice that really stuck with me:  Whatever you do, wherever you go, own your name.

Own your name.  When people think of YOUR name, what will they think of?

So maybe today is the first step towards making your name stand for something more:  Tirelessly pursuing your goals.  Being a fiercely loyal friend.  Staying strong when things get tough.

What do you want your name to represent?  Live that each day.

Attitude & Gratitude – A post from our RTS Team

“Our attitude towards something creates the mental space that it lives in” – Colin Green

As the RTS team (Return to Sport), our whole M.O. is thinking about and considering the mental side of sport; more specifically, the mental side of sport injury and what it takes to return from it. Injury is no joke, and it’s definitely not in the winter sports realm. You, athletes and parents, put a lot on the line to be successful in your (or your child’s) chosen discipline. The same is true for so many winter sport athletes out there.

We will be doing a series of posts- including articles, videos, and stories- about what it takes to come back from injury. This is an initial post that is a serious example of injury but we like it for the reflections. This author went through a serious injury and came out on the other side successful and grounded. Check this article out for some inspiration and hint- there is some sport psychology in there too!

Click Here!!!