The Chronicles Of A Sighted Guide And A Blind Skier

The Chronicles Of A Sighted Guide And A Blind Skier

I ski following a sighted guide and we communicate via Bluetooth headsets in our helmets.
239
views

Whenever I tell people I am a World Cup visually impaired ski racer, their first question is always, “Well how do you ski race if you’re blind?” The answer is that I can’t do it alone. I ski following a sighted guide and we communicate via Bluetooth headsets in our helmets. My guide and I ski down some of the world's steepest terrain at speeds upwards of fifty miles an hour together. Guide/ athlete pairs have a very interesting dynamic that is based off of communication and trust. Most strong relationships depend on a foundation of communication and trust, so it is perhaps unsurprising that this is the case. The pair must be able to communicate efficiently while on course as well as off the snow. For example, my guide tells me when to turn as well as what types of terrain we are hitting and in response, I tell her where I am and how far apart we are. Trust is incredibly important because the athlete must be able to depend on the guide to help him/ her safely navigate down a course. For someone like me who is a little bit of a control freak, it can be challenging giving away all of the control to someone else. Guides have a lot of responsibility helping their athletes, but it’s also a really incredible experience for the guide as well. Whenever a visually impaired person wins a medal, their guide receives one too. Guiding gives people an amazing opportunity to travel the world and compete in huge races including world championships and Paralympic games. However, guiding does come with a cost. It is a huge time commitment to travel full time with a blind athlete, and it takes a really selfless person to be a guide because a guide has to essentially give up his/ her own racing career and be fully dedicated to the dreams of the blind athlete. Together an athlete and guide make up a team and in order to be successful the pair must be equally dedicated to the goal.

In my case, that goal is to be one of the best visually impaired ski racers in the world and to compete in the 2018 PyeongChang winter Paralympics. Luckily for me I have the most spectacular guide to follow around the world. My guide, Sadie DeBaun, is a ski racer from Park City, Utah who I started working with a little over a year ago. We developed a strong relationship after a short time together, largely because we became really close friends on and off the snow. It took us some time to get to know each other, but I trust that Sadie will communicate to me everything I need to know. Not only when we are skiing, but on any adventures we may take on. Whether it be navigating through a buffet dinner in Europe, or finding the finish line of a World Cup, we are in it together. Without this trust and communication, it would be impossible for us to succeed on the World Cup circuit. Ski racing is unpredictable and challenging, and one of the reasons we are such an accomplished team is because no matter what situation we get into we know that we can work together to get out of it.

As we travel around Europe for the start of the International Paralympic Alpine Skiing World Cup circuit, I am continuously reminded of how lucky I am to be following someone who is so dedicated and committed to our goals. In ski racing there are a lot of ups and downs. It isn’t about always winning, it’s about being able to learn from all the falls and getting up stronger. Every day we go out to ski with two priorities; to have fun and to be better than we were yesterday. Regardless of the medals we end up with, Sadie and I will always share the memories, which is arguably even more valuable.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

Popular Right Now

The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
167236
views

I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

From The High School Athlete Who Walked Away, But Walked Away With So Much

From pep rallies to clutch game situations, we miss every second of it. But we walked away with a lot more than we could've ever asked for.

3720
views

High school was our prime time. Walking through the hall wearing your jersey or warm-ups on game day. Teachers telling you "good luck tonight, bring home the win." Getting to leave class early for away games. Going to pep rallies and being the center of attention. Practicing day in and day out. Eating, sleeping, and breathing your sport.

The endless hours of practices, the early mornings and late nights, the study groups and trying to keep up with your academics on top of prioritizing your physical shape and talent. It's what we lived for.

Two minutes left in the rivalry game at home court. Your team is up by two and it's crunch time. Coach puts you and the four kids you've grown insanely close with over the last 10 years into the game. You're told to run a man to man defense and not let number three get the ball, because if they do they're going to run the play you've studied at practice for the last week and try to score from the paint; tying the game. The ball gets passed to number three and you're guarding them harder than you've ever played defense before, a screen gets set so you have to switch with your trusty best friend, who you know has the best defense on the team. Your heart is pounding as number three goes up to take the buzzer-beating shot... but they get an offensive foul called on them, and that's the game. The crowd goes wild as the buzzer goes off and you and your teammates rush the center of the gym yelling, screaming, and rejoicing. The feeling you have in your heart is fuller than you've ever felt it before.

It's what we lived for.

It's the bottom of the 7th inning, and you're down by two runs. You've got a man on first and a man on third, with two outs. You're on deck waiting to go up to bat as your power hitter is fighting tooth and nail to get the ball on the ground. They've got two strikes and three balls. Your heart is beating out of your chest, and part of you is hoping they hit it over the fence so the pressure isn't so tough on you. The coach signals to lay a bunt down and all you can think is "why would he do that? Kiana never bunts." But you have no other choice but to trust in your coaches decisions, so when Kiana shockingly lays the bunt down you're in awe as the catcher can't get her face mask off quick enough to throw it to first base.

No runs were scored, and you know that it's up to you to win this game. You walk up to the plate and strike one flies by your face before you even have time to process it. You step out of the batter's box to try to calm your nerves, and your dad looks at you and tells you "You got this, just breathe." So you take one more practice swing and a deep breath, then you step back into the batter's box. You couldn't slow your heart rate down so now you're just running off of pride and focus. The next pitch comes and it's a ball. You knock your cleats off with your bat as the rain starts to pour down, and you're in a position to eye the next pitch.

At that moment, everything turns into slow motion.

You see coach standing at third base, giving no sign. You look back and see your dad in the bleachers, hoping and praying you can hit the base runners in. You've reminded yourself that this is one of your last high school ball games; it's your time to shine. As tingles trickle down your spine, the chaotic screams from the crowd and your teammates turn into distant sound. You smack the ball and before you realize it, you're hitting the inner corner of third base with your right foot yelling at the person in front of you to run faster because you have no idea where the ball went, and coach was just telling you to run. Everyone is waiting for you at home plate because you had just won the game. They're slapping the top of your helmet and screaming your name, while the crowd is banging on the fence.

It's what we lived for.

We lived for the three-hour long Saturday practices. We lived for two-hour bus rides. We lived for team breakfast and dinner. It fueled us to get through high school, and we loved every second of it.

Often, we reminisce. We think back to those buzzer beaters, home runs, and football games. We miss it more than you could ever imagine.

But we walked away. Not because we didn't want to continue playing, but because it was time. It was time to start our lives, but we will never forget the moments, the memories, and some of the best times we have ever had.

Being an athlete is so much more than being strong, athletic, and quick on your feet. To us, being an athlete shaped our personalities. It helped us build characteristics that we still use to this day... and sometime in the future, we will build families and use the traits we learned as athletes to build a strong, successful career, and someday raise a little ballplayer of our own.

A big thanks go out to all my coaches and mentors that I was blessed with over the years. You shaped me, my future, and the rest of the generations that will come after me.

Related Content

Facebook Comments