By Bryan Cleaver

Mix up your training to get results on your next exam During our journey up the NZSIA levels, we have many different outcomes to achieve and demonstrate from the start of the wedge turn all the way through to dynamic turns and tasks. We want, of course to excel and get the highest mark we can on all of them and be increasingly stronger skiers.

Our strategies highly lean towards Behavioural training which is repetition to achieve a goal, usually on a short term basis. It is also how we teach our regular daily lessons making it natural for us to continue it within our own training. This is where incorporating Decision training can really take us to that next level.

As the title suggests, Decision training mixes up our training for results by forcing the mind to be constantly focused as well as our body. The goal is to engage the cognitive side of our training through problem solving rather than repetition. Once we are at the stage where we know and visualize the duration, intensity, range, rate and timing of our desired movements, we can mix these up to develop a thorough muscular and cognitive understanding during the application.

This table quickly looks at the basic differences between Behavioural and Decision training:

a command training style. Once we start achieving more consistent performance and move into the Associative Phase, Decision Training really benefits us. When it comes to the instruction aspect of Decision training, we want to make it challenging and exciting right from the beginning. Trainees for higher levels already have the basic skills to achieve the goals and are striving for a higher level of performance and precision. For example, even though we may be focusing on a Dynamic Short turn, using different tactics such as mixed radius exercises, off-piste and even rhythm changes should be looked at as productive tools within your day to improve your skills. Adding competition scenarios such as gate training can have a huge impact as it forces the skier to react and turn at a certain place. At the start all of these tactics may be all over the place and lacking consistency. However as time goes on and we train our mind to be ready for changes and challenges, the benefits will become apparent.

Looking at the feedback in comparing the two training styles, Behavioural has a strong coachto-trainee one way feedback whereas Decision training has ‘Bandwidth’ feedback. Bandwidth feedback simply means that feedback is not given unless performance falls outside of the acceptable range set by the trainer. This allows the trainee to continue with problem solving to improve but not let the mind get distracted. Our mental focus stays on the task and adjusting rather then receiving an idea then letting the mind wonder while skiing or on the lift.

Video feedback is a very key component to Decision training. Not only having a regular chance to see video but the chance to analyze one’s own skiing. Having a trainer as a guide is important and the input should also fall under bandwidth feedback where the self-analysis is only corrected should it fall outside acceptable parameters.

An example of a short Decision training session that I have used practically in the past was with a freestyle athlete. We had a day where we were training on a series of three jumps and we wanted to improve the consistency of 360s. The athlete could do a decent left spinning 3 and what we introduced was a right spinning 3. At first it was a simple attempt at spinning to the right off the jumps to which the success rate was around 10-20%. Following this, every time he started moving towards each jump, I
would ski with him and state either left or right as he was setting up for his pop. This made him quickly aware and react to the task. At first the results were quite sloppy on both the familiar direction of spin and on the introduced direction of spin. Following each run while we waited in the queue, I would ask questions for him to self analyze his runs such as the level of his arms or the direction of sight. As we moved through the afternoon, both directions improved dramatically and results exceeded his as well as my own expectations. As the season progressed, the results remained where this athlete could perform well in competition scenarios when there was pressure to perform.

While we pursue higher levels, the training we do will always benefit us whether it be Behavioural or Decision training. Some seasons in New Zealand we might only get 4 to 5 months on snow while working most days, making it vital that we capitalize upon the opportunities we get. The Decision training model can benefit us through focus and understanding while the muscular and tactical aspect is improving. At first it is tough and can be frustrating. The results will definitely become apparent on your next exam as you are ready for any challenge presented.

“Perception, Cognition, and Decision Training: The Quiet Eye in Action”, Human Kinetics 2007
Joan N. Vickers
“Sports psychology: the theory of the decision training model in sport”
Nick Grantham