This study offered a first examination of skill development within freeskiing and snowboarding, using semistructured interviews to examine trick progression. Participants were purposefully recruited as performing at world top 8 level in 2014, the most recent Winter Olympic Games. A semi structured interview protocol, using a personalized progress chart, enabled the examination of trick progression across disciplines, with at least one participant from each of the events represented at the Games. Trick progression was achieved intermittently, moving through different stages during the year subject to experiencing the right conditions, training facilities, balancing time for progression with time for consolidation, competition periods and rehabilitating from injuries. There was high variance in the duration of trick progression between individuals and also high variance in the number of repetitions required to land a trick in competition. Imagery was a mental skill widely used and universally supported by our sample. Athletes and coaches should take directionality into consideration when planning their progression, ensuring all four directions are included and that prerequisite manoeuvres are included in an athlete’s training repertoire at the right stage to facilitate the learning of more complex manoeuvres at a later stage of development. Our data found a 60–40 balance between time-spent training on and off-snow, further research is required to determine the best combination of traditional strength and conditioning versus movement conditioning approaches, both from an injury prevention and a performance enhancement perspective.
Tom Willmott is the head coach of Snowsport New Zealand’s ‘Park & Pipe’ programme, currently completing a professional doctorate in elite performance at the University of Central Lancashire. He holds a masters of physical education, and a bachelor of sports coaching. A former World Cup competitor and National Snowboard Champion, he has been the head coach of three Winter Olympic campaigns for the New Zealand Snowboard (2006, 2010) and Freeski (2014) teams.
Dave Collins is professor and director of the Institute of Coaching and Performance and director of Grey Matters Performance Ltd. He has over 250 peer reviewed papers and 50 books/book chapters. As an applied psychologist, he has worked with over 60 world and Olympic medallists, plus professional and national sports teams. He is a qualified coach in a variety of sports and has coached to national level.