Closing the Gaps

Building up the mental strength and confidence in order clear the 40 foot gap between the start of the jump and the landing is an obstacle in skiing that some can conquer and some cannot. With the energy and motivation needed to clear this gap, I have to push my mind and body in order to live my life this way each and every day. The energy in my body is lead by friends, family, the mountain and spiritual feelings everywhere I go. Even at times of feelings of the deepest sorrows and misunderstanding, moving past this gap in my life was only able to happen through a truth in myself and a confidence in the world. After all, experience is what teaches people to know when or when not, to make their next move. Being on both sides of the experience of team sports and individual sports is what lead me to a larger meaning of how these gaps are portrayed in life and how to go about clearing them.

Being tied to a hometown with so many rules and instruction it was hard for a guy like myself to step out of my comfort zone. So then I ask, how did someone like myself try to make the best of a town even when I felt pushed out? I found something, something that let me go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. This activity that let my mind do the talking and my body do the action, free skiing. Skiing never let me down, never stressed me out, always made me try my hardest, never made me try to impress anyone. Simply, it was a sport of my own. This sport that I had been doing since a child, finally came around for some reason. My sophomore year of high school I met a kid in math who let me touch upon my own roots whenever in contact with him. This kid, Matt Burhans, is my best friend to the day. I remember the first time we went skiing together at the local ski hill. The sensation brought to my heart whenever skiing with Matt was a feeling I had never felt before. When you have someone who values the same ways of life as yourself and has the same interests, this is what made skiing with Matt the foundation of our friendship. This friendship that let us explore the freedoms of the mountain and the freedom of the world, is what made me always come back for more.

Competition in my life has been a key element to the development of my abilities. Growing up playing soccer my entire life, I always wanted to win. After winning three state championships with my town team, we were unstoppable. The thing about competition that some do not realize is it can do good and bad at the same time. I remember in one state championship game against our rivals Greenwich, this game was an all out blood battle. For 5th graders, this game was something we all wanted more than anything. And of course we ended up loosing the game by one goal. This competition between the teams was great for the opposing team, but it tore apart the emotions of many members of the Simsbury Strikers. Myself, I was never one to cry in a loss of a game, but some did. So how can competition lead to freedom? Only in one way it can in my mind, by challenging your own mind. In skiing being challenging on myself only pushed me to reach the limits of my skiing ability. An activity purely meant for enjoyment with friends, no competition between one another never lead to a destruction of our emotions. Our emotions were only uplifted to the happiest they could be.

Going hand in hand with competition, a long lost cousin, stress. Stress on the mountain is an emotion that I do not think I have ever felt. In soccer, I usually found myself sitting bench more than on the field, which did not bother me too much. Then those times when I did get on the field, I think back to the stress that controlled my body instead of my actual soccer abilities. Knowing I had 10 other people on the field to let down, let alone coaches, the pressure to make the right move sometimes got the best of me. The connection between my teammates gave me a feeling of a brotherhood, a feeling I had never experienced before. When people expected too much out of our team due to the reputation of being one of the best, sometimes the stress took over for me. When winning or scoring brought such exhilarating feelings to the soul, the feeling of making a wrong move was always on the back of my mind. In contrary to on the mountain, I have no team, no opponents, no coach, just myself to take over each role that a team sport holds. This stress free activity with no one to let down beside myself has pulled my heart toward this place of unity.

Sitting bench for the majority of every game always let me always observe the ways of the field that the players were blind too while being on the field. For example, I loved the way Kevin my teammate was able to control the ball with such grace in addition to having to make his next decision. In team sports, spectators defiantly over look the way a player plays his own style of game. The spectators and coaches care solely about the goals scored or the outcome of the game instead of the elegance. Whether a player plays an aggressive one, graceful, conservative and even mindless. The statistics of the game always overpowered the decisions made by any coach. But in free skiing, it is well, the opposite. To be able to call a sport a free sport is a description that no team sport will ever be able to say. This sport that can never be controlled by regulation shows a blank page in the rulebook. Instead, each skier can journalize their own style and ways to perform different tricks. The style and ways that each skier skis will never be identical. I am able to imagine a trick that I want to do in my mind differently then everyone else. With the use of my own unique style, I produce my own version of skiing. Almost as if every skier is in his or her own virtual video game, we are able to be as creative as our mind takes us. And for those who have the creativity and the ability to push their body and mind, this is what makes the worlds best free skiers. A skier who can picture a trick in their mind that no one else can see, this is what makes a free skier stand above others. Instead, team sports are based solely off statistics and how many goals they produced or saves by a goalie.

In our society, people want to be able to feel superior over others, always. This is what team sports have done to the growing youth of our country. They feel that if they score the most goals in a season or achieve the highest GPA, that they are the best. No one is the better than anyone, everyone excels in something different. Even though I am not the best skier out there, I do what my mind can create. The ski community is able to bring out the best of my soul. I always have loved being on the mountain with my best friends, doing nothing but skiing. We have one reason to be on the mountain, ski and have a great time. Always encouraging each other to reach our limits is what drove each one of us toward the peak of our minds. Having a back up buddy push me further than I could go alone is what produced the most eccentric moments of my life. “Dude! That 5 was sick! You defiantly could take that to a 7!” Little encouragements from my best friends in combination with the creativity of my own mind always are what push me to my limits.

Being on the mountain is a place where I push myself in every possible way to attempt close the gaps of fears and regret in my life. Closing the gap between the mountain, and myself is what brings me closer to the physical mountain itself. The moment in my life when the varsity coach of my high school soccer team did not see the creativity and unconventional ways I played soccer. This moment brought a feeling of unknown as to how and why all of this had occurred. This point in my life was the first opening of the many gaps that people have to conquer. When growing up means moving on to bigger and better things, as most say, sometimes the old things were the most missed in my mind. When entering high school, my town soccer team, the Simsbury Strikers, who had been one of the best town teams ever seen, we became no more. When the priority of the varsity coach was to appear like a great coach in the eyes of parents, townsmen, administration and other players. His priorities were wrong, choosing players who just happened to have a brother on the team over me and other former Striker teammates, the gap was expanded to its limits. The gap that the coach put between the team and what we could have achieved as a developed Strikers team, is unknown to the day. I look back to high school soccer and notice a common theme of political decisions that just may not of been a good way to go about creating a winning soccer team. This serious and fake image that coach Lynch put on the Simsbury soccer program, was the opposite of what I ever wanted in a coach. So then what did I want? At the time, I had no clue. Looking back now, I wanted to be free in my life. Ending my soccer career, I was able to focus on things that I found to be more enjoyable to my own interests. Skiing, the mountain, long boarding, golf and any mental sport that put a challenge on myself, this was my freedom now. No coach to tell me I was not good enough, the mountain always gave me a reason to go back for more. The vibe of the mountain taught me a reason to not care, a reason to be me, a reason to have fun, and most of all, a reason to free. All of these, things that I had not felt growing up in a town that maybe just was not the right fit for my kinships. The network of skiers that the mountain attracts, are the people I want to be free with. Everyone should be able find his or her own ways of freedom, I found it through something bigger than team sports, my own sport. Everyone needs to look through their own window of freedom to close all gaps in their lives. I found a seal for these gaps, a way to clear that ski jump each and every time.