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Lesson #3: Never, ever accept the status quo

Apparatus-based, hands-on teaching.

Conventional coaching almost always uses the talk-and-demonstrate method. With Lennon, its all hands on. He skis alongside his students and literally holds them in the correct snowboarding position. In effect, he offers his body as the inside leg.


Lennon: There’s nothing wrong with talk-and-demonstrate coaching. Its just time consuming. I’m in mid-life and most of my students are, too. At mid-life, I’ll never be stronger or more coordinated than I am today. I can only go in the wrong direction. So time consumption is something that I’d just rather weed out.

I started going to my eight-year-old daughters gymnastics class. And I discovered that gymnastics has embraced apparatus-based, hands-on teaching. When I saw how they used spotters and mats and harnesses and wall bars, I thought I’d done everything wrong in my 25 years of coaching because all I’d practiced was talk and demonstrate. I borrowed from gymnastics, and I applied as much as I could to snow sports.

With snowboarding, I really do offer myself as a spotter. I’m an extremely strong object on an inclined, slippery plane. I can hold people up, start them, stop them, and begin to teach them the dynamics of a good turn.

Think about it: in gymnastics, the Olympic champions are in their midteens. They have skill levels that you’d think would take 50 years to develop. And you know they didn’t get there through talk-and-demonstrate coaching.

Postcard from Vail

Byron Rose, 54, former partner at Morgan Stanley, now retired.

I’m having a heck of a time controlling the board. So Boone skis up to me, takes me by the elbow, and we traverse the hill together. He leans me over to 45-degrees. Its so uncomfortable I have to close my eyes. I hate putting myself in someone else’s hands. Hmm. Am I trying too hard? Maybe I should give in to the mountain instead of trying to force things.

Postscript: By the end of the second day, I’m nailing turns. The mountain wins again.