In the May/June 2015 issue of USA Water Ski’s Magazine publication, The Water Skier, you will find an article I wrote about communication. Specifically, communication between the skier and driver. The value of the driver’s feedback on my skiing is an important aspect that takes place during the majority of my practice rides. Check out the article via the photo or text below.
When someone says communicating with the driver; most people would think of telling them your starting speed, zero-off setting, how hard or easy of a pull up you would like or when you are ready to be pulled up out of the water. All of these aspects are important to communicate to the driver; but have you thought of communicating with the driver as a coaching tool to benefit your skiing? The value of the driver’s feedback on my skiing is an important aspect that takes place during the majority of my practice rides.
Whether you have an unexperienced observer or a well-respected coach to give you feedback, communication with the driver is important. A boat driver can feel a lot from behind the wheel and can provide the skier with both positive and constructive feedback. When you ski with someone on a regular basis, you know what they are working on and what their tendencies are. First off, remember the coaching rule, three positive comments for every critical comment. It is all about having fun on the water, so make sure to keep it fun while being able to help out your ski partner at the same time. Here are a few examples of the feedback a driver can provide a skier based on what they are feeling from behind the wheel.
●You are loading too hard out of the buoy, make sure to progressively load the line and build up the load. You do not want to spike the line all at once.
●I’m not sure what happened at that gate, but you pulled out a lot harder for that gate than you have for the others.
●That was a lot better from my end. Whatever you changed on that pass, remember it and keep focusing on that. It was a lot easier to driver you on that pass.
●Be a little more patient out of the turn, you are hitting me hard out of the buoy.
●I feel you pulling past the second wake. Remember that when you pull past centerline, the boat starts to pull you down course rather than allowing you to keep your outbound direction.
From a driver’s perspective, you want to feel the skier doing most of their work behind the boat; pulling approximately from the white water through the centerline of the boat. From centerline, they should be releasing onto the other edge of the ski initiating the edge change and pre turn into the next buoy. If you, the driver, are having to counter steer more than normal, the skier may be loading the line too early out of the finish of the turn or they may be loading all at once, spiking the line instead of progressively building up the load.
As a driver, you want to give the skier the best ride possible and skier feedback can help you dial in the ride. As a skier, constructively communicating to the driver is important as well. If you are the type of skier that can feel the difference in drivers and think there is an area that can be improved, have a polite discussion with your driver. The best drivers I know want this feedback and are eager to work with you. But beware that some drivers will respond less positively, so use your people skills. A few examples of what the skier is feeling could be:
●They are sliding into you at the pullout of the gate; which causes you to have loose line (slack in the rope) at the turn in for your gate.
●They are driving straight, but are favoring one side of the course.
●They are sliding into you at the finish of the turn, so you are never able to keep a tight line.
●They are counter steering but they need to hold it a little longer as the skier loads the line.
These little bits of feedback you receive or express throughout a practice ride can be very beneficial to your skiing.
If you drive a skier on a regular basis, you know their tendencies. If you feel something that gives you the “wow, what just happened” or “what was that” feeling, ask the skier what happened at that point in the course. The skier may know what happened or they may not know what you are talking about because it felt great on their end. Either way, you can have a quick discussion of what you felt from behind the wheel and what the skier was feeling at the end of the line. This information is very valuable for your skiing. The driver is able to feel things from behind the wheel that sometimes an observer is not able to see.
Skiing can be a team sport between skiing, coaching and driving. I think the ideal boat crew is an observer and driver working together to give the skier joint feedback based on what they are seeing and feeling. So next time you are on the water; whether you are the driver or skier, give or ask for feedback.
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