Big Green Athletes Benefit from Winter Trips

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 1/8/12 11:00pm

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by Aditi Kirtikar / The Dartmouth

This year, men's and women's squash, men's and women's heavyweight crew, lightweight crew, men's and women's swimming and diving and the ski team traveled to various parts of the country to train over break.

For sports that rely on specific outdoor conditions, training trips are often essential, and this is especially true for the crew teams, which require warm, unfrozen water and the ski team, which requires snow.

The crew teams traveled to Austin, Texas for eight days to row on Lady Bird Lake, which has excellent rowing conditions due to the flat water and warm weather. The trip is the team's "last opportunity to be on the water before March," lightweight captain Phil Grisdela '12 said.

"The main factor is that it's so cold here that we can't train on the water," heavyweight captain Joe Polwrek '12 said. "We train indoors the entire winter term. [The trip] gives us one extra week of on-the-water training."

The ski team followed the snow to Montreal, Quebec where they skied at Mont-Sainte-Anne. The trip is an essential part of its training regimen. Other than a trip to Colorado over Thanksgiving break, the team does not often get much practice on snow in November and December.

"For us, it's huge," Trevor Leafe '12 said. "You have to follow the snow."

Though snow is not always abundant in New England in December, Quebec usually has pristine mountain conditions that allow the team to work on technique. While there, the team also races and trains on numerous types of terrain.

"Winter training trips provide an important opportunity for on-snow training and racing that often is not available in Hanover in November and December," Erika Flowers '12 said. "Additionally, traveling outside of Hanover gives us the chance to train on some different terrain."

Leafe added that practice on the slopes was critical for improving racing times.

"Stuff in the offseason helps, but time on the snow and in the gates affects race performance," he said.

This year, Quebec received little snow, which forced the ski team to modify its trip. The Big Green left Hanover four days later than usual to arrive in Quebec on the first day the mountain was open. During the extra days in Hanover, the team trained on roller skis and on foot. After the trip to Quebec, some teammates also traveled out west to race.

"While I think everyone was able to find some good training, we definitely missed the team bonding that occurs at camp," Flowers said. "We definitely don't have the usual on-snow training base going into the race season."

Training trips benefit teams in ways other than providing good weather conditions. Trips give teams the opportunity to focus solely on their training without the distractions of schoolwork and college life. Ski teammates Sam Tarling '13 and Flowers, who are currently racing in the U.S. Nationals in Mumford, Maine, emphasized this aspect of their team's trip in an email to The Dartmouth.

"The day-to-day [activities] of training camps are very similar to training the rest of the year, but usually there are fewer commitments, so lots of training and lots of rest can be prioritized," Tarling said. "It is always nice to focus on training full-time without problem sets or reading assignments demanding your attention as well."

Flowers agreed, adding that many skiers can take on additional volume in their training with more time solely dedicated to skiing.

"Winter training trips allow us to spend 1-2 weeks thinking only about skiing without the distractions of school or home," Flowers said. "We are able to really increase the volume of training during camp and both mentally and physically focus on skiing well."

The squash team's training trip to Palo Alto, Calif., marks the beginning of its main season. The team uses the squash facilities at Stanford University to hold a training camp where team members can put all of their time and energy into squash.

"We don't really have a preseason," captain Nicholas Sisodia '12 said. "It's the first time in the season that we are only focused on squash."

Training trips also benefit teams by helping them to stay in shape and maintain focus over Dartmouth's long winter break. Polwrek stressed that the crew team's trip to Austin prepares it for an intense winter of training indoors.

"I think the focus and the intensity we bring that week is important for setting the tone for winter training," Polwrek said. "It gives us the right mentality for winter."

Women's squash captain Julia Watson '12 explained that the trip prepares the team for its winter season by giving it time to focus on the fundamentals. She believes that its trip to California provides a good "fitness base" for the winter season.

"Dartmouth breaks are so long that it's nice to already be in shape for winter season," Watson said. "It sets us up nicely for the winter."

Training trips also greatly benefit teams by improving team chemistry. By spending all day together, teammates bond over both training and other activities.

"You get to know your teammates really well," men's squash captain Brian O'Toole '12 said. "There is definitely a lot of bonding because you're going through things together."

The crew upperclassmen often take the freshmen out in the city and show them around since they have been there before.

"It's a great opportunity for freshmen and upperclassmen to mingle more," Polwrek said. "We train separately in the fall on different schedules. [The trip is] one of the freshmen's welcome to the team' moments."

Athletes said they feel that the training trips greatly enhance team performance by giving them uninterrupted time with their team to focus on improving their technique and fundamentals.

Women's crew captain Jamie Chapman '12 explained that since the Connecticut River is frozen for so long, Big Green crew teams are some of the last in the country to get on the water.

"It makes a huge difference," she said. "Winter training has to be our strongest segment of training."

Like crew, skiing requires a certain type of weather to log quality training.

"Our first major [ski] races are the first week in January," Flowers said. "Being able to get some good on-snow training in December is super important in preparing for the first races. Additionally, in years when Hanover doesn't have much snow, the training trip may be the best block of on-snow training we get."

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