When the United States Ski Team cut Rosie Brennan ’11 and two Colorado University students from its roster in May, discussion followed among skiers about whether the U.S. Ski Team had cut the skiers because they attended college and did not focus entirely on skiing. The decision, however, was based on which skiers had shown the least improvement over the past season, Brennan said.
“To many people it felt like they were just cutting those in college,” she said. “A lot of us felt shorthanded because you still feel like you’re improving and progressing. It’s caused a big stir within the cross-country community everyone has strong opinions about whether you should or should not go to school.”
Brennan and other Dartmouth ski team members interviewed by The Dartmouth said they are glad they made the decision to come to college and work with the Dartmouth team.
Ida Sargent ’11, who took a year off after high school to train with the national team, said she realized she needed to combine skiing with other pursuits during her time with the national squad.
“Being in school and on campus provides a good balance for other things to think about so I’m not just focused on skiing all the time, which is pretty easy to do otherwise,” she said. “The carnival circuit has been really competitive and a great racing experience, and I guess just getting a college degree is always helpful for the future.”
Courtney Hammond ’11 expressed a similar sentiment. Hammond trained individually for a year before joining the national team but later quit when she lost confidence in her skiing and no longer enjoyed being a member of the team, she said.
“I never debated quitting skiing because I love skiing, but it lost all fun,” Hammond said. “It kind of becomes a job if you don’t have something else in your life.”
Being an athlete in college has changed her perspective on the sport, she said.
“We have coaches, and obviously they do a lot, but we have a pretty big team, and you really learn to coach yourself and work as a member of a team rather than work for your individual goals,” Hammond said.
Brennan said working with Dartmouth’s team has also been more fun and rewarding for them.
“It’s more supportive at races, or if you’re having a hard workout or tough day,” Brennan said. “It just feels like they’re more there for you than on the national team.”
The greatest difference between college teams and the national team is the nature of training, according to Cami Thompson, director of women’s cross country Skiing at Dartmouth.
“I think they gain a lot with the camaraderie of the team,” Thompson said. “Training with a group I think helps a lot with how much they’re able to push themselves and motivate themselves.”
Thompson added that this camaraderie is balanced with a lower level of athletic intensity because of students’ commitments to classes and other extracurricular activities.
The team’s focus is, however, on helping the athletes reach their goals outside of collegiate skiing and try to make the national team, she said.
Hammond said participating on a collegiate team helped her mature and gain a new perspective for the sport, and praised the strength of the Eastern college skiing circuit, she said.
“If you come to this team, you’re going to improve to the point where [the national team is] still an option,” she said. “It’s not like one thing or another, and I think the sad thing about ski racing right now is they really make it that choice. Unless you made the U.S. Ski Team in high school or before college, you basically go to college. And there’s very few people who make it out of college.”
The national team should look at each athlete on an individual basis, Thompson said. If athletes are able to receive proper training and go to necessary races and training camps, they should be allowed to work with collegiate teams, she said.
“It’s going to give them a college education, give them something else to think about besides skiing all the time, give them a well-rounded life and give them something to fall back on if they get injured or things don’t work out how they want,” she said.
Representatives from the national team were not available for comment by press time.