Morgan Schild Forges New Path in Retirement
It is a tall order to come back from three season-ending injuries to be physically and mentally fit enough to make a concerted run at another Olympic appearance. Morgan Schild personified true grit to enter the 2021-22 season in that place. Unfortunately, the mind sometimes cannot overcome what the body cannot do. After sustaining another knee injury early in December, Schild came to peace with closing the chapter on her competitive career after eight years.
“Mentally I was still really hungry and that's where my goals were set,” Schild reflected on her headspace in working towards Olympic medals. “My clock was ticking on how many crashes I could take before coming to a serious injury again. That [crash in France] put a lot in perspective. Overall it was really freeing in a sense, which is how I knew that my career should be over. The decision to finally step away and let my body heal and let my career go a different way, huge relief.”
“At the end of the day, my goal was to make an impact on sport, to lead a generation of high DD on women’s side. I could walk out head held high, I was able to do that and can now look back with a positive perspective,” she added.
Schild left France at peace with her decision, but was devastated with the weight of another injury. However, after receiving a second medical opinion, Schild learned she did in fact have an ACL and there was hope for her to return to skiing before the season was over. She underwent the knife in March to clean up some cartilage damage and four weeks later was standing on skis again. “It was a glorious moment realizing ‘I’m back,’ that there was no pressure on this. It would be on my own time to get better. I needed that release and that pressure to subside a little after trying to compete during eight years of injuries.”
The limbo from going from elite skier chasing Olympic dreams to retired athlete is a challenge for many. And with any challenge in life, it usually helps to have someone there who understands.
Mikaela Wilson neé Matthews earned the nickname “Momma Mikay” when she was a mogul skier for the U.S. Ski Team. Former teammate of Schild and current Moguls Director for Park City Ski & Snowboard, Wilson threw Schild a lifeline. “She asked if I wanted to start coming out to training sessions to hang out.”
“As an athlete who is going through retirement there's not a ton of things you can grasp to reign you back down to earth at that point in time,” explained Schild. “There is this sense of floating and loss in that transition process. Having someone who had done it and who was doing great in a real world job show support was really comforting. That moment of connectivity with someone I knew and trusted was incredible. I felt valued and I felt like I did have an option, it is super important as a retired athlete is feeling like you have options.”
Schild, who’s fiancé, 2018 Olympian Emerson Smith, is also a coach for PCSS, quickly fell into the fold of coaching. “I ended up helping out on top airs, chops, bottom airs. The days I was up there coaching meant I had something to look forward to in my recovery. I started to work with a fun group of athletes, and I remembered why I started in the sport.”
Coaching feels like the right place for Schild to start her professional life. She graduates this spring from the University of Utah with a degree in psychology, and thinks her studies pair perfectly with her extensive athletic experience. “I ended up in psych because of my own experiences in and curiosity about sport psychology. I realized it was helping me as an athlete and it definitely gives me a leg up in coaching. I can understand the situations just a little bit deeper and understand how to help kids on and off the hill. Especially the girls. As a girl who has been in the sport with only male coaches, I see it’s a huge help to have someone who can relate to the little things.
“I’m hoping as a female I can lead a good example on how to take sport on with grace and be fully committed,” said Schild. “One of my big pushes is to make sure these girls have the best possible plan for fitness and recovery so they can keep their knees and bodies healthy for as long as possible. Men and women have different needs, and it is helpful to address it in a positive way.”
Schild accepted a coaching offer for PCSS for the 2022-23 season and looks forward to carrying her dreams on through the next generation of skiers. “Having this example from the U.S. Moguls Freestyle Ski Team women and the strong personalities and performance that has come out of us has allowed me to understand what a good team can look like and what a productive women’s team can look like. The experience of being part of such a well rounded group of people allows me to go into coaching with a good idea of what's healthy and what's possible.”
In addition to coaching, Schild looks forward to pursuing her interests in art, photography and videography. You can follow her journey on Instagram @morganschild.