Olympians Take A Somewhat Unfamiliar Center Stage
U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes are used to competing on the big stage – particularly those who have made the U.S. Olympic Team. However, what doesn’t often come naturally is the ability to speak confidently publicly – both in front of crowds and to the media. Just last week, though, a new program known as the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Speaker’s Bureau was launched through their Athlete Career & Education (ACE) team, led by Director Julie Glusker.
Offered to 10 elite-level U.S. Ski & Snowboard Olympic and World Championship athletes – both current and alumni – U.S. Ski & Snowboard partnered with the Slomoff Consulting Group to lead a year-long, intensive training program for a select group of athletes looking to learn what it takes to be a successful keynote speaker.
“We teach all of our clients to approach speaking the way great athletes approach their skill, by developing awareness, control and consistency."
- Danny Slomoff, Slomoff Consulting Group
Danny Slomoff, who has worked closely with U.S. Ski & Snowboard President & CEO Tiger Shaw for the last several years, was first introduced through Board of Trustees contacts. For the last three years, Slomoff has offered generous pro bono work to athletes and staff of U.S. Ski & Snowboard from across all sports. Oftentimes, those who have met with Slomoff have said his training has been some of the most beneficial they’ve received from the organization, off the snow.
Glusker is particularly excited about the program because it is an excellent opportunity for these athletes to share their compelling sport and life stories, build public speaking skills progressively throughout the year, and develop as effective, impactful speakers. Slomoff and his team of skilled professionals will provide personalized, targeted coaching to each of the athletes during the year, as well as introduce them to corporations and organizations and help them prepare for U.S. Ski & Snowboard events, galas, engagements, media and personal sponsor activities. Speaker’s Bureau topics include preparation and practice of presentations and talks, marketing, slide and video development, writing and publishing articles. All of this valuable, meaningful coaching is being donated by Slomoff Consulting Group.
Slomoff takes great pride in the work he does, and it certainly shows, as he grew emotional at the end of the two-day Speaker’s Bureau, following the final presentations – almost akin to a proud father.
“We teach all of our clients to approach speaking the way great athletes approach their skill, by developing awareness, control and consistency,” Slomoff remarked. “These world-class athletes understand the work needed to develop a new skill and are accustomed to putting in the coaching and practice time to master it. They were able to make progress very quickly and take leaps and bounds toward greatness. We cannot wait to see them reach their potential as peak performing speakers.
The Speaker’s Bureau entailed two full days of training with the first day being more of a group setting. Athletes met for an initial welcome session before breaking into two groups to work in small group scenarios with four skilled coaches. In these small groups, they broke down the basics of successful speaking through improv work, with the belief that successful public speaking is acting more than it is public speaking. They discussed topics like awareness of body language, tone, tempo, diction and the psychology of public speaking and connecting with your audience.
Without giving away too much, some of the key points were: try not to have an ego, care for the listener, when your content and your energy match, there is authenticity, the importance of talking with your face, voice, and fingers and having a strong message and purpose. The coaches worked with each individual athlete utilizing their strengths and improving their weaknesses. They broke down the skills and then rebuilt them over the next two days so there was a progression that athletes could see. This approach, of course, coincides well with the type of performance/feedback loop the athlete is accustomed to in their sport.
The final goal is to get these current and former U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes into speaking engagements, but more so it is to build professional skills and allow them to experience the courage it takes to make mistakes and then make improvements and move forward in a setting that may be more uncomfortable to them than the mountain. The results were positive, and the athletes may have surprised themselves more than anything.
“It was a great opportunity to work on a skill set that will benefit athletes long after their competitive careers are over."
- Alex Deibold, U.S. Snowboard Team
U.S. Alpine Ski Team alumnus and four-time Olympian Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, Calif.) commented on how beneficial the training was. “It was amazing to me that the room was full of Olympians and World Champions of our respective sports but we were all acting like beginners when it came to addressing a crowded room of people,” Sullivan said. “Everyone was excited to overcome our anxiety and luckily, we are all very coachable so we made huge gains with Danny and his team in just the two days that we were together. I think that speaking and being able to express ourselves is part of being a professional sportsman that often gets overlooked. I am excited to see all of the athletes in our group progress over the next year. I think it can only be positive for the individuals and U.S. Ski & Snowboard.”
World Championship gold medalist and Olympian aerialist Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.) echoed Sullivan’s sentiments. “I loved the Speaker's Bureau this weekend. I was a little nervous going into the training but came out feeling much more confident speaking in front of any size group of people,” reflected Caldwell. “Danny and his team were awesome to work with. It was incredibly fun and humbling to learn and be embarrassed with a group of your peers, who happen to all be Olympic athletes. We all walked out of our two-day series exponentially more confident and excited about sharing our stories!”
2014 Olympic bronze medalist snowboard cross athlete Alex Deibold (Boulder, Colo.) – perhaps one of the most comfortable in front of crowds going into the two-day Speaker's Bureau – walked away with a lot of valuable learnings from the two days that have made him even more comfortable center stage. “I thought the Speaker's Bureau was a challenging and insightful experience. It was a great opportunity to work on a skill set that will benefit athletes long after their competitive careers are over. I’m looking forward to honing my newfound knowledge and hopefully putting it to use.”
Shaw was there to watch athletes give final presentations and was very impressed with how they worked together and the progress they made as a group, “I’m very excited to see you work together over the next year,” noted Shaw. “I’ve worked with Danny for years now, but it’s heartwarming to see world-class athletes mesh as a group from different sports in the organization and pair up with world-class coaches. All involved did a very good job.”
Athletes involved included:
Mac Bohonnon (Madison, Conn., Aerials - Freestyle)
Maddie Bowman (South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Pro Halfpipe - Freeskiing)
Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va., Aerials - Freestyle)
Alex Deibold (Boulder, Colo., Snowboard Cross)
Nick Goepper (Lawrenceburg, Ind., Pro Slopestyle - Freeskiing)
Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt., Moguls - Freestyle)
Jaelin Kauf (Alta, Wyo., Moguls - Freestyle)
Steve Nyman (Sundance, Utah, Alpine)
Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, Calif., Alpine Alumnus)
Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, Calif., Alpine Alumnus)