Julia Ford on the importance of teamwork

Each winter season quickly ends, transitioning into the next with high hopes, preparation, and new opportunities. This off season, I am sad to see a lot of my friends retire. It makes me more conscious of the inevitable and even more grateful for my GroundSwell opportunity. Without it, I would feel more stagnant and more afraid of retirement. My education at GroundSwell makes me feel qualified for the next step of my life, whenever that may come.

I wanted to use this post to explain what my winter was like. Confusing and chaotic, my results were a cumulative effect of a lot of great efforts, not just my own. Returning to my slalom roots, I essentially started my ski racing career over. Entering the year with 43 FIS points, I cut them to 17. This might not seem a great feat for someone my age and experience, but I had not raced a slalom since 2014 and didn’t race once in 2015-2016. Most importantly, I enjoyed the process and wanted to compete. Keeping my body healthy was hard, and at times my mind was burnt, but it is the most present I have stayed in a season. I contribute this to GroundSwell’s ability to activate my mind, releasing the weight of lingering ski racing thoughts.

I also contribute this presence to the environment and culture I skied in. A Holderness School ambassador; skiing with Mike Savage from Waterville Academy; a Redneck Racer; attending GroundSwell Institute; my self-definition was blurred into many areas. I had Savage’s phenomenal energy and Nate Jenkes’ leadership and guidance. I had Mittersill’s, Holderness School’s new training facility, my old and new Holderness coaches. I had Gannons and Eric Price who I texted daily for training schedules. I skied at Burke, Waterville, Okemo, Killington, Cannon, Dartmouth, and others. Plymouth State University (a lot), Dartmouth, UNH, Colby, University boys, BMA, GMVS, WVA, Holderness, OMS, were all my training partners. When I say my year was a cumulative effect of many efforts and kindnesses, I am not exaggerating. My hope is that I offered as much to those training partners as they did to me.

Each night, I came home to my friends at GroundSwell. All over the world, we used the powers of technology and came together to learn budgets, strategic planning, inner game, scanning industries, and learning in real companies, through real experience. At 10 EST, Mon, Wed, Fri, was class. In our make-shift internet community, we came together to professionally develop. At 12, class ended, we’d sign off and go about our normal lives. I missed a lot of classes due to skiing. But, everything is recorded and everyone reachable.

GroundSwell is not graded. You don’t learn the content for a test and then forget. It’s a matter of retaining information and being able to talk the talk. There is more incentive to learn and less to cram. It takes a lot of time and is challenging but so doable if motivated. I spent 4 hours in a cafe after the Middlebury Carnival, finishing a 3-pager that I had already worked 15 hours on. Finishing that 3-page industry analysis felt like finishing a hard dryland camp; a rush of accomplishment and adrenaline.

My winter possessed no ‘normal’ days. Generally speaking, I trained in the morning, then dryland, then signed into a couple of hours of GroundSwell at night. My days off were for recovery and GroundSwell catch up. When everything boiled over and I needed a day of nothing, I took a day of nothing. Although, very rarely did I need it.

I learned this year how to condense a lot of information into the important parts and to respond. Things didn’t always come together but I learned to respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally. Part of that was GroundSwell’s inner game content, part was being surrounded by good people. It was also understanding all I can do is put in the effort, not kill myself doing so, and things would play out. It is not life or death. It is selfish in the sense that I am determined to better myself in hope it helps better the people around me. Ski racing is an independent sport but it takes a team and I am thankful for the team who helped me this winter.

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