PARK CITY, UT (September 6, 2011) – The U.S. Freestyle Aerials Team athletes thought they were coming to the Center of Excellence for a routine Sunday afternoon training session. They couldn't have been more wrong. Instead of watching video and lifting weights, the Team would spend their afternoon on an obstacle course through the mountain trails that would show them that even though aerials is an individual sport, the support they show each other is crucial to their success.
The team arrived at the Center and congregated for their weekly team meeting. It was quickly interrupted by High Performance Senior Physiologist Tschana Breslin who let them know that it was not going to be an ordinary training day. She passed the team an envelope with their first map and directions hopped in her car and left.
The team was left with a bike for each person, an egg that had to make it to the end with them (intact) and a running clock.
The athletes had 15 minutes to make it to their first destination. They failed. And two year team member Nevin Brown cracked his egg. Punishment? 500 pushups as a team for the late arrival and an unexpected water balloon ambush from their coaches, Todd Ossian and Ryan Snow.
The next three stops included a hill climb where all teammates were linked together, mind puzzles and finding ways to work together. When teammates were told they couldn't use their legs and others lost their bike seats, tires and shoes, the team still needed to find a way to make it to the next destination.
"Win as a team, lose as a team" sports psychologist Nicole Detling Miller kept telling them. "The day was designed around the notion that we can achieve good things individually, but great things as a team".
For the next three challenges they won as a team. What began as chaos transformed into a well oiled machine. Veterans like Emily Cook took the lead in organizing everyone's thoughts. Rookies like Hans Gardner earned their stripes when they never hesitated to pick up the extra weight.
"We wanted to challenge them by taking them out of their comfort zone and by disrupting their normal schedule so they would have to adapt and work together to make it through" said Breslin. "I was very impressed with the team's perseverance".
"We have a young aerial Team with some amazing veteran leaders" said Freestyle Director, Todd Schirman. "The team building exercise pulled the athletes together, they had to work as a group to get through each stage. By the end of the day the athletes learned from each other and benefited by the communication it took to successfully finish".
The team still has a few months before their first competition, but keep an eye out for some more twists and turns in the air and out.