Grover Outlines 2011 USST Vision

FasterSkierApril 27, 201018

New Head Coach of the US Ski Team, Chris Grover, has outlined a vision for the 2011 US Ski Team.

Writes Grover,

Every since the 2010 season came to an end, we have been hard at work creating our annual strategic plan and detailed plans regarding competition calendars, training camps, Team nominations, etc, as well as having discussions with coaches and athletes around the country.   I thought it would be appropriate to share the vision the staff and I have for the coming season.   I hope it sheds some light on what we are up to and why we are excited about our overall progress and outlook for future progress

Read the full piece here:


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  • rockybarber

    April 28, 2010 at 7:38 am

    This is good news. I am glad to know that the US Ski Team nominations and a skiers medal prospects are based on the objective data of the FIS points vs Age graph.
    “Every athlete who is being nominated to the U.S. Ski Team this year has something in common. They are on the path to winning a medal. This medal could from the World Cup, World Championship or Olympic Winter Games, but they are on this path. If we graph these athletes’ ages versus their FIS points and plot those graphs against the progress of the best cross country skiers in the world, we can see that they are on the path. Will all seven of these athletes still be on this path at the end of this coming season? Hopefully, but the chances are not good. Will there be other athletes that will emerge and show they are on path? Most likely. For this reason alone, we must keep U.S. Ski Team funding more fluid. We need to be able to get the fastest U.S. skiers at a given moment in the season to the right races. We have done a pretty good job of this in the past, but we can do better.”-Chris Grover
    This will answer the doubters who think that the US team doesn’t have objective criteria for selecting the team. By publishing the FIS points needed at a certain age, athletes will know exactly what they need to strive and also where they stand as far as potential. It will save many people the effort of knocking their heads against the wall throughout their 20s and maybe even there 30s when they could just see it mapped on a graph.
    The only confusion I have is that you can be off the path one year and back on the next, and vise versa. This seems a contrast to John Farra’s comments:
    “Evaluating medal potential of established athletes is straightforward, according to Farra. If an athlete has not reached a certain level by a certain age, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to contend for the podium. Farra referred to a simple graph plotting performance against age for each athlete.”
    I am excited to see the graph when it is published. I am sure that this will also be put into next seasons criteria for making the National team, as it would be to the benefit of all the athletes and coaches of potential Olympians in the US. I have no doubt that this straightforward graph exists, as careers of the athletes and coaches obviously depend on it.

  • birchleg

    April 28, 2010 at 9:02 am

    I definitely want to see this graph. I’d like to see how these 7 are definitively “on the path” and Southam, Koos, and Brooks are not. I think Grover and Farra owe it to the American ski community and taxpayers to show it. I predict they won’t, and will likely have some lame excuse about “not owing any explanations” to the peanut gallery or about it being proprietary information. It can’t exactly be a secret if it is a plot showing medalists performance vs age. I highly suspect they can’t produce this graph, because they’ve never made it. If that is the case and they are just feeding us BS to justify their decisions, they should be out of a job. There has to be accountability. The coaches did a great job of stating high expectations and making medal predictions for the Olympics, but none of them seems to take any of the blame for the results. Produce the graph and have it show that it’s not just a bunch of BS, or step down so a search can be made to find someone who actually has some answers. Fasterskier and the ski community should expect nothing less.

  • nexer

    April 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

    To Grover’s credit, he leaves the door open.

    “Will all seven of these athletes still be on this path at the end of this coming season? Hopefully, but the chances are not good. Will there be other athletes that will emerge and show they are on path? Most likely. For this reason alone, we must keep U.S. Ski Team funding more fluid. We need to be able to get the fastest U.S. skiers at a given moment in the season to the right races.”

  • cuxc

    April 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Further on Grover’s behalf, he does not say that the other athletes are not on the path, and he does not discredit any of their performances or their talent as skiers. If you read the article one of the first paragraphs states:

    “We acknowledge that there are many very talented ski racers in this country that have not been nominated to the Team this spring. Beyond that, there are many talented ski racers that are not being re-nominated to the U.S. Ski Team this spring. Just because an athlete is not nominated or re-nominated to the U.S. Ski Team for a given season does not mean that any of the staff has any less respect for their abilities. Making some teams some years and not making these teams on other years is part of the athlete development process. It is a natural process that reflects the very nature of development.”

    He also goes on to say that the clubs in the US are an important part of development process and I’d be willing to bet that all of the athletes that were not named or re-named to the team understand this as much as anyone, and are happy to train with and represent their clubs on a national and international level. If you look at many European nations, they have many athletes not on the national team yet are still enjoying great success skiing in the club structure. This does not mean that the national team does not offer them any support.

    I’d like to commend Chris Grover and the rest of the US Ski Team staff for doing a great job in the past few years for spotting talent and doing what they can to foster this talent. That doesn’t mean that they have to nominate every athlete with potential or strong results to the US Ski Team, but they have to communicate with that athletes coaches to make sure they are on the right path to develop and potentially be nominated in the future when they are ready, or when the US Ski Team has the resources to fully support every athlete, without any compromises, on a team of a larger size.

  • JoranElias

    April 28, 2010 at 10:34 am

    @birchleg and others: I’m working on it. Grover’s statement about the graph is vague enough (not a criticism! not everyone is as anal about this stuff as I am) that there’s a wide latitude in reconstructing precisely what he meant.

    If I understand what he meant correctly, it’s an interesting (though tricky) thing to graph. I’ll try to send something along to fs in the next day or so.

  • birchleg

    April 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for the response, but you shouldn’t even have to. Both Farra and Grover refer to a graph. Farra referred to a simple graph of age vs performance. Grover talks of the graph as age vs FIS points and the 7 compare favorably to the best skiers in the world. If they are referring to these graphs, and are basing their decisions as to who makes the National team on them, it should not be a stretch for them to produce them. To be viable they should also say which of these “best skiers in the world” they are using to establish “the path”. My contention is that this is a lot of smoke, and merely an effort at justification for their recent decisions. If they prove me wrong, I’ll gladly shut up and stay off these pages forever.

  • Erik_hendrickson

    April 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Chris makes a good case for the team. Thanks Chris for doing this as you didn’t have to give any explanation.

    The bit about not “fighting” with club coaches for domestic races makes a lot of sense. Concentrate on the international team for sure.

    I also can buy the argument that a more fluid team membership can beneficial- “We need to be able to get the fastest U.S. skiers at a given moment in the season to the right races. We have done a pretty good job of this in the past, but we can do better.”

    This implies that at times the “hot skier” would be picked up by the USST and supported. The question is exactly when would that would be the case. Everyone knows Athletes plan their seasons around their finances there would have to be big coordination to get this right.

    The 7-week Europa cup support sounds interesting. As does the National Training Group.

    The age vs. FIS point chart is seems like a bad way to make picks for a number of reasons. The first is that there is no “age” where one has officially made it. Wasn’t Therese Johaug 19 when she won her first WC? Didn’t Hilde Pederson win at 45? How old is Hjelmeset? Only 2 skiers US skiers qualified under objective criteria (Newell, Kikkan). Kris was an obvious discretionary pick due to his multiple top 10 WC finishes, being just outside the FIS list (51st) and the fact that he’s well, Kris Freeman. That makes 3. Everyone else must have been a discretionary pick based on the graph.

    But everyone else on the list, seems to occupy some middle ground- not quite old enough to be winning on the WC now, but shows promise or has had an outstanding u23 result in the past. It seems it is trying to both pick the best skiers now AND pick those with promise. It’s a tricky thing.

    Liz is 23 years old. Her highest place in 7 WC starts last year was 36th. Caitlin Compton is 29. She scored a 14th and a 30th in 5 WC starts (and a 6th Olympic team sprint with Kikkan). The point is that making picks in not a straight-forward thing despite a graph. Making picks on objective criteria would be easier.

    Overall some more transparency, and openness into the whole process would lead to a easier job for the coaches…Takes the picks out of their hands. Good first step, but as Chris says “we can always do better”. Same is true of the leadership at the top.


    April 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

    “Will all seven of these athletes still be on this path at the end of this coming season? Hopefully, but the chances are not good.”

    why are “the chances not good”? The Magnificent 7 are non-responsive to coaching? an illness or injury is expected at least 1/7 times? Why are we operating on “Hopefully”? If all seven are below the magic line, what happens?

    I’d like to cut him a little slack for this off-the-cuff comment, but how great would it be to read, “I believe all seven of our athletes will improve this coming season as we focus resources on our top talent and junior pipeline.”? At least pretend rather than pre-make excuses in April.

  • JoranElias

    April 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Just to clarify, my interest in charts like this is not to prove anyone right or wrong…I just like looking at data and it sounded like a fun thing to look at. I have no preconceived hopes about any usefulness/meaning from such a chart.

  • Tim Kelley

    April 28, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Of all the gripes that have been posted about the USST over the past few years – it seems like Chris addresses 99% or everything here. Chris communicates well that he acknowledges valid criticism about the USST and he explains how the USST is changing due to ski community input: hands-off reliance on elite clubs, the USST will no longer be a “competitor” at races, the USST roster being “fluid” so that if a non-USST skier is kicking butt – a slower USST skier is left home so the fastest skier (Koos perhaps) can race in Europe with expenses covered.

    Personally, reading this well thought out, analytical, accountable, open and honest statement by Chris makes me more of a fan of the USST. You have to give credit to Chris for having the backbone to communicate publically like this to the skiing public. It sure beats the predominate silence of his predecessor that was only broken by obtuse statements along the line of: “Sweet. Game On. We need to be awesome.” It seems like Chris is bringing some real substance to the table. Thank you Chris.

    But … there is one item of the USST agenda that seems contradictory – and that is the performance graph used to determine USST eligibility. The graph as stated is FIS points over age. But low FIS points are not the goal of the USST, Olympic and World Championships medals are the goal. We have seen in the last two Olympics that low FIS of American xc skiers do not equate to medals. It takes more than low FIS points to win at the Olympics – it takes talent to be your best at the right time (and not choke). So – the performance metric for USST eligibility should likely be more podium based chart instead of a graph, like: top 10 in Jr. Worlds, top 10 in U23, top 30 in WC race at 24, top 20 by 24, top 10 by 25, WC podium by 26, top 3 in World Cup overall or podium at Worlds or Olympics by age 30. Another plus to this approach is that there will be less performance-based arguments about medals than FIS points (especially on this web site).

  • jacquesdn

    April 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Therese Johaug had the fastest split for the hill climb stage of the Tour de Ski in 2009. This is her only WC “win”. She was 21. Hilde Pedersen won a WC at age 42.

    Based on a little scanning of the FIS website it appears that the youngest WC winners in recent years were 20 when they won (a handful of athletes have done this, all these victories were either in sprints or mass starts).

    Harri Kirvesniemi and Pedersen look like the only winners over the age of 40, both won at 42. After that there are a handful of athletes who have won races over the age of the 35.

  • nexer

    April 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Wonder if the USST used Joran’s graph? 😉 Combine the FIS points vs. performance article and age vs. FIS points and you can come up with a pretty good guess at who has a better chance of winning a medal.

    We love talking about outlyers, but when all is said and analyzed, outlyers are what they are. Improbable events, underdogs, cinderella stories.

  • billydewitt

    May 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I found the FIS points vs age comparison very interesting, and decided to see how close we are to the international stars. I took the FIS points at given ages for all the men and women listed in the top 8 for FIS sprint and distance and World Cup overall, sprint and distance. I took the average and median at the specified ages for the 19 men and did the same for the 15 women. The following is a team members FIS points this season vs the average and median for the top skiers in the world when they were the same age (I took the lowest score from list 5 or 6 for the USST members):

    Freeman 17.86 vs 3.90 avg (.58 median)
    Newell 12.68 vs 9.47 avg (8.3 median)
    Hamilton 43.01 vs 24.31 avg (18.3 median)
    Hoffman 46.44 vs 40.23 avg (45.11 median)
    Randall 40.21 vs 16.49 (9.05 median)
    Arritola 55.93 vs 25.97 avg (20.46 median)
    Stephen 56.13 vs 32.75 avg (22.42 median)

    Only Hoffman and Newell appear to be on track regarding age vs FIS points. Stephen and Newell has better scores than 2 of the skiers, Arritola and Hamilton better than one, and Freeman better than none. I don’t mean to imply that any of these athletes don’t have a chance at a medal. It does look pretty clear though that in regards to FIS points vs age, they are not even close to the world’s top skiers. Mr. Grover is either a very poor analyst, or he has the potential to do very well in American politics or Kool-Aid sales.

  • Big Joe

    May 3, 2010 at 11:57 am

    In the interest of full disclosure perhaps at least one of Grover’s chearleaders ought to disclose his/her close ties to the Grover clan.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    May 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Vordenberg, Wadsworth, Nystad, Patterson, Gallagher, Caldwell, etc. all good skiers and excellent coaches. Coaches are not the issue…a lousy coach can coach a superior athlete and that athlete will still be competetive, especially with todays readily available information sharing.

    The key is to invest time and money into developing new ski markets and participants in order to find new/nore unique ‘blood’ – the “team’ will take care of itself once you have a stable of amazing men and women. And what will follow is the “pro” (term used very loosley) team having success and able to pay their coaches a decent wage for long term stability.

  • rockybarber

    May 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Big Joe, my gut feeling is that “doingitwell” from the other thread is either Grover himself or someone very close to him. His post seems consistent with the passive agressive nature of dumping a 9 year vet with an email, and failure to follow up with an athlete who was not named and given an email the day stating that a call would come the next day. The post on #14 of this thread and the graphs by Elias make Grover’s claims of “on the path” due to their FIS points look like a real joke. Doing it well indeed. It’s interesting that he doesn’t back up these claims with any facts, and that fasterskier gives him a big thumbs up without even questioning the validity of his statement.

  • doingitwell

    May 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Hey rockybarber, I am not Grover, nor would I say I am close with him. I do respect him and think he should be given a chance to do his job….he has been on the job four weeks and already people are all over him. If he &*** up, I’ll be the first one in with constructive criticism….I promise you that.
    My posts were not about who was named to the team, I was merely saying that there might have been other factors in Torin’s not being named than we know, I have no idea…but it wouldn’t surprise me based on experience.
    My other point was to say that after eight or nine years and a ton of money invested, the USST doesn’t owe him anything in my opinion. I would feel the same if they dumped Freeman right now. He has had a good run, they have invested a ton in him and there shouldn’t be any complaints. THIS DOES NOT MEAN I THINK THEY SHOULD DUMP HIM…..before someone overreacts, I’m just saying that we need to look at the amount of money and time invested in these athletes by the USST also. Torin got more than a fair shake, and made the most of it….everyone should be happy with that. It’s more than most people get….

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