Link to David’s Video Challenge from May 2020
By David Northcott
This spring, I had the privilege of attending Junior Nationals for the first time as a member of Team New England. This has been a primary goal of mine for the last two years, and the experience was every bit as amazing as I had hoped! Through all the fun, I also gained an important perspective on my training and racing. My experience at JN’s taught me valuable lessons that I hope to take forward through my skiing career.
My earliest winter memories are on skis. I was skiing from the time I could walk and it’s always been a huge part of my identity. I competed in my first BKL race at two years old on homemade wooden skis that my dad made for me for my first birthday. My parents are coaches and I spent every winter afternoon at their practices for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I chased a crew of older, super fast, and super fun teammates in the Putney BKL program and absolutely fell in love with ski racing. We were taught how to work hard and to play even harder. I owe so much to my Putney coaches!
One year ago, at the end of the 2022 season, I felt incredibly motivated after just missing a spot on the JN team as a first-year U16. I put in a lot of focus over the summer, and it paid off! My Eastern Cup season went about as well as it could have; I was on form for the majority of the qualifying races. Going into the season my results goal had been to get the #1 New England U16 seed, and I was able to meet this goal. Coming off a successful winter, I left for JNs in Fairbanks with high hopes for both the trip and the racing. The trip didn’t disappoint and was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Traveling as a team really added to the fun, and spending a week in Alaska with a bunch of my friends was a blast. Beyond that, I realized there is something very special about racing at such a high-level event. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pull together the races I knew were available for me to get; it wasn’t a disaster, but my performances left a lot to be desired. What bothered me the most wasn’t the actual results, but the fact that I could tell I just wasn’t racing to my full potential.
One of the surprising and meaningful parts of this experience was the amount of support I received from my local community. It got me thinking about how much goes into pursuing high-level skiing. It’s not only my own time and energy but also the investment from my parents, coaches, and the amazing crew at NENSA who made the JN trip and much of our race season possible. On top of that, it was humbling to see how many of the people in my local community were interested and excited about my season. I really appreciated it, and it was incredible to have so much support. However, it added something I didn’t foresee; for the first time I felt pressure outside of my own ambitions. To clarify, this pressure wasn’t from anyone other than myself. I began to feel like I owed results to those who supported me. The expectations of high-stakes racing made it a lot harder to race with clarity than I expected.
Following the Alaska trip, I was asked to put together a slideshow of my BKL to JN’s progression for a presentation to my local BKL group. In my time spent searching through old pictures and results, I thought it was cool to see how many of the people who raced in Fairbanks with me have been racing alongside me since first grade. Even more interestingly, many of these people, now some of the fastest in New England, have not always been dominant. This made me think about my Nationals experience and draw some connections. In the moment, failing to meet my goals at JN’s felt really difficult. However, improvement is not always linear and there will always be ebbs and flows along the way. Looking at those old results reminded me that for most of us, race results are only a part of the story. It can be really easy to get stuck on results and feel like a set of sub-par performances will continue indefinitely. I felt this in Alaska and I came away pretty discouraged and unconfident about my abilities. However, after a few weeks of reflection and making the BKL presentation, it occurred to me that this is really not that much different from the results I have had my whole life. Some good, some bad, some I was proud of, and some that left me disappointed. I would have been psyched to crush the big races at the end of the season, of course, but I know now that I can use the disappointment to garner a ton of motivation to get after it this summer.
I really appreciate the opportunity I had this year to be part of such a great team. I am also very appreciative of the opportunity to now be pursuing the sport I have loved my whole life at a high level. I want to strive to use all the generosity from others to motivate, rather than turn the goodwill into unhelpful pressure. I am ready to pick up the pieces of races lost, find inspiration in setting new goals, work hard, and thoroughly enjoy my skiing friends and incredible support network. I’m super hyped to get to work this summer and excited to come back next year stronger, faster, and more experienced!