Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Confidence to Race Nascar Rules

It’s been a couple of years now since I interviewed some of the women in my book. Granted, that’s not quite long enough for a really shocking “where are they now?” But I recently had the chance to catch up with Brett Buckles, who was, as some will remember, in the midst of recovering from a race career ending ski accident in Tignes, France. I was curious to know how she was adapting to her non-pro, or amateur athlete life in the slow lane (by her standards, not mine). And I should be clear here, when I say amateur, I use that term with the greatest respect. After all, the Latin root of the word is amare, which means, “to love,” as in—we do our sports because we love them, not because we gotta.

I also wanted to know if Brett had competed in a rodeo yet, one of the things she’d told me was on her list. She hadn’t…yet.

That’s because Brett is busy with about a million other things. To begin with, she’s coaching our future Ski Cross Olympians. There’s not much of a Ski Cross field in the North America yet, though it’s an established sport in Europe. It’s a fast and furious version of downhill ski racing, in which 4-6 people are on the course at the same time, competing head to head, with Nascar-style rules—“rubbing is racing.” No malicious contact is allowed, in case that wasn’t obvious.

The girls she coaches, 7-10 nationally, at any given time, are, unsurprisingly, slower to take to the sport than the boys. Fear, as you can imagine, is your biggest enemy in the sport, as it is in life, though perhaps a little more obviously when you’re hurtling down a mountain, trying to avoid skirmishes with others doing the same. Based on my fear of small rocks while on the mountain bike, I suspect I would not be good at Ski Cross. Before you leave the gate, Brett says, you have to be 100% confident in yourself. According to Brett, it takes considerably more effort to build the girls’ confidence in themselves. She blames at least part of this on how we are socialized, what she calls, “the being feminine thing,” which tells us we can’t kick ass and still be a girl.

Still. This is still an issue. Sigh. I wish for girls (and women, of course) the confidence to race Nascar rules, in whatever they do.

Fortunately for the girls Brett coaches, and injury notwithstanding, Brett-beats-all-the-boys-Buckles is still faster down the course than the 15 and 16-year old boys she coaches (I wonder how that feels for the boys?), so she can show her girls what’s available to them. So even if most of the time they are learning how to go faster by chasing the boys, at least they know, because they’ve seen it with their own eyes, what a woman can do.

Brett still feels the itch to race, if not professionally, and even if she finishes DFL (dead fucking last). When she has that goal out there, it’s the nudge she needs to push herself to the limit, or beyond—and that’s the pleasure zone for Brett in sports. She’s taken up mountain biking (no surprise) and may compete in triathlons, though she doesn’t love running (no surprise there, either, since even top speed isn’t going to get the wind whistling in your ears).

When she’s not training her girls, or herself, Brett is working on a career in journalism, writing on the gamut from snow sports to reggae music reviews. On the side she’s making jewelry. I think we can safely say that Brett has not confined herself to a darkened room to nurse her self-pity, something I needed to remind myself of on occasion, as I’ve traveled my own nano-length road (by comparison to Brett) to recovery.

p.s. I got out for a first mountain bike ride this past weekend and worked up an honest-to-goodness sweat—what joy!