32 Degrees: Mentors Give Us the Push We Sometimes Need
This article by AASI Snowboard Team member Stephanie Wilkerson originally appeared in the Winter 2023 Issue of 32 Degrees Magazine.
A little support can go a long way. Even if the effects aren’t immediate, an act of kindness or a few words of encouragement can be very meaningful. We all know this to be the case during a lesson. And the same holds true for setting an example for other instructors.
How I Started Instructing
I have to credit my good friend Max Lockett, a longtime ski and snowboard instructor out of Wyoming, for initiating my career. He encouraged me to work for my local mountain’s adaptive program, Eagle Mount in Red Lodge, Montana – where I learned how to teach others to snowboard. I would volunteer in the morning and snowboard in the afternoons. The experience showed me the magic of sharing snowboarding with others.
Max encouraged me to join PSIA-AASI, telling me I would enjoy being an instructor. It wasn’t until years later that I finally followed his suggestion.
While working as a lift operator at California’s Mammoth Mountain Resort, I started riding with a group of instructors. They reiterated Max’s advice, encouraging me to get a job with the ski and ride school and join PSIA-AASI. So, I applied for an instructor position the next season, and started down the certification pathway that winter.
I never planned on snowsports becoming my career. It just happened. I blinked, and 10 years had gone by. I guess that’s what happens when you’re having fun. It seems that no matter how hard I tried to pursue other pathways in life, I always grav- itated back to the snowy mountains. I’m not sure there’s any other environment I’d rather work in.
Mentorship: Another Way to Teach and Learn
In my career, I’ve worked with many great trainers who have helped me along the way, and I’ve received a lot of peer-to-peer support. The individuals around me continued to inspire me to take the next step… and the one after that.
Now that I’m established in my career, I’m working to pay the encouragement forward to help other instructors discover their potential. One way I do this is by seeking out opportunities to serve as a mentor.
Mentorship gives me satisfaction simi- lar to teaching someone their first S turn on a snowboard, but on a different level. It takes effort, work, and dedication by both parties. But it is 100% worth it. Like instructing, mentoring helps me learn a lot about my process while teaching me how others grow, learn, and pursue goals.
It is a two-way relationship. As the mentee, you must be willing to put in the work. Mentors put a lot of heart and effort into supporting mentees, but it only works if both people are equally invested.
So, are you ready to help lift others? Mentoring is a great way to help strengthen the snowsports community. Or maybe you’re looking for someone to help you take your teaching and career to the next level? It never hurts to ask questions or seek help. Then, when you’re ready, you can pay the mentor experience forward for someone else.
Tips on Being a Great Mentor or Mentee
MENTORS, YOUR ROLE IS TO:
- Advise, don’t manage, your mentee.
- Stay in your area of experience and expertise.
- Be clear about your availability.
- Create a supportive relationship by providing honest and non-judgmental feedback.
MENTEES, YOUR ROLE IS TO:
- Provide expectations and direction.
- Understand that mentorship requires a two-way relationship.
- Recognize your mentor will help you learn and grow.
- Respect your mentor’s time.
- Collaborate with your mentor to reach goals.
- Be open to receiving honest feedback.
- Follow through on your goals.
TIPS FOR FINDING A MENTOR:
- Network during education clinics, social gatherings, and in your snowsports school locker room.
- Reach out and ask others to share their help and expertise.
- Find a person who is doing something you aspire to do, and ask questions – be inquisitive.
- A mentor doesn’t need to be older; what they need is experience in what you want to accomplish.