You Ask, We Answer!
As many of you have requested, we are so excited to welcome Operations Manager, coach, and head guide Lindsay Mann Davis, longtime Keely’s Camp Coach, U.S. Ski Team Alumna, and Olympian Chelsea Marshall, and Keely’s Camp Founder and Director Keely Kelleher on our blog this month to share their insight on being an elite ski racer and what Keely’s Camp means to them. Lets get into it!
Q: At the peak of each of your racing careers, how did you manage the mental game of elite ski racing? Do you have any specific tips or tricks to ease nerves?
When I skied my best, I was relaxed, confident, and present. I was able to have fun, which was a really important part of my race day mindset for me and feel confident in my routine. I was able to talk to people, listen to music and have fun at the start and then slowly I would hone in on what I needed to do and
trusted that process. Usually when I skied my best too I was feeling really supported and connected to my coaches and environment, so that I could relax and enjoy the moment, the day and the run.
I think the major shift I had was within my preparation for race day. I was an athlete that got very nervous for races and at times would under perform because of my nerves. Later in my career I created a really good training routine that mimicked my race day routine. For example, I had two drills I would do along with my freeskiing warm up. I would do them before training and before my race. I’d also have the same pre race warm up exercises before my training and race. I would do the same thing each time whether it was in training or racing. By the time I got to my races I had excited nerves instead! I think this shift is what truly helped me excel.
Q: What is a favorite memory or story you have from your time as a ski racer?
Some of my fondest ski racing memories are from Lake Louise, CAN. It was always the start of season for the World Cup Speed races, excitement and anticipation were at an all time high. We had put in the hard work all prep period, feeling fresh and prepared to have the season get underway, finally getting to see where we stack up against the top athletes in the World.
In 2010 I had the opportunity to start bib 1 in the first DH of the season in Lake Louise. I remember the feeling of being so calm and confident at the start, excited for the run ahead. The sun was shining, conditions were a little varied but I trusted myself. I crossed the finish line with a smile across my face, filled with adrenaline and truly being in the moment. I took a pause before looking up at the scoreboard, having time to reflect before any other competitors took to the course. I ended up with a top 15 finish that day, alongside 4 other teammates also in the top 15. A great way to start the season for the US Team but it wasn’t about the result for me that day as much but the pure joy of a DH run and sharing that success with my team.
One of my favorite ski racing memories is my last run as a ski racer. I was standing in the starting gate at NCAAs and was the last person to race for Dartmouth (alpine or nordic). As I was moving into the starting gate, my coach, Christine, came over to me and said, “green light.” This meant that I could just ski – I didn’t need to finish for the team, I could just go. I remember feeling so relaxed in the starting gate and as soon as I crossed the finish line, one of my teammates jumped over the fence in the finish corral to give me a huge hug.
Not only did I win the run but Dartmouth won NCAAs.
This was one of my favorite memories not because we won but because I skied so relaxed, things came together and I truly felt like I made my team proud and had their support. To this day, I don’t know if Dartmouth would have won if I hadn’t won the run or if I had gone out – but what I do know is that I had a coach that I trusted and truly knew how to support me in the starting gate to ski my best.
I broke my leg badly in 2003 just as I was about to emerge onto the World Cup. Literally the day I broke my leg my coach had told me I was going to start in the Lake Louise World Cup. Three years and seven surgeries later I finally returned to racing as a healthy athlete. I think my memories of rehab and recovery are some of my worst, but fondest because they taught me the most about myself. When I finally did step into the start gate in my first World Cup I felt really accomplished and grateful to even be there. My teammates and coaches were really supportive throughout my journey and I fondly remember their encouragement to this day. In a way it felt like a World Cup Win.
Q: Why did you start Keely’s Camp and who encouraged you?
The year I retired from my World Cup ski racing career I went to Mt. Hood, Oregon and coached my first group of girls. The girls told me they “loved relating to a female coach” and “Keely you should start your own camp!” I was among only a handful of female coaches on Mt. Hood that summer. I wanted to change that.
The following summer I hired an entirely female staff stacked with Olympians, U.S. Ski Teamers, and NCAA collegiate racers. Collectively we decided as a staff that we were going to give girls something we never had – strong, positive, experienced, female coaches.
It’s been over a decade since Keely’s Camp began. We’ve coached thousands of girls from all over the world and those girls have come back to coach for us. We give girls a community of support for the rest of their lives.
I had a lot of support when I came up with the idea for Keely’s Camp. I couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of the female coaches who came and worked for me that first year. I had no idea how to run a program like this and their support is what made it a success. I also had mentors along the way like Todd Brickson and Bill Gunesch who directed girls to our camp and helped with a lot of the operations. I couldn’t have done it without their support and encouragement.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
That confidence is not given but is something we need to build by facing challenging circumstances head on. We are stronger than we know.
I have learned more about myself with unfortunate injury than I would have otherwise. Even though it was difficult at the time, I learned the importance of showing up, putting in the daily work and seeing it pay off slowly overtime but always with ebbs and flows. This helped me gain confidence by being accountable, trusting myself and eventually gaining strength from within.
You are incredibly brave for continuing to stand in the start gate and show up each day.
All of the times that you feel disappointment, frustration, success, camaraderie, and the list goes on, you are not only learning about yourself but you will carry these lessons with you well beyond ski racing. They will make you resilient, tenacious, brave, and through all of this you will make some of your best friends.
Let it go! If you make a mistake, learn from it fast, and get over it fast. I think this puts you in a learning mindset and makes you adaptable and resilient. I’m still giving myself this advice today!