Technique Versus Tactics

I’m sure most of us can relate to the situation – you receive feedback on your skiing only to then receive contradictory feedback, sometimes from the same person! This can be confusing at best and downright infuriating at worst!

In my experience, this is typically due to a failure to distinguish between technique and tactics.

Technique describes how skiing works. It describes WHAT we are trying to achieve and WHY. For example, a centred, athletic stance (what) provides the skier with the strength and mobility necessary to ski efficiently (why).

Meanwhile tactics (or development tactics) are concerned with HOW to develop a skier’s technique. For example, consider a skier who tends to ski with his mass behind his base of support. One possible development tactic would be to move his mass forward relative to his base of support to achieve a more centred stance.

Problems arise when development tactics are either misrepresented (by the instructor) or misconstrued (by the student) as technique. Consider the example above of the skier who tends to ski with his mass behind his base of support. His instructor advises him to move his mass forward relative to his base of support (tactic). If the student fails to understand the technique – the what and the why – to achieve a more centred stance, resulting in better strength and mobility – he risks taking the development tactic too far. At his next lesson, he will be told that his centre of mass is ahead of his base of support and that he needs to move his mass back again!

Such a situation can be avoided by addressing the following questions:

  • WHAT are you trying to achieve?
  • WHY do you want to achieve this?
  • HOW will you achieve this?

Applied to our example:

  • What are you trying to achieve and why? (technique)
    • A centred, athletic position provides strength and mobility
  • How will you achieve this? (tactic)
    • Move the mass forward relative to the base of support

The teacher-student relationship requires that both parties take responsibility for ensuring that the student understands what he must do to develop. The instructor should aim to provide the student with the answers to these questions, while it is the student’s responsibility to make sure that he understands the answers to these questions. If not, it is his responsibility to question his instructor until he is satisfied with the information he has.

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