Deb Armstrong: A gold medal perspective on sports


Steamboat is Ski Town USA, Bike Town USA, Kid Town USA. Our Steamboat youths have unique access to sports and its benefits, yet to facilitate the most of the opportunities out there, we must remain informed and continue to cultivate our understanding of the relationship of sports in our children’s lives. No one article, lecture or experience can be all-encompassing, but here are some thoughts I shared with the Alpine team for athletes ranging from ages 10 to 20 years and older in the form of a letter.

Hello Alpine athletes of all ages,

As we enter our final push of the season, a few thoughts come to my mind that I would like to share with you. Because I am old and have finished my ski-racing career, I have the luxury of seeing things differently than you; let’s call it a broader “start-to-finish” perspective. My perspective dulls down the day-to-day highs and lows, and ultimately, I recognize how the highs and lows play an equal part of a larger picture.

My message to you — nothing in your young sporting career ever is fixed or set in stone.

For those of you who are on “top” and for those of you who are the “chasers,” nothing in youth sports is ever fixed. You all are equally in the same boat! Meaning you all have a fresh day every day to perform, and you all know by now that races never have a fixed outcome. How many of you already this season have been beaten by someone who you didn’t expect to beat you in training or on race day? This happens daily.

If you are older and always have been the fastest up to now, please do not rest on that. Every day is your day to improve and build upon propelling yourself to higher places. If you are younger or possibly have not yet found success, endure. Not everyone has the mental fortitude to endure — make sure you do. No one can know when your body, your hard work, your mentality and your skill level will align to propel you to your breakthrough, but it will come if you endure.

Remember, there is no “should” in youth sports. No one “should” beat a first year in an age group, this is a myth. Feeling one “should” be faster because one always has been better is a myth. No one “should” expect boys to beat girls.

In team sports and in professional sports, there are favorites, sure (and the favorites get upended all the time). Yet in youth athletics, “upsets” don’t exist because no one can ever predict when things for an individual will fall into place; a technical breakthrough, a clearer understanding, a growth spurt, confidence, etc. Things shift daily as young people learn and grow — this is the fact, and why the word “should” becomes a road block for young athletes and parents alike. 

No one can account for breakthroughs yet they are the one thing we can count on in youth athletics. For those of you who feel on top right now, you are there because you earn it daily. You are not there because you “should” be there. For those of you in the “chase,” your breakthrough will come. Persevere, be brave and keep preparing for your time because it will come and you will surprise your teammates, your parents, yourself — but not me!

Love it, live it, achieve it. You are in the heart of your sporting career, be it a high point or a low point or just rolling along — highs and lows are the same thing, the opportunity for betterment in your sport. Take in the information, learn and endure.

Have fun, gang, and good luck in the upcoming races. 

Deb Armstrong is the Alpine competitive director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. She also is a two-time Olympian, winning a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo in giant slalom and competing in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  


Harvey Lyon 3 years ago


I really really really respect Deb Armstrong (and all of her family). And I really really respect folks like Chris Puckett, Terry Delaquadri, Scott Wither, Tony Nunnikoven, Adumus and all the others who worked so hard to shape my 4 children's lives. Olympians, World Cuppers, NCAA Champions, the Best-of -the Best! They are totally amazing people and I heartedly say they played a large role in making/shaping the success my children have enjoyed in life.

But Deb's letter ignores the "biggie". Alpine sports are expensive, way expensive, Lambrogini plus expensive over the course of 12 years and 4 children.

Deb was the first "Head Alpine Coach" who spent money, scheduled lodging, etc as if she was spending her own money. That was cool and very nice to see. Alas, I was out of money by the time we hired her.

And she's absolutely correct when she says "one never knows when all of a sudden one blooms". The question is....can one afford to find out?

Personally I burned thru, easily $300k+ in Alpine Sports with SSWSC, 4 kids 13 years. While I wouldn't trade their experiences and self confidence for anything (I consider it money well spent...what's my choice)......Alpine skiing needs to go back to when sleeping 4 to the floor and three to the bed it was in the 70's. SSWSC changed sleeping 2 to the bed, 3 or 4 star accomodations.

Else all the goals, dreams and desires of our youth will be throttled by the parents ability to pay. And I considered myself a "rich" guy when I started with SSWSC.....LOL

A un-named father of average means, long time local and friend to all, said once that "Ability" (which refers to the highest class of amateur racing) means "Parents Abilty to pay".

Deb's right in that the journey is more important than the final finish. But it crushes the athlete and the parents when they realize you need to be in that top 1% Obama is always talking about to find out if you're a competitive skier.

And actually, you'll know if you're a competitive skier about the time you're 13. Not to detract from the amazing returns from issuing yourself a personal challenge.

I would encourage anyone that has a few extra dollars at the tax season to give SSWSC a call. And I'd encourage SSWSC to continue to develop your ability to spend each and every dollar as if it were coming out of your wallet.

If I mis-spelled words, rock Deb.

Harv Lyon


john bailey 3 years ago

how about Nick Goepper from Indiana , not a 1%er but thru his hard work and a camp in Oregon he got to refine his sport and see what he did ? but your right Harv , its a rich mans game any more , one of the reason I cannot participate any more at least on the developed hills.....sad really.....gimme a rope tow......its all about every thing else but the actual skiing anymore


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