With a little help from some friends, athletes hope to realize dreams
Athletes are turning to Internet crowdfunding sites to help keep their dreams afloat
October 26, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The problem is the belief.
If he didn't believe, truly believe, deep down, in his core of cores, he wouldn't do it.
Mick Dierdorff doesn't like to think about the pressures associated with turning to crowdfunding — from friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances — to help pay for his upcoming season of competition on the boarder cross World Cup circuit.
"I don't want to feel like I'm going to let anyone down," he said.
But, deep down, in his core of cores, the Steamboat Springs High School graduate doesn't believe he's going to let anyone down. No, he's convinced he's on the precipice of something he's dreamed about for his entire life, the Olympic Games.
The only problem is 10 years of competition have limited his parents' ability to help, and his own efforts to pay for his career — mostly by working construction in the offseason — only go so far.
The belief doesn't waiver based on what's in the wallet, by what's easy or what's comfortable.
"My riding has really grown a bunch, even in the last year," Dierdorff said. "I'm at a point where I'm riding solid. My mental game is where it needs to be, and I know I belong. I'm definitely ready to compete this year.
"I'm going to try to make it to the Olympics."
To try to make ends meet, Dierdorff set up a website at http://www.gofundme.com/mickolympicquest where he's hoping to raise money to pay for this season's expenses.
He isn't alone, either. The winter sports world is growing more expensive all the time, and more and more athletes are turning to the Internet to help find friends, relatives and simply anyone they know who can help make their dreams possible via crowdfunding websites.
Anna Marno isn't under any illusions about her chances to compete in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this winter. Her best chance at cracking the rock solid U.S. Ski Team's women's roster for that event likely came and went when she tore an ACL late last January.
She had been leading the NorAm circuit and would have had a chance at a World Cup appearance last winter and a long stay at that level this season.
"Sochi is a long shot," she said earlier this week. "You never know what can happen, but the women's team is really strong right now. That's good, but it also makes it tougher to qualify.
"That was something I really wanted," she said, again considering Sochi, "but I still have time. I'm only 20."
It was with that goal in mind that she plowed through her rehabilitation this summer — one of the nation's most talented young skiers eager to pick up where she left off. And it was with that in mind that she too decided to turn to the Internet and her friends to help pay for her career.
She's trying to raise $25,000 on RallyMe.com, a crowdfunding site for athletes that has a partnership with the U.S. Ski Team. Her page is https://www.rallyme.com/rallies/202
"I want to start being more responsible for my own skiing," said Marno, now on the U.S. Ski Team's D team. "Being injured helped motivate me to step up and start taking that role (the financial responsibility) under my own wing. I don’t want my parents to support me my entire life. With some setbacks in our family, it's not possible."
RallyMe.com is filled with athletes seeking their dreams, athletes like Steamboat's Jeremy Cota. A seven-time World Cup podium finisher, he lost his spot on the U.S. Ski Team's A team after an injury slowed him a year ago. He couldn't put up the same kind of results, was bumped to a lower team and lost his funding. Now he's trying to raise $12,000 on the site.
"I am back to healthy, stronger than ever and back on track to make my dreams a reality," he wrote on his page on the site.
He's 30 percent of the way to his goal, having raised $3,600.
Chasing the dream
Dierdorff, raising funds at http://www.GoFundMe.com, is among a dozen boarder cross athletes competing for what's likely to be four spots in Sochi.
He's been here before. He won the NorAm circuit in the 2009-10 winter season and went into the following year much as he has this season, thrilled by his chances at making the Olympic team. That self-assurance four years ago vanished with his first trip to the World Cup, however.
"I got shot down pretty good," he said. "My confidence was at a complete low after that."
He missed the Olympic team and his funk continued into the next season. He felt like he was going through the motions of competing rather than digging in with heart and soul.
"Then the next season, I had the most fun year of snowboarding," he said. "It wasn't just competition. I was free riding a lot, too, as hard as I could, and I realized how much I loved this sport. Once I realized that again, it started showing up in my results."
He built his confidence back, placed third on the NorAm circuit a year ago amid several World Cup starts, and now, again, sees a tremendous opportunity looming in Russia in February.
"I love this," he said. "I live for it."
To make the team, he'll need to be among the top four Americans in four Olympic qualification events. He'll need to show well at World Cups all season and be at his very best in December and January.
And to do all of that, he'll need to be able to pay for it. He competed in several World Cups a year ago but had to pass up on others, unable to afford last-minute flights to Europe, where the vast majority of the competitions are.
This season, he figures he'll need $30,000. About a third of that goes to his team, mostly for coaching. More goes to coaches at competitions, and, of course, the expenses of traveling the globe pile up. The day-to-day stuff, like rent, food or tires on his vehicle, doesn't go away, either.
"Snowboarding has really gotten more expensive," he said. "I've had to ask for donations from friends and family, but this winter will be by far the most expensive one. I've really had to become a full-time fundraiser just to make this season possible."
Find a way
Setting up a crowdfunding site isn't difficult, requiring just a few clicks. There's nothing easy about it for local athletes, however. Turns out, asking for money, even from friends, isn't easy.
"It's easy to find support. Everyone is willing to say, 'We support you. Go get 'em!'" Marno said. "It's a different kind of thing when you ask for money. That's what I've been learning."
But, like Dierdorff and anyone this deep into game, Marno is saddled by the belief that someday she'll make it, and it will all be worth it.
That means posting on Facebook asking for help and sending emails to people she knows and some she doesn't, directing them all to her website.
She's found the support she's received empowering more than nerve-racking, and now, the four-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team is as optimistic as she was the day she was named to the team.
"I'm learning to be more comfortable with asking," she said. "When I got injured in January, I had to think about what I was willing to do to get back to where I was. When it really came down to it, it wasn't really a question in my mind. I am pretty much willing to do anything in terms of working to get where I want to be and to keep pursuing my goals."
Neither she nor Dierdorff plan to quit if they don't reach the fundraising goals they've set. They believe, and they'll do what they need to do to try to make it.
"I will have to figure something else out," Dierdorff said, contemplating the possibility of coming up short in fundraising. "Whether that's taking out a loan or something else, I'll make it work somehow."