Kirk’s Corner: The principle of Kaizen
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail
As I near the completion of my fifth and final year as executive director of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail I have great appreciation for what we have accomplished and the wonderful partnerships which contribute to make SSCV the strongest snowsports program in the United States.
There are the tangible capital projects which have been completed such as the long anticipated completion of the Golden Peak expansion which effectively accommodates for the growth in athlete membership to over 700 athletes and provides the best training venue in the United States. We also were able to build a new clubhouse appropriate for the associated needs relative to this growth.
More significant than what we have, is how we approach achieving our strategic vision for the club.
Our objective is to provide the level of quality commensurate to the needs and goals of all our athletes, so they can become the best they can be. We aspire that more of our athletes will become the best in the world than any other club. SSCV is a Vail Valley centric program.
Goal setting and strategic planning is foundational for athletic success and more broadly success outside of sport. It’s important to spend time establishing clarity with goals as this provides a focal point on which decisions should be made. This allows for making decisions which align with our central strategic focus rather than what may be politically popular and convenient.
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In a similar vein, it’s important to examine what constitutes one’s core culture and values. At SSCV, our values are identified as character, courage and commitment. Character is represented in the actions taken when no one else is watching and a focus on what is the right thing to do. As an organization and as adults we increasingly have the pressure of living in an environment where decisions increasingly are based on how best to mitigate risk. A higher value is to question what is just and right for our athletes and staff and have the courage to make decisions based on principles. Courage is exemplified in everyday accepting the risk of failure in working toward being the best one can be and continually evolving the understanding of what this entails. So many people never come close to their potential due to the fear of failing to achieve goals which are set high; but in the act of having the courage to risk failure they take the singular most important step to succeed. Commitment is doing all the little things which contribute toward doing one’s absolute best. It’s making every day, every run and every turn count. At some point athletes will move on in life to other pursuits but the habits ingrained through striving to be the best one can be are transferable and will lead to applying these traits in life beyond sport. At SSCV we have also emphasized the power of an environment built on trust. We have explicit detail with our principles and “how” we want to function, but staff and athletes need to be empowered to develop as individuals which makes effort more intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically. Ultimately those who are most successful and productive are motivated intrinsically and this is the basis on which people do the extra above and beyond what can be expected of them.
SSCV continues to make tangible progress and is a great program. Critical to success is continually looking outward to objectively assess where we stand and look closely at how we can be better. It is important to embrace the Japanese principle of Kaizen, meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” I hope SSCV will continue to look outward and relentlessly innovate for continuous evolution. Being a leading program is exemplified in this manner of mindset. I’ve always believed you need to exhaustively examine where you need to go based on core goals and the underlying strategic vision — then, when you see where you need to go, you need to act decisively and move as quickly as possible.
All of these principles apply directly to the habits we wish to instill in our athletes, and as well, apply to life. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of SSCV.
In closing I want to thank all of our partners who contribute so much to our organization. Vail Resorts has been a remarkably supportive partner and without their support our program’s success would not be possible. I thank all the athletes, coaches, staff, families, supporters and board members who have collaborated in a manner of trusting one another. SSCV has a wonderful foundation to build upon.
Kirk Dwyer is the executive director and alpine program director of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.