Stretching Into the Challenge

by  David Greer  |  Leadership Development
Stretching Into the Challenge

I believe that when we stretch ourselves in one part of our lives, that stretch shows up in other parts of our lives. That is why I encourage leaders to do things that expand and hone their edges, whether it is in work, life, or play.

In Keeping My Edge, I share how challenging myself on really difficult ski runs in the mountains keeps my performance edge in many other areas of my life. This year I am learning an entirely new way to keep my edge by stretching my skiing in a completely new direction. I am volunteering for Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports (VASS).

As a volunteer, I have been required to take a lot of training in both ski instructing and in the four modules of the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers training program. While my initial impression of disabled skiing was for those with physical disabilities, such as a missing limb, I have learned that VASS instructs students with autism, cognitive challenges (e.g., someone who has had a stroke), visual impairment, and indeed those with physical disabilities from missing limbs to paraplegics and quadriplegics. Stretch #1—there is a lot more to disabled skiing than I ever knew.

At VASS, we always instruct in teams of two or more. Our student this season is a 27-year old autistic young man who is completely blind who has skied for ten years, including five with VASS. Stretch #2—a single student may have multiple disabilities. I interviewed our student’s caregiver, showed up for all training and orientation, and was still anxious heading up to Grouse Mountain for our first night of instructing our student. Stretch #3—even with all the training and preparation I still had to deal with my own anxieties.

Once I met my fellow instructors and our student, we headed up the mountain. Imagine being completely blind, having to 100% rely on someone else for your safety, and then try and get on a 100-person ski gondola? We helped our student navigate around hundreds of people, got him safely on the gondola, walked him up a long hill to the rental hut, and got him into his ski gear. Stretch #4—guiding our student onto the gondola, the long walk up the hill, and helping him into his ski boots and skis.

We started the night on the beginner run. We decided to use a 12-foot pole, designed specifically for instructing visually impaired skiers. Two of us ski holding either end of the pole with our student between us. Stretch #5—I had not received training on the 12-foot pole, so I had to learn as we went.

We gingerly headed down the run having success on our very first try. We worked on our student’s technical skills, focusing on weight shift in turns, with the result that on our subsequent runs we went twice as fast. Stretch #6—remembering to actually instruct, after first making sure our student was safe and having fun.

The anxiety was gone. I was focused on working as a team and helping our student. As the evening progressed I realized what a blast we were all having. Stretch #7—there are many ways to have fun skiing—not just challenging myself on difficult runs.

Anne Bethune, President of VASS, calls what we do VASS Magic. She’s right—there is magic in being able to help someone with severe disabilities get out and enjoy the mountains, hills, and experience of riding a pair of skis down a mountain. Stretch #8—it is a gift to be able to volunteer for VASS.

Stretch #9—the bonus is that the skills I’ve learned in VASS help me in many other areas of my life. I have more patience. I assume less. I focus on having fun first.

How will yourself stretch yourself today?
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Anne Bethune, VASS

About The Author

Articles By david-greer
David is the catalyst who gets you to fully live your dreams now. After time with him you feel equally scared and hopeful. Scared at the audacity of your dreams and hopeful because you have someone in your corner with the experience and desire to see your dreams become real.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Will Lukang  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

Excellent post in stretching! When we stretch, we’ll expand and grow. As a result, we’ll gain somewhere else and increase our overall capabilities.
Thank you for sharing.

David Greer  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

Hi Will,

Thanks for your comment. You have captured the very important essence of my post. A theme of I have been writing and talking about for quite a while. And one that I think needs repeating as it is so easy to just coast along and never challenge ourselves in anything.



Jane  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

What an amazing story! My favorite hope is stretch 9 because I love the whole truth of one part of our life being a benefit to others. However I love the whole idea of full circle giving. You learned, you taught, and you were still learning during the event. Even with anxiety you persevered and it passed. It goes without saying that your generous sharing of time and talents is impressive.

David Greer  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

Thanks Jane. I try and remember the lessons I’ve learned volunteering with VASS every day.

John E. Smith  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

Hi, David – fascinating post, both about the VASS program and about stretching ourselves as part of our continuous learning.

First, I have to ask this personal question: Does VASS include the category I belong to: Spastic Inept?

More seriously, your point about engaging in new and different things to stretch ourselves is excellent. Many of us (me particularly) desire the tried-and-true, the comfortable, the known … we do not give ourselves enough credit for being able to learn new things and to connect the dots between distaff experiences.

Possibly the most important specific point you make is exemplified in this sentence: “Imagine being completely blind, having to 100% rely on someone else for your safety, and then try and get on a 100-person ski gondola?” When we engage in “imagine” thinking, we are making that leap to looking at something from a different perspective … and that is where the gold nuggets of learning lie.

Thanks for a very enjoyable and useful post:)


David Greer  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

Hi John,

Thank you for your amazing support of Lead Change Group by your continuous feedback to our posts.

I’m sure that if we got you on the slopes, we could teach you to make some ski turns!

As humans I think all of us naturally want to stay in our comfort zones. I believe that if we want to grow we need to put challenges in front of ourselves. Thankfully I love to learn new things and VASS is a very social–another aspect of why I wanted to get involved.

As a coach, offering new and fresh perspectives to my client’s topics is one of the most powerful things that I can do. Thanks for pointing out that aspect of my post.



Mary C. Schaefer  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply

David, thank you for delivering a message I needed to hear today – to stretch myself!

David Greer  |  11 Mar 2016  |  Reply


You are welcome :-).



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