Get off the plane. Take a deep breath. Get to work. Those were the steps Chad Gerhard ’10 took when he arrived in Sochi, Russia, to represent his country at the world’s largest stage for winter sports: the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The Weatherly, Pa., native is a high-performance laboratory manager with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), and at the Olympics he served as a strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. Snowboarding Half-pipe and U.S. Aerials team.
“If I had to sum up the Olympics in one word,” says Gerhard, “It would be ‘emotional.’ ”
After hours and hours in the gym and on the slopes working with some of the athletes, Gerhard says a coach becomes very invested in how they do. In the span of 30 seconds, he admits, he went from nervous to excited to anxious to happy as he stood at the bottom of the slope watching Sage Kotsenburg complete his gold medal-winning snowboarding slope style run and Mac Bohonnon finish one slot away from the final round in the men’s aerial skiing event.
Initially, Gerhard focused his concentration on the snowboarding events, most held early in the games. Once the snowboarders’ competition was completed, he shifted his attention to the skiers. And when they finished, he moved onto the next job.
“Everyone in the USSA works as a team,” says Gerhard. “Once the aerials team was done, I helped out with the logistics for the other teams.” These logistics included shuttling athletes and assisting other coaches.
Gerhard says he gained tremendous respect for the athletes as he observed their personal mindset, seeing them take heavy falls and get right back up to go again. The insight into the psychological side of athletes will help him better understand how far he can push his athletes’ limits and better train them in the future. •