Meet Eric Ward
I have been working professionally in the ski industry for more than 20 seasons. Teaching, coaching, and training, has been my passion since I can remember. I consider myself a life long student of the sport. My efforts to learn about understand and improve balance, and equipment alignment issues, are the culmination of all my educations, and experience over these many years. My beliefs on balance, and alignment and sports have been echoed by many in both the medical world as well as sport coaching professionals. The most important thing, is that where we are currently is only the tip of the iceberg and we are constantly learning more about the power of this new approach. The process that has developed is evolving and maturing and I am constantly looking for new ways to help people enjoy their favorite sports. It is important that when dealing with issues like this you must deal with each person with a clean slate. There is no one way to help everyone with a cookie cutter approach. Everyone has unique situations that need to be dealt with individualy.
My Educational Evolution
I began teaching skiing at Magic Mountain in Vermont. After two seasons, I moved to Maine to study at the University of Maine at Farmington. The ski industries program at UMF required me to be employed by a ski school; I chose to work at Sugarloaf/USA while in school. I spent 6 seasons there teaching, training instructors and coaching alpine racing. I was hired as the technical director of the UMF Ski School before graduating.
While attending the University of Maine Ski industries program I accumulated over 50 college credits on snow and in ski specific courses that dealt directly with teaching coaching and the biomechanics, and kinesiology of skiing specifically. I know that the UMF Ski Program is a unique experience that was unrivaled in like programs. The UMF approach is one that truly builds a fundamental base of knowledge for the teaching professional that 10 years teaching skiing could not provide. This education was overlapped by studying and preparing myself for exams given by the PSIA, and The Unites States Ski Coaches Association.
Other education that I received was working for a company called biosymmetrics. This company developed a workman’s compensation loss control program for ski schools all over the east coast. We would measure body posture, muscle balance, and range of motion. The results of which would predict who was most likely to be injured on the job. We would then prescribe exercises that could balance out poor posture and that would bring back to balance muscular strength and improve range of motion in specific joints. The purpose of this was to reduce knee and shoulder injuries within the staffs of many ski schools. In the first year we reduced workman’s compensation claims by 90% from the season before.
An offshoot of this program became “The Performance Center” at Sugarloaf. This was when I began working with alignment for skiing as a spin off of the program we offered to ski school. We worked with the only aligment process available in the industry at the time which largely was developed by Warren Witherall. I dutifly followed this philosophy until I began to find that this system did not hold all the answers for me. Questions needed answers to continue so I began to theorize about what it would take to create alignment that actually took the whole picture into consideration. So after moving to Aspen in 97-98 I continued to do R&D on new ideas that focused mainly on foot dynamics and pronation and supination inside the boot.
Foot Foundation Philosophy
The basic difference was that in most alignment processes the only consideration was, where is the knee? Through external canting mostly would reposition the knee in its most "optimal position". Problem is, skiing is a dynamic sport. so any position that you provide is simply a snapshot of a total movement pattern. Another problem was that while in motion in any sport you are rarely standing on two feet equally weighted. In fact after some research, no sports in the world are totaly equally weighted. So, how does a two footed equally weighted assessment have any application in the real world?
There are other issues like muscle activity, proprioceptive involvment. and range of motion limitations. So the simple alignment process I was taught just did not shine enough light on the subject and I went out to look for more clarity. I must say that many long conversations about all this were had with a good friend of mine Erik Beckman who is still working with his version of this system in Sugarloaf/USA.
Truly began more by accident than through careful planning, working with ski instructors that I pulled out of the locker room in Aspen. I would ask if they would let me play with their feet and give me feed back on what I did. During the first year pros started sending me their clients to fix up. They liked it enough to make their students guinea pigs as well. It was not long before I decided that without intending to, I had started a new business. So after a few years of custom grinding foot beds with this new idea. I decided to make my life a bit simpler and just produce wedges that you can insert under any foot bed and the SBS or sports balance system was born.
Now it has been 13 years of plodding through the world trying to help people balance better with this new angle on "alignment". We have had just amazing results and can not believe ourselves how well this works for any sport you can immagine. It was designed for skiing but having the tape measure for pronation gives clarity to any activity that happens on your feet.