ELITEAM goes virtual with Dig Deep Academy
If you want to get better, you have to “Dig Deep”
by Edie Thys Morgan
Many ski racing parents knew the annual, late-January ritual: Fire up your computer and be ready at 6 p.m. to nab a coveted spot at the ELITEAM summer camps. The camps, run by U.S. Ski Team downhiller Doug Lewis and his wife, Kelley, in Waitsfield, Vt., and Park City, Utah, are an institution. In a few, very full days at ELITEAM, kids would learn about dryland training, nutrition and sports psychology — all key things that go in to becoming a “complete athlete.” They would push themselves past their limits, learn to embrace suffering, and, most importantly, have a ton of fun in the process.
Now, every kid will have the opportunity to experience ELITEAM when it goes virtual in the Dig Deep Academy.
“Creating an online version of ELITEAM had been on our minds for the last five years,” says Kelley, who has run the camps with Doug since 1992. “It’s always been our passion to help junior athletes. We’ve devoted the last 30 years of our lives to it.”
Through their camps, ELITEAM reached 300 kids a year, but they dreamed of reaching thousands of kids, in a variety of sports beyond skiing. COVID forced that dream to become a reality.
The Dig Deep Workouts include Power, Strength, Capacity and GRIT!
When Doug and Kelley had to cancel all 2020 ELITEAM camps, they pivoted quickly and developed a 12-week program with age-appropriate workouts for U12, U14 and U16 athletes. The workouts, fortified with sports psychology worksheets, sports nutrition tips and recipes, dropped every Sunday evening. Kids also vied for prizes in fun weekly contests.
The enthusiastic response from the 500 athletes, their parents, and entire families who embraced the workouts was an overwhelming proof of concept. Over the next nine months, Doug and Kelley dove in to take the content and its delivery to the next level.
On June 12, the comprehensive Dig Deep Academy program makes its debut. Here’s the scoop.
What is Dig Deep Academy?
Dig Deep is modeled after the immersive ski academy experience, where fitness, knowledge, and support converge. “We wanted all those resources in one place,” says Kelley. They come together online in a cohesive, dynamic program, featuring The High Performance Gym, the Academic Center, and the Team Clubhouse.
Every Sunday detailed weekly workouts drop, along with Doug’s high energy Weekly Welcome video. He reviews the plan for the week, and serves up training tips, along with a healthy dose of inspiration and motivation, and a “word of the week.” Each exercise includes a video demonstration from a library of 270 moves, and hints for proper form. Athletes of any fitness level can jump into the scalable workouts, and motivated athletes can progress to higher levels of fitness.
Each 30-45 minute workout (Strength, Power, Capacity, Rest/Recovery and a Bonus) includes a built-in training journal that must be completed. It provides a place for feedback and reflection, generates stats automatically, and becomes a record for the athlete.
Courses in each of three categories — Physiology, Nutrition and Psychology — all include six lessons that take about 45 minutes to complete. Within those lessons are an expert video, a VIP athlete video, the lesson content, a quiz and an assignment. They cover topics like Hydration, Energy Systems, Total Body Strength, Work Capacity, Speed and Agility, Self-Awareness, Goals, Mental Imagery and more. It’s school, but with teachers who are all experts and/or high level athletes, which helps the message land:
Olympian Laurenne Ross shares what she’s learned with the ELITEAMers.
“It’s hard to listen to the same people all the time,” says Laurenne Ross, who contributed videos on a variety of topics. “Itgets to a point where you are not absorbing information as much as you could be.”
This is the online community, where you can check in and meet up with friends and teammates, compare workout stats, take on challenges and give each other high fives. You can also rub elbows with VIP guests — World Class athletes, coaches and trainers who take turns hosting each week with daily posts and inspiration.
ELITEAM partnered with experts who regularly work with world-class athletes. They include:
- Michael Bingaman, Strength & Conditioning Expert and former Athletic Development Coach for the US Ski Team who also created the workouts in conjunction with Doug.
- Megan Chacosky, USOPC sports dietician and performance chef, who works with high level athletes from 12 Olympic sports.
- Pam Lemons, sports psychology consultant to a wide range of Olympic athletes.
- Julie Glusker, an educational consultant for athletes in 29 different sports, who tweaked the format to hit “the sweet spot for the 12-16 year old learners” where content engages, inspires and sticks.
The secret sauce
“For me, it’s always been about heroes,” says Doug. In all, 11 USST athletes contribute their expertise and advice in videos that cover a wide variety of topics related to sports performance. “I gave them the topics and said ‘tell us what you know,’” Doug explains.
Athletes share tips from their own experience (pack some avocados for healthy fats), what they wish they knew (mental training gets more important as your level gets higher), what they still struggle with (lots) and are learning about (everything!)
“When you open their eyes to what the ski racing world is actually like, they light up,” says Ross who explains there are so many pieces that need to come together for athletes to succeed. “Part of what can be missing is that light within.”
Jimmy Krupka as an ELITEAM camper pushing his limits.
Among the Dig Deep experts are ELITEAM alumni, like USST Olympian Alice Merryweather, Yoga instructor Mariah Betts who took her first yoga class as an ELITEAM camper, and Jimmy Krupka, who grew up attending ELITEAM for four years then coaching for another four. Now a member of the USST, Krupka contributed videos on Power, Visualization, Recovery, Strength and Teamwork.
“I grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and ELITEAM was the one place I was out of my comfort zone.” Krupka recalls Doug’s enthusiasm and positive mindset through rainy, muddy, potentially miserable workouts that instead became fun. From that, Krupka learned “a love of embracing grit, when things get awful.”
Why it works
For Doug, the power of ELITEAM has always been in talking about the “why” with young athletes. By explaining everything behind the training, athletes gain confidence and control of the process. “When you work with these kids and see them walk away with their chins held high and a bounce in their steps, it is incredible to see,” says Doug.
Who needs it?
The Dig Deep knowledge base can be a springboard to maximize potential and the sports experience. To clubs, teams or individuals of all ages looking for summer, off-season or year-round programming, Doug says: “Let us do the work and you can do the fun stuff,” which is, or course, the actual training.
What does it cost?
The clubhouse is 100% free. Sign up! Gym memberships and each course are purchased separately with many specials and discounts on the launch weekend. When enough kids from a club enroll, their coach gets free access to all the learning material.
Where to start
Doug and Kelley will be hosting and informative zoom on Thursday May 27. Once you sign up, the first word of the week is “Commitment.” From there, you’ll Dig Deep and see how far you can go.
For more information go to:
ELITEAM Dig Deep Academy
Edie Thys Morgan Former U.S. Ski Team downhill racer Edie Thys Morgan started her writing career at Ski Racing with the column Racer eX. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Chan, and their RacerNext boys.