Cross-Country Skiing USSA Points as a Predictor of Future Performance among Junior Skiers

By Orr, Blair | The Sport Journal, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Cross-Country Skiing USSA Points as a Predictor of Future Performance among Junior Skiers


Orr, Blair, The Sport Journal


Abstract:

Junior cross-country skiers' performances prior to participation in the 2006 Junior Olympics were compared to their results in the 2006 Junior Olympics using USSA points as a measure of performance. Junior class and division (team) were also included as independent variables. Prior performance as determined by USSA points is a poor indicator of performance in the Junior Olympics.

Key Words:

United States Ski and Snowboard Association, USSA points, FIS points, Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing, Junior Olympics

Introduction:

Cross-country skiing times from different races, even those of the same length, are not comparable because the terrain is different for each race. Furthermore, snow conditions may vary, even from hour to hour, on the same course. Merely comparing times of skiers over similar distances is not an accurate comparative assessment of skiers' abilities. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) points list was developed to allow comparison between skiers who may have entered several different races. USSA points are awarded to registered cross-country skiers for participation in sanctioned ski races. A lower value in USSA points indicates that a skier is a better, more competitive skier. USSA points and similar International Ski Federation (FIS) points are used to help select the U.S. national teams, to seed racers in both mass and interval start races, and to monitor the progress of athletes in physiological studies (Bodensteiner & Metzger 2006; Staib, Im, Caldwell, & Rundell 2000).

The USSA formula that allocates points to skiers is based on race performance. It includes a number of variables that capture the relative ability of skiers in the race. Who enters the race and how they place are used in determining the penalty. Each race's penalty is based upon the current USSA points of top finishers in the race. The type of start or race and a minimum penalty also are used in the calculation of USSA and FIS points assigned to a skier's race (Bodensteiner & Metzger 2006, International Ski Federation, 2006). Despite the common and, at times, mandatory use of the system, the USSA point system has been criticized by racers and coaches over the years for failure to accurately capture a skier's ability (Anonymous, 2006; Smith, 2002; Trecker 2005).

Methods:

Given the importance and criticism of USSA points, this study develops a systematic comparison of prior USSA points results of skiers to their USSA points earned in a common competition. One would hypothesize that a skier's points prior to a competition would predict a skier's points earned within the competition. Points earned by Junior skiers (ages 14 to 19) in the 2005-2006 season are compared to USSA points in the 2006 Junior Olympics. The use of linear regression allows one to determine if a linear relationship exists between prior performance and performance in the Junior Olympics and whether other, easily obtained variables can improve the ability to predict performance at the Junior Olympics. (Hill, Griffiths, & Judge, 1997; Johnston, 1984)

Before the Junior Olympics, skiers earned USSA points in different races throughout the northern part of the United States. Skiers within any of the ten USSA districts competed against each other, but there was limited competition among skiers from different districts. The top 400 skiers then competed in the Junior Olympics in March, 2006 in Houghton, Michigan. The end of season Junior Olympics allows skiers to be directly compared on the same course and with the same snow conditions, so USSA points assigned in these races can be used in this study free of the bias of course and snow conditions.

A general linear model (equation 1) with USSA points earned in the Junior Olympics as the dependent variable and USSA points prior to the Junior Olympics, junior class (J2, J1, or OJ) division (team) were used as independent variables. …

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