Gui Mattheis-Brown joined the SVSEF coaching staff in the fall of 2018. With a master’s degree in sport psychology, Gui came well-equipped to navigate the complexities of coaching young athletes in a high-risk, high-reward discipline. He certainly looks good on paper, but Gui’s effectiveness with SVSEF has gone beyond his résumé. He is approachable, knowledgable and an exceptional role model and resource for the athletes with whom he works. Read more about Gui in the interview below.
What is your earliest memory of skiing?
Skiing down the bunny hill at Purgatory with my twin brother in hip harnesses.
Can you give a brief history of your experience with skiing?
I started skiing when I was 3 and fell in love with the experience immediately. I wore a green one-piece ski suit and jumped off of everything. I started competing at 14 years old, doing USSA slopestyle and halfpipe events throughout Colorado. I pursued my passion into college, eventually attaining my master’s degree in sport psychology, which came in handy when I decided to become a full time ski coach.
Did any aspects of skiing help prepare you for college/work/etc?
One of the greatest lessons that I learned from skiing is our innate human ability to overcome fear. Before you hit a big jump or drop in for a competition run, there is a strong feeling of fear and the butterflies really start to get going. But after you land the jump, or stomp your run, that fear suddenly dissipates. It is replaced with a sense of accomplishment, and more importantly, competence. There is a sense of efficacy derived from intent, mixed with a dash of recklessness that can be learned from extreme sports. I’d say this learned skill allowed me to really push myself academically and not worry about the “what if’s.”
Why did you major in kinesiology? Was this decision informed by your background in skiing?
I chose to major in kinesiology because I was injured a lot growing up, and spent plenty of time doing physical therapy. I think that PT’s are incredible people, and they help you heal not only physically, but also mentally. As I got further along in my studies, I realized my true passion was in the educational side of kinesiology, coaching and building strong bodies and minds.
What do you feel you gained from working in CO with the Hawks Freeride team? Is it applicable to what you do now with SVSEF?
To put it simply, I was able to learn about the other side of competitive skiing. Being an athlete you are very focused on your run and your immediate surroundings/stimuli. But being a coach for competitive skiers allows you to experience and learn about the coaching side. I was fortunate to work with great coaches and see how they operate. I have added bits and pieces to my coaching philosophy from my days working at Hawks Freeride, and still use them to this day.
When you started working at SVSEF, what did you see as your biggest goal? Challenge? How have you been working towards reaching/addressing those?
My goal has always been to make sure my athletes leave my team at the end of the year as better people than when I met them on the first day. I am big on developing not only competent skiers, but also strong people who will be successful with whatever they choose to do in life. My biggest challenge starting at SVSEF was just getting the hang of things, knowing how things operate around here. But I quickly found out how awesome SVSEF is and it didn’t take long at all to get acclimated. As far as reaching my goals, I make sure to talk to each athlete on my team every day that I have with him or her. Not only about skiing, but school, family, interests, etc.
What does one-on-one time at the Air Barn look like? How well does this typically transfer over to on-snow skills? How long would you say an athlete spends, approximately, on one trick?
One-on-one time at the Air Barn is a magical thing. Sessions can be catered to whatever feature/area the athlete desires. This can range from a first backflip on trampolines, to grinding rails on rollerblades, to launching into the airbag with skis. I have been lucky enough to work in action sports facilities before, and the benefit of being able to train high-risk maneuvers in a safe and controlled environment cannot be overstated here. The kinesthetic intelligence gained by repetition in the Air Barn on trampolines/ramps is invaluable when it’s time to go out on the hill and actually perform the maneuvers on snow. The athlete knows not only how to perform the maneuver, but is confident that it is not going to take more than a few attempts to successfully complete the maneuver. The time spent on one trick can vary, by the difficulty of the maneuver itself and the ability of the athlete. Something like a 360 can be learned relatively quickly (even as little as one Air Barn session, then performed on snow shortly thereafter), but something like a backflip may take days, weeks, or even months.
How have you integrated your master’s degree in sport psychology into your day-to-day with SVSEF?
In preseason training at the Air Barn, I slowly introduce mental skills that will benefit our athletes such as proper goal setting, imagery training, and self-talk. We slowly build upon these as the season progresses so the athletes are not only familiar with the skills, but they are properly equipped to handle adversity throughout the competition season. I monitor these skills often; for example, goals can be updated as an athlete progresses. The most important psychological tool, I feel, is self-talk, and I always check in with my athletes before attempting a new maneuver or hitting a new feature to make sure their heads are in the right place. I also monitor my own self-talk to remain aware of my thought process.
What do you feel like you get out of skiing personally (skills, benefits)?
I have loved skiing for as long as I can remember, and the freedom that I get from skiing is unmatched. Being on a mountain is a great place to detach for a while and return to our essence as humans. I gain a great sense of belonging from being able to connect with nature in such an exhilarating way.
What values do you most want to pass on to your athletes?
The most important value I want to pass on to my athletes would have to be accountability. Our words and intent only mean so much if we do not follow through. I think by establishing a routine and committing to something like a ski team, my athletes are able to build a good base upon which they can grow. Another value I want to pass on is gratitude. To remember what got us to where we are, to never take anything for granted. Embrace those around you and enjoy your time together.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is witnessing the excitement of an athlete when they learn a new trick. Every athlete responds in a different way, but the energy is always incredible! Also, being able to ski everyday is another solid benefit.
What are the challenges inherent in freeskiing?
First and foremost would have to be injury. It’s lurking around every corner and as a coach it is important to stay a few steps ahead. Being diligent and proactive is essential to help mitigate the massive risks that freeskiing pose. This challenge is never overcome, it’s a constant battle and it is important to learn and do as much as possible to help keep athletes safe.
A skier or person who heavily influenced you/made you want to be a coach?
I would say my coaches I had growing up, but not in the way you’d think. My coaches were awesome guys, but I feel they were lacking in some important areas as far as coaching. I am grateful for my experiences with them, and I have shaped my own coaching to make sure I can fulfill the needs of my job/team/athletes.
What advice would you give your athletes?
Don’t be driven by fear; don’t be afraid to take the leap. In life we will all be hindered by fear at one point or another, so remember to dream big and stay true to yourself, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
What other job would you be doing if it wasn’t what you do now:
Probably working as a carpenter.
How do you define success?
Success is the realization that your dreams are coming true through hard work and dedication.
A little more about Gui:
-Fly fishing, mountain biking, soccer, disc golfing
-CR Johnson (RIP)
Favorite podcast or book or movie:
-The River Why, by David James Duncan
Favorite post-ski meal:
-A boatload of ravioli Alfredo
What gets you out of bed in the morning:
-The opportunity to immerse myself in nature
Best risk you’ve ever taken:
-Becoming a full-time ski coach