The Wisdom of Mentors.

photophotophoto I came in tonight from a very enjoyable mountain bike ride. The weather is changing and the leaves are falling. I bought my first gallon of cider and as I entered my house, the smell of pork and sauerkraut was mesmerizing. My wife Janet is a phenomenal cook and she loves it as well. I told her the season and the smells of the house reminds me of when I grew up. My folks loved to entertain and usually on fall days, the mums started to show up on the porch, the smell of fall meals filled the house, my mom even put cinnamon, oranges, and spice in a pot to simmer on the stove to add to the atmosphere. She always said that entertaining is like a stage. The lighting must be right, the music soft and relaxing, and the candlelight’s warm glow adding additional class to a very inviting setting. My folks taught me the meaning of graciousness. I learned what a nice table setting was. I can remember going to the University Club and watching my dad engage the maitre’d and the waitstaff. They respected him and said, ” Your table is ready Mr. McCloskey.” My dad was kind and generous and I watched his every move as he listened to all of the folks who worked at the U Club. Nothing pretentious about my dad. He respected them and appreciated what they did in their jobs. I learned when it was appropriate to tip someone. How to eat using good manners at the dinner table. When to open a door for a woman, hold their chair for them when they sit at a table. Rise when someone comes to the table and greet them with a handshake and a smile. My dad was a fabulous mentor to me. I learned a lot from him.

The origin of mentoring is taken from Greek Mythology where an elderly gentleman named Mentor was chosen by Odysseus to look after his son Telemachus during the Trojan War. The definition that evoloved in the English language says that a mentor is someone who imparts wisdom, shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague. We can have many mentors in our lives or perhaps just a few who really imparted wisdom and left us with something that we find useful to this day. Larry Cohen is another mentor who you see in the above picture in the middle of the group. Larry is a true Renaissance man. He was an excellent tennis player when I first met him 40 years ago. He showed me how to play doubles and enjoy the “apre- tennis” out of the back of Charlie Black’s trunk. Larry was one of two individuals who really helped me on my way to cycling and ski instruction. The first time I ever rode a road bike was after Larry took me to Ambridge Bike Shop years ago and helped me select my first Trek. He then accompanied me on a ride to Brush Creek Park with Charlie Martin and I was hooked. My love of cycling has been strong ever since. If it were not for the mentoring by Larry, I would not be riding today. Larry also got me involved in ski instruction when I joined his “Ski Academy” as an apprentice instructor. Larry taught me how to teach. Being an ex- Vail instructor, Larry knew the ropes and was not shy about sharing all he knew to all of us fledgling instructors. He told me about the organization called the Professional Ski Instructors of America and their certification program. I became involved, taught in New England, and eventually gained my certification after a grueling week of testing on a bullet proof Killington, Vermont venue. I would not have been there if it had not been for the mentoring and wisdom of Larry Cohen. Mentoring involves little things. What to wear, what kind of tubular tires work well on the road, what gearing to use in a road race, what was the advantage of a straight block in criteriums and how to have two sets of wheels for road races and criteriums. Why ski wax is important. Why sharp skis are important. Knowing whether a person is visual learner or somone who has to have the technical terms explained to them on a ski trail during a lesson. People learn differently and Larry taught me how to tell the difference.

I lost a mentor this year when my friend Chip Kamin died unexpectedly of a heart attack while mountain biking. Chip was a few years older than me and took me under his wing a long time ago. Chip was another Renaissance guy who was an examminer for PSIA and I remember going with Chip and Larry to many clinics and exam preparations in New England and Michigan. I listened to them as they talked ski instruction and I drank in every word. When I passed my full certification, Chip and Larry sent me a letter of congratulations welcoming me to the fraternity. Not a phone call, not a message on my answering maching, a typed and signed letter. First class all the way. Chip is seen in the foreground of the picture above with all of us in the shelter up at Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire. Chip climbed in the Himalaya and when we went to Tuckerman, we relied on his experience. He was fun to watch as he ice climbed over on the adjacent Huntington Ravine. He moved with grace and style and although his personality was quiet and assured, he imparted some real knowledge to all of us just by watching him ski and climb. Chip used to give us these little gems along the way. I wrote an earlier tribute post to him and listed some of his good advice. Lots of technical cycling and skiing knowledge came our way and it vanished all too soon this year in his unfortunate passing. Chip’s mentoring will always be with me. There are things that he said that stick with me as I ride and ski. I will never forget him and will always appreciate his friendship and his ability to impart wisdom and share knowledge.

My dad, Larry and Chip. Two guys with similar passions and one guy totally focused in the opposite direction. But even though my dad and these two guys had totally different passions and lives, their ability to take me and mentor me has always been appreciated. I hope that I have done this for my son. I also hope as I grow older, that I have at least imparted some life experience on some young guys and gals in my travels on the slopes and the roads and trails. We need to do this. We need to pass on this acquired wisdom to others. One of the great feelings that I experienced as a ski instructor was to see somone “get it” and see the smile on their face as they see the fruits of their instruction take hold. All of you reading have experience and “expertise” in many different areas. Take the time to share it and even though it may be uncomfortable at times, if someone asks you for help, lay it out for them in a kind, “mentoring” manner. Thanks again for reading.