I cut a lot of balls off bulls, says John "Johno McBride, head speed coach of the U.S. Men's Ski Team, matter-of-factly. McBride, 39, grew up on his family's cattle ranch outside of Aspen, where chores frequently involved getting his hands dirty—and bloody. "Bulls don't snort and snarl so much without their nuts. They're less likely to tear through a fence.
McBride's experience with testosterone has come in handy during his decade with the U.S. men. The squad's wildest member, downhiller Daron Rahlves, credits McBride with helping him gain course control. "Johno convinced me that skiing balls-out was fun, Rahlves says, "but finishing was even better. Since McBride was promoted to be the speed honcho two years ago, at the athletes' request, the team—led by 2003 Hahnenkamm champ Rahlves and 2004 World GS winner Bode Miller—has gone from also-rans to constant World Cup contenders.
"Part of being a good coach is not being afraid to call bullshit on your athletes, McBride says. He looks the part: Wearing a black watch cap with a grinning devil logo that he found in a gas station bathroom, he stands out among the European coaches in their pastel one-pieces.
McBride's job is preparing racers for the downhill and super G. He scouts courses, hones technique, and motivates his team by example. "He's a badass, says photographer Pete McBride, Johno's younger brother. "He's as fit as his athletes. And he works so hard you don't want to disappoint him by not doing your best.
But being a badass is less crucial to McBride than creating a positive vibe. While he insists on brutal weight-training regimens and bleary hours analyzing videotape, he also schedules carefree soccer games—though they always end up cutthroat. And that vibe permeates the team. "On the racecourse, we're always BS-ing, he says. "The Europeans' attitude is if you're acting like that, you're not a professional.
"And I don't buy that, he adds. "It's not just your career. It's your life.
JohnO, In A Nutshell
Born: December 18, 1964
Higher EDUCATION: McBride's own racing career derailed during his time on the U.S. Development Team, when he crashed so hard on a downhill course he shattered his helmet. "That whack on the head helped me decide to go to college.
DAZED AND CONFUSED: Waking up the morning after celebrating a teamvictory, McBride found himself in his hotel bathtub, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. "I still have no idea how I got there.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PUBLIC APPEARANCE: At the 2003 Hahnenkamm, while scouting for a spot to shoot race video, he began sliding down the course in his boots. "It was bulletproof and I couldn't stop, so I straightlined the steepest pitch. I stayed up all the way while thousands of Austrian fans cheered.
ANOTHER REASON TO LOP OFF CATTLE TESTICLES: "It makes the meat more tender. Mmmmm.