The gentle giant, Magnus Andersson grew up in southern Sweden in the village of Mellerud.
“My family loved skiing and would often travel out of the area to participate. I, however, preferred to stay home and play soccer with my friends. My family is a sports family. My father had a small sports store in our town, and our family was all about sports all of the time.”
The ski areas in southern Sweden are known to be both flat and small. They are also known for their limited season. Andersson’s local area has a slope long enough for 20 slalom gates. It opens at the beginning of January and closes at the end of March. An unlikely environment for an elite alpine racer to develop? Andersson thinks there were some advantages.
“Our local skiing reality encouraged me to participate in other sports, and because of that, I developed as a complete athlete. It would have been better for me to have more access to skiing, but the effort I put into physically developing was beneficial.”
Even with his limited time skiing, Andersson was fast, and his speed created opportunities. “When I was fifteen, the regional team named me to the program, and it was there I experienced the first coaching that helped me understand how to ski faster. I made a lot of progress, and from that time forward, ski racing has been my life’s work.”
“I think coming to the sport in my teens has helped me remain enthusiastic,” he said. “When I was 27, I retired from competing; my career included World Cup starts and a Europa Cup podium.
“I remember looking forward to every day. In addition, while I was a professional competitor, I took classes at the Mid Sweden University of Östersund, majoring in sports science. There are certainly more successful skiers, but my unique experience prepared me to be a successful coach,” he reflected.
“I know what it is to be at the edge of selections. I can relate to athletes who feel they need more opportunities to prove their abilities. I have been there,” Andersson said.
Andersson never envisioned becoming a ski coach while attending his university program. However, as he was retiring from racing, he was offered a coaching position working with U14s and U16s, both girls and boys, in Stockholm, funded by the Stockholm Ski Federation.
“It was both fun, and I felt like I understood the job. I love coaching. Having a positive impact on others is a special feeling,” he said. “In addition, I have enjoyed traveling the globe and the friends that surround me. Most of all, however, I like pushing myself.”
After three seasons with the junior team, Andersson accepted the Swedish men’s World Cup slalom head coach position. During his first season with the World Cup program, the Swedes had an impressive seven men finish in the top 25 slalom standings. Andersson’s final season with the Swedish men in 2016 ended with Andre Myhrer winning the slalom at World Cup finals. For Andersson, it was a great way to finish that chapter of his career, and it was time for a change.
That summer, while Andersson was home day trading financial securities, a new opportunity would come his way. Paul Kristofic, U.S. head women’s coach, called offering the women’s World Cup technical head coach position. Andersson accepted.
That September, Andersson would start his U.S. team career in Saas-Fee, Switzerland with two athletes, Resi Stiegler and Lila Lapanja, along with assistant coach Karin Harjo and the Italian ski serviceman Toyo Boggian. Andersson could not have had a better group to begin his U.S. Ski Team experience, he says.
This year, the program he leads includes the talented athletes Paula Moltzan, Nina O Brien, AJ Hurt, their servicemen Bart Mollin and Ryan Mooney, and new assistant coach Kip Spangler.
Commenting on the program, Andersson says, “The situation has been great. I have a team that wants to improve. That, more than anything, has made it successful and fun.”
Anderson on the value of mentors:
“I am fortunate to have a trusted group of mentors in my life. I have turned to these people for their opinions throughout my career. They are all very interested in skiing, and interestingly they all have businesses. One of my most valued mentors is an old ski racer with a good understanding of physics. It is my belief, if you don’t understand physics, it is challenging to understand skiing.”
Andersson shares his guiding principle:
“When I was young, my father instilled in me to ‘treat others the way you want others to treat you.’ As a leader, the good news is always easy to communicate, but you can also be a good person when you need to express less comfortable information. I believe good values and behavior are always essential. No matter what level a person is, they are entitled to your respect. For example, when athletes come into our group for races, my goal is to have our program value them. My personal goal is always to be honest and to respect people. When team members know they can trust you, it is much easier for them to be honest, especially with themselves. When someone tells me an athlete is demanding, I know I will most likely have a good relationship with them. Yes, these people want answers, but I find they respect you when you tell them when you don’t currently have one.”
Andersson shares his advice for young athletes:
“If your goal is to be a professional skier, do as many sports as possible. In ski racing, you benefit from being a good athlete, and the best way to become a better athlete is to challenge yourself in sports. Find a mentor who has been around for a while and get advice. There is no magic, so it is crucial to be careful when someone claims magic. Make sure you can believe in what they are saying. Ski racing is not complicated to understand, just challenging to execute.”
Anderson also says, “It is essential to look forward. No matter how good or bad your last run was, you should focus on what is in front of you. You want to be like a good golfer. The quicker they get over the last shot, the more likely they will have a good outcome with their next one.”
Andersson’s thoughts for coaches:
“First, if you want to be a World Cup coach, you have to like traveling. However, no matter what level you coach, it is essential to understand psychology. Find mentors with whom you feel safe to share your ideas. Most importantly, listen to your athletes. Teach them to use their critical thinking to solve their problems. Empower them to be in control of their experience. Too often, I see athletes who won’t take responsibility for their program. Your goal should be to help athletes become self-determined.”
Andersson addresses athletes just outside of a team:
“It has been my observation that too many people outside of the ski team think someone is against them. However, that is very unlikely. From my personal experience as an athlete, I know the feeling of being outside. But it would be best if you moved on from those thoughts. If you feel a person is against you, I suggest you contact that person; you will most likely realize it is not the case. I do know, if you don’t take care of your own business, the train will leave without you.”
Andersson continues, “Have the courage to look in the mirror and see what you can do to benefit yourself. One thing I know for sure is that many people will help you if asked. You must communicate. I am always happy to talk to people outside of my group, especially if their goal is to come into my group. I was the in-between athlete, I understand, and I might have ideas that can help you. Focus on what you can do and remember it is about performance, and performance gets you access.”
Andersson shares his advice for parents:
“It is not magic to be a good ski racing parent. It would be best if you listen to your kid and find out what works for them. Kids are all unique, and they learn their way, but all kids want to be respected.
I would suggest you never get disappointed. Every child quickly detects disappointment, and they will magnify it 100 times. Focus on process goals and not results. As always, it is essential to treat your child as you would want them to treat you. No matter who you are or who you think you are, treat people in the sport, including your child, with respect.”
Author’s note: We thank coach Andersson for sharing his thoughts about our sport. We know the U.S. women are fortunate to have this competent gentleman leading their program. We can rest assured that with Andersson at the helm of the women’s World Cup tech program, our ladies are in good hands and well respected. If you see Andersson on the hill, say hello. I bet that he will greet you with a smile.