It’s due time that I start having more conversations with you, the readers of Ski Racing, since you’re the reason I left my job at a ski academy in Northeastern Vermont four years ago. I had coached at local programs and elite academies, worked with U14, U16, FIS, and even Masters skiers, contributed my skills to regional USSA projects; but when I looked around at development and coaches’ education in the U.S., I wondered if I was best serving the sport by interacting with such a limited population, frequently with screwdrivers, gates, or a video camera in hand.
I was also a history and English teacher at those ski academies, taught writing courses at two colleges, and served on the staff of a gifted and talented summer program at UC Berkeley. My primary inclination at the time that I left coaching was that the best way to reach the widest possible audience was to write, publish, and be read. Education has evolved into another matter entirely though, because the common discourse since the advent of social media is that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and that opinion can be typed and published on the internet with such ease, probably too much ease. I’m interested in opinions, of course, but I’m more interested in discussing multiple angles from which to consider an issue before drawing conclusions.
There are innumerable subjects upon which I take stances, as coworkers and dear friends will attest, but I’ll try my best to reserve this space for constructive conversations on the past, current state, and oftentimes future of ski racing. I like to think I can present a fairly unique viewpoint as I have no vested interest in any particular outcome other than the ultimate success of the sport.
These days I find myself spending a considerable amount of time outside the U.S., in both direct and indirect observation of programs and sport cultures in other nations. In the coming months, I hope to share stories from abroad with the intention of presenting other viewpoints and hopefully clearing up misconceptions and stereotypes, not to inherently declare other systems superior to those which exist elsewhere. After all, if you would prefer to be a part of the Austrian ski system, all you have to do right now is move to Austria.
Additionally, I want to answer your questions. If there’s a topic that piques your interest and you think the answer would be of benefit to others as well, please email me your inquiry. I am by no means an expert on all subjects, but I often have contact with those who are and I’m always looking for a good excuse to talk about ski racing.
All I ask of you in return for tapping into my extensive network and experience in the industry is that everyone keeps the comments, both on the website and in response to articles posted on social media, respectful with the purpose of gaining understanding, not with the goal of cutting each other down. This sport is already tricky enough with the schedules, rules and regulations, slope conditions, and now global climate change – we really don’t have any room to add trolls to the mix.
Until I’m able to compose something worthy of your time, I figured the least I could do in this introductory column is to share a list of resources you should be accessing if you’re as interested in the sport as I am. So without much further ado, here’s my current reading list:
Crazy Canuck Ken Read is a World Cup winner, two-time Olympian, former President and CEO of Alpine Canada, and current father of three ski racing sons who blogs on the sport at his personal site White Circus.
USSA’s Executive Vice President, Athletics Luke Bodensteiner, a cross-country Olympian and NCAA champion, shares his thoughts on a number of critical issues in a series of blogs that are most easily accessed on LinkedIn.
The findings from the Leever Partners athlete development study of alpine skiing that resulted from interviews with coaches and sport science leaders from 10 different countries was a very hot topic at the annual USSA Congress in May. This presentation is likely to be referenced for some time in the future, so you might as well digest it now.
If reading isn’t quite your bag, venture over to iTunes to give the Piste OFF podcast by ski coaches James “Taco” Tautkus and Will Brandenburg (former U.S. Ski Team slalom slayer) a listen, as they conducted a number of interviews with clutch athletes and coaches last season spanning 19 episodes.
Because we have so much to gain from analyzing other organizations, this article as well as the other recommended pieces in the sidebar covering youth sports from Sports Business Daily is a must.
And finally, since kids tend to tell it like it is, be sure to watch The Truth About Sports Parents frombelow.