Aspen Valley Ski Club was excited to welcome back its hometown pride John “Johno” McBride as head alpine coach two years ago, and the AVSC presence from age seven has since returned to his roots to contribute to the club program. But after 19 years on the World Cup circuit, the switch to working with juniors has taken some adjustment.
McBride probably would have stayed on the World Cup despite its inherent demands and challenges if it wasn’t for his family. With three kids under 10 (none of whom he is pressuring to ski race), the coach had a hard time being on the road up to 10 months out of the year. Second to his family came the Aspen community. “You miss being part of a larger community when you’re on the road all the time,” says McBride.
Although McBride knew he didn’t want to continue coaching on the World Cup forever, he didn’t know exactly when he’d find his way off. Part of his return to AVSC was sheer luck, he admits.
“It wasn’t something I really planned or could plan, it all just kind of fell into place right when I realized I was done.”
The catalyst for his departure from the Canadian speed team was due in large part to funding issues; McBride was instructed to let members of the coaching staff go and to cut athletes. “That was when I made up my mind,” he says.
His impact at Aspen was nearly immediate. Longtime AVSC coach Torey Greenwood praises McBride for “adding a lot to the program almost effortlessly.”
From a rope tow on Mill Street to a private lift and club center, Aspen has changed quite drastically over the years and McBride has seen it all. With increasing knowledge of the sport, a better venue, more qualified coaches, more athletes, and consistent community funding, McBride sees few areas of the AVSC alpine program that are currently lacking.
Through McBride’s coaching, he’s been able to bring the World Cup a bit closer to his young athletes, including Aspen High School Senior Devon Garber. “It’s clear he’s taken a good amount from the World Cup circuit; he’s so good at explaining the complicated aspects of your skiing. After traveling so much, he definitely has a good sense for how to ski most hills in North America,” reasons Garber.
“The demand to be almost chameleon-like in approach doesn’t change from working with the top athletes in the world to managing up-and-coming ski racers.”
Can the same guy who once coached the likes of Bode Miller, Daron Rahlves, Erik Guay, and Jan Hudec find satisfaction in working with club juniors? “If you can help somebody learn to be their own best coach and push themselves to their full potential,” he says, “that’s all the reward a coach needs.” McBride says the most valuable thing he’s learned from coaching athletes of all different abilities and backgrounds is the importance of evaluating and then executing upon an athlete’s individual learning style. The demand to be almost chameleon-like in approach doesn’t change from working with the top athletes in the world to managing up-and-coming ski racers.
But McBride does miss something quite noticeable from the World Cup stage, and that’s the unquestionable self-motivation of the athletes in that arena. “You have to have your ducks in a row to be competitive at that level. Kids at a club level have a wide variety of motivations and pressures from parents and society to perform,” he says.
The veteran coach who found his way back home continues to share his passion for the sport with athletes in the AVSC, and they are more than thankful to have him.
“If I were single guy, I’d probably still be on the World Cup. A lot of people get stuck on the circuit and have a hard time transitioning when their time is up. They get stale,” he reflects. “I never wanted to be the guy that got stuck and started treating it as a job rather than a passion.”