Summary of the Lake Placid Coaches Conference

FasterSkierSeptember 28, 2005

“No More Excuses”. The US ski coaching community comes together, gets over its inferiority complex, and agrees, they can make US skiers “Best in the World”.

NENSA staff members Patrick Cote and Dorcas Wonsavage recently attended the US National Cross country Ski Coaches Conference in Lake Placid, NY. The Conference was attended by over 85 coaches, from Fairbanks, AK to Stockholm, ME, and included high school coaches, collegiate, club and US Ski Team coaches.

This National symposium was only supposed to be a local coaches clinic, when High Peaks Cyclery owner, Brian Delaney, asked Nathan Schultz, Director, Team FSx Camps and Coaching Program, to put one on. But it grew into a national outreach to U.S. coaches of all levels, a chance to discuss recent research applicable to ski training and review the proposed National Development System. And it just happened to be at a place and time where the US Ski Team would to be training, and the USST coaches and athletes were motivated to discuss their programs, training, goals and needs. Out of serendipity, happenstance, and the internet, the clinic morphed into one of the largest attended national coaches’ conference in years.

After much airing of opinion on the Fasterskier website this past spring regarding the current state of the US Ski Team and why it cut the development and women’s team, for the first time there is now a general agreement and readiness in the ski community to come together, from top to bottom, and work together to become — per the US Ski Team’s motto- Best in The World. This conference was about how each person in the ski community could help achieve that.

Three days of presentations followed by Q&A sessions by a diverse crew included newly-elected USSA XC Committee Chairman, Jon Engen, Peter Vordenberg, USST development coach, John Underwood, Director, American Athletic Institute and former physiologist and coach for the US biathlon team, Josh Thompson and Justin Wadsworth, representatives from Salomon, Swix, Atomic, Alpina/Madshus, Rossignol, Holmenkollen, Swix and Caldwell Sport Specialties, Team FSx director, Nathan Schultz, US Ski Team head and sprint coaches Trond Nystad and Vidar Loefshus, Chris Grover, Sun Valley SEF and former USST development coach, Zach Caldwell and NENSA’s Patrick Cote. The material covered all aspects of the sport and the speakers kept otherwise active coaches glued to their seats.

Each of the US Ski Team men contributed to one of the presentations, adding a tremendous degree of relevancy to each topic, and a chance to get their insight and position. But most striking was Kris Freeman’s quick, concise talk on the Importance of Long-Term Vision in Development. Obviously a talented athlete, he came up through a system that had no clear path to the top. At several points as a high school athlete, junior, senior, he discovered opportunities to reach the next level only by luck, was thwarted by coaches interested in winning for themselves, and had to defy current assumptions of progression and make it up on his own. His brash attitude struck at the heart of the US ski community’s biggest problem – its inferiority complex. Some coaches came away wishing he'd take a Dale Carnegie course. But most came away realizing that it’s time to adopt Freeman’s Can Do and Will Do attitude.

Saturday afternoon everyone finally got outside to watch the USST men do a sprint relay at the base of the Lake Placid jumps. Chris Cook, Andrew Johnson, Kris Freeman, Torin Koos, Andy Newall, and several local athletes did a workout that blew the mind of most coaches there, showing incredible power, blinding quickness of dpole and striding, and medal-winning intensity. Freeman’s lactate tests after the two heats of 3x ~2:30minutes laps, were 14mmols.

The most ambitious goal of the conference was the discussion of the state of Coaches’ Education in the US. Nathan Schultz moderated a discussion that evaluated the current system and sought to answer the questions, “Is there a need for a certification system? What should coaches education curriculum include? Do we support the NDS framework?” It was an often frustrating process of keeping participants focused on the questions, rather than going off on tangents describing their specific problem, gripe, or success. To the first two types of comments, Pete Vordenberg — two-time Olympian, NCAA champion and Ski Team coach – would finally speak up and say, “No Excuses. You CAN find the time, you CAN motivate your athletes, you DO have the resources. Now just get out there and DO IT.” By the end of the weekend, everyone was beginning to believe they could.

By the end of the weekend the coaches had drawn up a mission statement, a short list of needs and the means to accomplish them, and had divided up into task forces to research Coaches Curriculum, Skier Competencies, and Website development, as well as insure that this meeting would happen again next year.

US XC Coaches Mission:
“US XC Ski Coaches are committed to a system that prepares skiers at all levels to become Olympic and World Champions.”


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