This will be a weekly column highlighting our ski coaches from around the country…..including elite coaches, college coaches, high school coaches, volunteer coaches, and learn-to-ski coaches. This is an effort to sample a diverse group of coaches and recognize the people who are the backbone of today's skiers. If you would like to nominate a coach for an interview, please email firstname.lastname@example.org . Please give coaches name, email, phone, and a small paragraph describing the nominee. The more diverse, the better.
Ja Dorris is the head coach at Eagle River High School in Eagle River, Alaska. He also coaches the Alaska Nordic Racing program www.alaskanordicracing.org . Rob Whitney asked him a few questions.
Name, age, background?
Ja Dorris, a WHOPPIN’ 41 yrs old! This is my 20th season ski coaching.
What’s the best part about coaching?
Several things: I enjoy doing something I love and totally getting into the training and racing at every level with the kids. I also enjoy being able to work with a bunch of awesome people both in terms of athletes and coaches, especially the kids . they definitely keep me young.
What’s your other job(s)?
Good thing you asked in the plural tense! Let’s see, I teach Physical Education at Eagle River High School, where I also coach the high school team. I also coach a year round ski program, Alaska Nordic Racing (ANR). I have also been selling real estate for the past 16 years. Probably the hardest and most rewarding job is my two kids, Ryann, 3, and Lauren, 18 months. They are a total blast and keep me on my toes.
What is your motivation as a coach?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I just love coaching it’s part of who I am.
Funniest coaching story?
I have lots of great coaching stories. Probably the best one’s are not for the public!
Your wife Joey is also actively involved with Alaska Junior ski racing and you have two toddlers. How do you make it work?
My wife Joey is way active in skiing (Cross Country Alaska, JO’s) as well as with our two kids. How we make it work, I have no idea. It definitely gets way crazy, but that makes it fun as well. Things move 200 mph at our house, and that includes our kids. They are involved in everything that we do, and they are the coolest thing in Joey and my lives.
You started Alaska Nordic Racing (ANR). Tell us about it, and why it is unique?
ANR is a year-round ski training club. We have over 50 athletes from all over the Anchorage/Eagle River areas. We have middle school, high school, and elite programs. ANR consists of a group of high school coaches who run a year round program. The athletes train together all summer and fall, and then they return to their HS teams/coaches in the winter for the HS season. This allows for a smooth transition for the athletes.