InterviewsNewsWhitman College Coach Nathan Alsobrook

FasterSkier FasterSkierDecember 29, 2006

Editors note: This is 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 robertwhitney99@hotmail.com. Please give coach’s name, email, phone, and a small paragraph describing the nominee. The more diverse, the better.

Nathan Alsobrook, 31, is the Head Nordic Skiing Coach for Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.


Nathan with Whitman team on fall training outing.

4. Tell us a little bit about your 'style' or philosophy coaching
college level skiers.

To me, college skiing isn't just about skiing fast – it's about learning how
to lay the groundwork for skiing fast. I try to explain why we do the
things we do – training, technique, waxing, recovery, etc – so that our
skiers will understand the principles at work rather than just following the
plan, and so they'll have the confidence they need to make adjustments if
something's not working for them. I want Whitman skiers to be prepared to
continue racing and improving after college, with or without the help of a
coach. Achieving independence and taking personal responsibility for one's
racing are two major goals of our program.

College skiing should also prepare athletes for long term success, whether
at the international level or as a lifetime citizen racer. The program
exists to serve the best interests of the athletes, not the coach or the
college, and thus athlete development can't be sacrificed for short term
goals.

Lastly, college skiing should be fun! Some of the best times I've ever had
in my life were as a member of the Bowdoin ski team. I hope my skiers leave
Whitman feeling the same way.

5. If a post-college skier approached you and said they wanted to be a
junior level or college ski coach, what advice would you share with them?

Find an experienced coach to work with – this shortens the learning curve
considerably. Don't just rely on others to teach you, though. Get your
hands dirty – dig up as much information from as many different sources as
you can find and figure things out for yourself. Take responsibility for
your own education as a coach – no one else is going to do it for you.

6. Do you feel that a coach is coachable? (Or challenge one's
perspective?)

If, as a coach, you're not coachable, you're probably not very good at your
job. Having said that, I'll admit that it's easy to fall in love with your
own way of doing things, and I'm often guilty of this. However, I've
learned a lot from people who challenge my beliefs about skiing. One of my
good friends is a physical therapist, and he views skiing from a PT's
perspective. He often questions the conventional wisdom about technique and
training – this drives me crazy, but it also forces me to re-think my
assumptions and look at things differently. These kind of alternative
viewpoints are essential to me – not just as an academic exercise, but as a
way to continue learning and improving as a coach.

7. Red or white wine? You do live in wine country….

Hmm – too bad Walla Walla isn't known as donut country – then we'd have
something to talk about. Wine just isn't my bag. But given the choice,
I'll take white any day.

8. Closing remarks?

Most folks don't know this, but Pocatello, ID rocks.

THANKS NATHAN!

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