InterviewsNewsCoaches Around the Country: Pete Leonard

FasterSkierOctober 24, 2007

** Editors note: The Coaches Around the Country colum is back again for a second winter. This column will highlight 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 Please give coach’s name, email, phone, and several paragraphs describing the nominee.

Pete, head coach for the Fairbanks XC (FXC) ski club, is the first of the the Coaches Around the Country column this winter.

Biking in Denali National Park

4. What's your biggest gripe with coaching, and how would you change it/what would you do?

I guess my biggest peeve is 'guruism.' I’ll explain…. I get kind of irritated when
people act like there is one way to success in this sport and they have
it. Mind you, I think it is important to have a philosophy and purpose
with what you are doing, but I think there is an important distinction
between that and thinking that what everyone else does is bogus and
there is nothing you or your athletes could possibly learn from them.
To me, the answer is pretty simple: don't think that way!

5. One thing you would change about US skiing?

At the junior level, I can't stand the attitude that pursuing the sport
as a life-long activity and on the road to an elite level athlete can
not possibly be combined. Some people act like challenging a kid to
excel is a disservice to he/she, as if the only options on that road
are either excellence or flame-out. It's as if there is no benefit to
training besides improved performance because it can never be fun and it
is simply the most boring and dreary thing possible. (This probably
isn't too far from why we have such a problem with obesity in this
country……) Certainly training involves work, yes there will be
discomfort at times, and yes you will get ten times more out of your
experience in the sport from challenging yourself and striving for a
goal – even if you don't reach it – than you probably ever realized.

6. Best part of skiing?

Hands down it has to be the ski community. No matter where you go in
the country, it seems like there is not a better, more grounded,
fun-loving, genuine group of people.

7. Best part of coaching?

There aren't too many jobs where it can be an important skill to act
like a kid…

8. What do you do for fun when not coaching and working?

As for fun, when I get a day off I like to get out of town and do
something outdoors. Usually it's a hike or run within an hour or two of
town, sometimes maybe a canoe trip, or bike trek someplace cool like the
road in Denali. Every once in a while, I'll take the chance to go
someplace farther away, like this September when I went down to Skagway
and Whitehorse and joined up with the rest of team PBR for the Klondike
Road Relay. That event, by the way, is probably the most fun race I
have ever been part of. By itself, a road race in the right atmosphere
can be pretty fun, but when you throw in the whole team aspect with
everyone in RVs, racing through the night, and finishing the whole event
off the next night with a bunch of sleep-deprived runners dancing to a
'live' band under a big tent by the Yukon River, it is tough to beat. I
don't think I've ever gotten grass stains on my feet before while
dancing in thick wool socks. (And, yes, since you're wondering, I do
have an impeccable sense of fashion.)

9. Country or Butt-Rock?

Butt-Rock. No contest. I hate country… except for that one Garth
Brooks song which I will occasionally lip-sync during circuits……

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