Les Parsons, from Mont-Ste-Anne Quebec, and long time coach of Beckie Scott, was a guest coach in Scotland for the Great Britain National Cross Country Ski Team Summer Training Camp in August.
Lying between Banff and Craigellachie (the cities in Scotland) on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains, the town of Huntly is home to the Huntly Nordic Center, the British equivalent of the Canmore Nordic Center. This was the site of their national team week-long training camp. The connection for Les to coach in Britain came through Banff Ski Runners coach Anders Lenes, who is coaching Alastair Duncan, a junior skier from Scotland who lives in Canmore, and whom Anders coached at the 2007 World Junior Championships last winter. In addition, Sarah Young, an athlete from Huntly, skied for the season last winter with the team in Rossland, British Colombia.
And the Canadian connection is being extended this season. Al Duncan, and new GB squad member Jamie Kunka are training with the Banff Ski Runners, while another team member PJ Barron is training with Rocky Mountain Racers.
Les was invited and warmly welcomed as a guest coach. He volunteered to share his experiences of developing elite junior athletes, based on his work with Beckie Scott, and current Canadian junior team members Fred Touchette and Alex Harvey as young international competitive skiers. Les presented a whole range of ideas and concepts in a very entertaining and engaging style which kept even the youngest members of the team engaged and wanting to hear more. Talks were constructed around the following: The Elite Athlete Lifestyle, The Pursuit of Excellence, Race Preparation, Team Spirit, Motivation & Positive Attitude.
The presentations were followed by a barrage of questions from coaches, athletes and parents hungry for information and determined to learn.
When Les wasn't undertaking formal talks and presentations, he was coaching and demonstrating other styles of rollerskiing and ski striding technique, and managed to share some difficult concepts through the use of a very accessible key words technique checklist which he had collated from some of the world?s finest cross country skiers. Most important of all we had an enormous amount of FUN, as Les shared a wee bit of his enthusiasm and laughter to encourage the team to pursue excellence.
Les's impression of the Brits: “I was very impressed with the Great Britain National Cross Country Ski Team. They have a great group of young athletes, excellent coaches, and, a great rollerski training center in Huntly. I must say, the British Team has great confidence in their aggressive rollerskiing at high speed! But, I was MOST impressed with the interest these skiers have in cross country skiing, despite the limited snow that Scotland receives each winter. Their coaches, athletes and parents are making great sacrifices to train & compete, with the added expense of travel to Northern Europe in search of snow. Under the direction and leadership of Head Coach Roy Young, I believe we will begin to see some elite junior athletes develop to become competitive skiers at the World Junior Championships in the next few years.”
The British skiers have no budget other than the money they raise themselves, volunteer coaches, not much snow in the UK and only the green shoots of an infrastructure to support the ambitions of some great athletes. Athletes, coaches and supporters are envious of the Canadians, the professionalism of the CCC and the funding – but more than anything else, the snow. What they don't lack is the enthusiasm to take on the challenges as they prepare for the coming season.