TrainingCoaches Around the Country: Trond Flagstad

FasterSkierApril 11, 2008

Trond Flagstad has been coaching for the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) since 2001. He and his wife Lindsey, 8 month old VeBjorn, and dog Burra live in the hills above Anchorage.

Racing at Senior Nat'ls in Soldier Hollow (Krista Radar photo)

Do you think being a coach that 'races and trains' with your athletes makes you a better coach?

Not necessarily, but I do believe that if you as a coach can show or demonstrate good technique you can get the point across a little easier. A lot of time kids have a hard time with pacing at easy-distance, L3 and L4, so sometimes it helps to be out there to set the pace whether it’s a slower pace or a faster pace. I also like to coach a lot one-on-one and skiing with somebody for 2 hours working on technique, pacing, transition, downhills, etc is very effective because you get to see what the athletes is doing out on the course and give instant feed back.

Racing with athletes can go both ways, if you beat them and they say — “hey this sucks, we need to train more and better so we can beat this old guy” — if they beat you, you know you’re getting older and feel like retiring on the spot — unless of course you are Frode Lillefjell.

It’s another good way to get a point across! Frode and I always talk about why this is and the answer is always the same…. the ability to ski relaxed and efficient (using as little energy as possible while skiing fast) because it clearly isn’t fitness.

You built a beautiful timber frame house in the mountains in Anchorage a year ago. How's it coming along?

The house is coming along slowly. We are living in it while we are building so it’s a work in progress. I was inspired by two friends of mine that built timber frame houses; Chris “Flash” Clark and Barney Hodges whom both skied for Middlebury. Flash is a great builder and he helped us get started. We have 2.5 acres in the woods so it feels like living in the wilderness. We have moose, bear and lynx walking through our yard on a regular base. The best part about the whole thing is that I use my neighbors and skiers to do all the hard labor work!

Can you address NCAA skiing and its effectiveness in athlete development?

NCAA skiing can be both good and bad for a skiers development, it depends a lot on where you go to school and if you have the opportunity to do a lot of quality ski training and racing. In addition you need to have a coach that cares about your long term development. For college coaches that can be a dilemma because we are paid to field the best possible team at the NCAAs in March. Most of all it depends on the skier, if you want to be good you can be good whether you go and ski in college or you decide not to ski in college.

I believe a skier can develop either way. Whether you go to college or not at age 18 should depend more on where you’re at in your development at age 18. If you are in the top 10 at WJ’s and place in the top 30 in world cup races, you might be better off going for it right out of high school. If you are not at that level yet and need some more development, college skiing might be the right place for you to develop.

It takes a long time to develop as a skier and most skiers will not reach their full potential until their late twenties or early thirties. Most skiers in this country quit long before they get to that stage and the reason for that has of course to do with the financial aspect of it but there is also a cultural aspect. The financial aspect is huge and is lacking all the way from the top to the bottom, from National teams to private teams and clubs. There is good support for a few on the National team and there are some excellent clubs and private sponsored teams out there, but across the board it’s not great. With the cultural aspect, I mean the acceptance in this country to be a ski bum for 15 years out of high school or to be ski bum for 10-15 years after college.
In the light of this I think college skiing has a place in development. Most colleges provide excellent support in everything from coaching, waxing, clothing, housing, food and travel to races and training.

Back to the skier. It’s all in the skiers hands whether you go to college or not. You need to train a lot and a lot of good training over many years — it is that simple! I totally agree with US Team Coach Pete Vordenberg, that we as a ski nation need to train more and train more quality. I have seen more underdeveloped kids coming from high school than I have seen skiers being on track in their development, and ours skiers need to be on the track from a younger age so that when they come to high school and college they can focus on training hours and training quality instead of coming to college to learn basic technique skills and how to ski efficiently.

From my experience at UAA, I have seen that it is possible to train between 700 and 800 hours in college, but it means that you have to be ready for it when you come to college and you need to be efficient, determined, and disciplined, and have a great work ethic, goals, and focus. Your life needs to evolve around skiing, school, eating and sleeping. The most important part of the training season for college athletes is the summer: you need to train a lot in May, June, July and August so that you can train a little less during the school year and still be on track for the 700 to 800 hours.

Personally I think it’s too much talk about hours, what you do in those hours is a lot more important than how many hours you get in your training log. Being efficient is about quality in the workouts!

(Krista Radar photo)

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