The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s (USSA) new nordic program head, Joey Caterinichio, will fill a slightly different role at the governing body than that of her predecessor, John Farra — that much was immediately clear with the original announcement that the job title had been changed from Program Director to Program Manager.
The context of the new hire (namely, the position’s vacancy for an entire season and the nordic program’s recent budget problems) next led to more questions about the reasoning behind the shift in staff hierarchy, which all ultimately boil down to: What does this actually mean?
The difference between the directorship and the managerial position replacing it mainly involves USSA’s working relationship to the U.S. Ski Team (USST), according to Executive Vice President of Athletics, Luke Bodensteiner.
Previously, the director’s responsibilities involved both developing the domestic program and driving USST growth by working closely with USST coaches. Caterinichio’s role will now be more focused on the domestic side of things.
Consequently, cross-country head coach Chris Grover and Nordic Combined head coach Dave Jarrett are officially in charge of leading their teams’ international campaigns, both athletically and administratively. Caterinichio will help plan logistics for major international competitions like World Juniors/U23s, World Championships and the Olympics, and provide support to USST staff as needed.
Though the manager’s official responsibilities are more domestically focused than in the past, Bodensteiner says that in practice, staff roles will be much the same as they have been.
“Functionally, not much is changing,” said Bodensteiner. “[The head coaches] were providing leadership on the international side for many years now.”
This was especially true for the past season, when no one sat in the leadership role following Farra’s departure in July and coaches absorbed some of the administrative duties to compensate.
The decision to reduce the new program manager’s responsibilities was not motivated by finances, said Bodensteiner — rather, “it’s about the focus and structure of the program.”
In Grover’s view from the USST side of things, replacing a program director with a manager is an appropriate change. He believes the needs of USSA and the USST have changed since Farra was brought on in 2008, when coaches were four years less experienced than they are now.
“If we’d had a younger staff, we might have needed someone to provide [USST] leadership; to drive what the program is trying to achieve,” said Grover.
But this is not currently the case for the USST coaching staff, he explained. “When you have someone like Dave Jarrett, who was the coach at the last Olympics and went out and won four medals, you don’t really need someone to tell him how to be successful.”
Grover, for his part, just oversaw one of the most successful cross-country World Cup seasons in USST history.
Jarrett was in agreement that the manager position better fits the USST’s needs based on its collective coaching experience, though acknowledged he feels the absence of a director’s administrative help in the spring.
“This is the tenth time I’ve done spring planning, and it’s the first time I’ve done it all by myself,” he said.
A coach’s springtime tasks are generally more administrative than athletic, but Jarrett is waiting to judge the idea of a diminished USSA presence in-season.
“The biggest thing John did in-season was logistics for big events, and last year with no World Championships or Olympics it was a little easier to manage without him, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Jarrett. “First we have to run the athletic side of our team and not focus all our energy on the administrative side.”
At this point, Caterinichio’s job description does include logistics support for major international events.
Increased Focus on the Domestic System
In place of USST involvement, Caterinichio will be focused on developing the country-wide domestic ski program. Bodensteiner, USST coaches, and Caterinichio believe this to be the area most in need of USSA’s attention.
“The number one focus will be on domestic racing, and bringing that system to a higher level. We’ve seen what everyone else has seen — it’s drifted backwards in the last couple of years,” said Bodensteiner.
How to bring the domestic race system to a higher level will be up to Caterinichio.
“As with any new position, there’s a learning curve to get up to speed and form your own philosophy, and start to connect the dots on that philosophy with the stakeholders of the community,” said Bodensteiner, who was himself Farra’s predecessor at the helm of the nordic program.
“I think there’s always challenges in that job — we’ve got to continue to evolve the sport. Part of the challenge comes from the growth of the sport, the clubs, and new people involved in the process. It’s a challenging job, no doubt about it.”
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.