Whether it’s her YouTube interviews with world-famous Norwegians, inspiring stories from her past life of ski adventures in the Yukon or her self-described “rampantly enthusiastic” style of coaching, Ontario Ski Team Head Coach Pavlina Sudrich has become well known around Canada’s nordic-racing scene. While her three-year term with CCO (Cross Country Ontario) has come to a close — she announced her resignation earlier this month — Sudrich’s presence in the ski community is certainly not ending with her time as provincial head coach.
“I’m stepping away from CCO but I definitely still hope to be working with CCC [Cross Country Canada] and coaching in the future,” she said in a phone interview earlier this month.
“2013/2014 was my favorite season yet. I spent more time than ever before working trailside with athletes in training and competition. I finally met Petter Northug. Best of all I watched Ontario climb from 4th place at Nationals [1,295 points behind 1st] to 2nd place this year, only 57 points behind 1st.” — Pavlina Sudrich,“Change — And The Next Adventure” blog post
There were a number of factors that played into Sudrich’s decision to move away from her role as OST (Ontario Ski Team) head coach, and she considered them during a beach vacation in April.
“This season was full of new, unanticipated challenges,” she wrote on her blog. “I spent over 6 consecutive months coaching on the road. I lived on couches, in mop cupboards, and in a tent. I visited 13 countries in 365 days. I came up against things I could never have anticipated, a trip to Norway that started with no snow, running six races in eight days in three different countries, and the loss of a significant family member.
“Standing in the pouring rain watching sharks swim in the Wineglass Bay I thought about the past season. I was tired yes — but mostly I felt exhilarated,” she continued. “As any good coach knows, there’s a special kind of confidence that comes from overcoming challenges — it’s quite a feeling to know you are capable of more than you realized. I came away from this season even more motivated to work towards becoming on of Canada’s World Cup coaches.”
That’s when she began to think about her job as OST coach.
“My biggest passion is working directly with athletes,” Sudrich said. “Although I had opportunities to do this working with CCO, these opportunities were focused more around training camps and races, when the Ontario Ski Team athletes came together.”
The rest of the time as head coach went towards more logistics type work, planning for the big trips and helping provide oversight and advice for the Ontario Ski Team members’ club coaches.
Sudrich wanted to spend more time working with athletes, rather than in more of an administrative role, to continue her development as a coach.
One of the current issues that is slowing the development of new top-level Canadian skiers is the limited number of top-level Canadian coaches, she said.
“It takes years to develop a World Cup caliber coach,” she explained. “I think that Canada needs to develop more World Cup-level coaches so that they don’t have to rely on Europeans as weekend coaches on the World Cup.”
Sudrich’s goal is to help fill the coaching void and continue her development as a top-level ski coach. She believes the move will allow her to commit herself to the completion of her Level 4 coaching while keeping an eye out for job openings at CCC.
At the same time, she plans to work with top Whitehorse U23 skiers Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad) and Kendra Murray.
Lastly, having spent 10 years living in Ontario, working on her university degree and coaching, Sudrich is eager to return home to Whitehorse, Yukon.
In 2004, Sudrich was named to Canada’s “Top 20 Under 20” list. At 18, she was interested in a career in journalism and creative writing, and using those skills to address substance abuse among Yukon youth. She spent at least 2 1/2 years as a CBC Yukon youth correspondent while “projecting a fun, healthy, and substance free lifestyle,” and “educating the youth through her stories on drug abuse, racism, youth employment, etc,” according to the recipient description. “Many of her stories were presented at a national level.”
Growing up, she was part of the Territorial Experimental Ski Training (TEST) program and eventually the Yukon Ski Team, and worked closely with TEST founder Father Mouchet, who died last December. Sudrich wrote an article in his memory, as well as the Firth twins (when Shirley Firth passed away last May).
Although she thinks it the best move for her development as a coach, she’ll miss her time spent coaching at the provincial level.
“I had a really good time working with CCO — really challenging job and I learned a lot and grew a lot as a coach,” she said. “I’ll really miss the summer training camps and the long roller skis with groups of athletes. There are great places around Ontario for summer Zone-1 rollerskiing.”
Of the many highlights of her three years as OST head coach, one trip last season really stood out.
“Taking the team over to Norway last year and getting to experience Norwegian nationals was amazing!” she said. “It was great to have our athletes lining up with the likes of Petter Northug for the Team Relay!”
Committed to CCO through June 1, Sudrich will host a provincial training camp at the end of May. After that, she said she’s looking forward to the “unique opportunities the Yukon offers throughout the year, and I’m psyched to hang out with my dad back home in Whitehorse!”
Beyond that she’ll begin coaching the Whitehorse athletes in June and working towards her dream of being one of Canada’s World Cup coaches someday.
“Happiness and opportunity aren’t something you wait around for…” she wrote on her blog. “They’re something you go out and create.”
— Alex Kochon contributed reporting
A Canadian cross-country ski racer with the Alberta World Cup Academy, Zeke spends most of his time in Canmore, Alberta, but calls Cantley, Quebec, his home. He thinks that you can learn a lot about a person from their goals — his is to ski really fast on the Winter Olympic race course in 2018. Find him on the web: http://ezekielwilliams.ca/ and on twitter: @zek3r