Sitting before the lurid glow of a computer screen, scrolling through codes and functions does not exactly conjure up images of snow, skis and fitness fanatics. However, a logged training hour, timed kilometer split or monitored heart rate are all indispensable numbers to improving nordic performance. For eight years, these ordinals were the opus of Brayton Osgood’s work.
A math wiz — he graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a degree in mathematics and earned his master’s in business and accounting from Northeastern University — Osgood spent just under a decade perfecting a computer software known as Athletic Management Platform (AMP) for a company called AMP Sport. The program, designed to help coaches decipher the meaning of digits in relation to an athlete’s progression in training and racing, boasts partnerships with the U.S. Ski Team, USA Triathlon and the Cleveland Cavaliers, among others. Whether it involved dribbling on a basketball court or trekking trails (snow or dirt covered), Osgood’s work gave numbers a new meaning for many athletes.
But the electronic connection to cross-country skiing Osgood maintained through his computer could not replace the physicality he loved about the sport: the granular feel of a wax cork, the watery eye blur from breathing in the icy, mid-January air.
A former nordic racer (he skied for Dartmouth College, where he was a two-time NCAA All-American, as well as XC Oregon, earning a World Cup distance start in 2009) and a coach (he was a Dartmouth assistant coach for the 2011/2012 season), Osgood, 35, missed being physically present at cross-country skiing events.
“I was spending all of my free time in the winter and lots of vacation time making my way towards cross-country ski races so it was pretty clear to me that that’s what I wanted to be doing with my time,” he said on the phone earlier this month.
Though he loved the math and science behind skiing, Osgood began to realize that being entrenched in skiing was where he wanted to be. He began spending more time at ski events. At the beginning of last season, he traveled to Europe to wax for the U.S. Ski Team for Period 1 of the World Cup. He also served as a coach and wax technician for the New England Junior National Ski Team last season and worked as the race-data manager for the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) from 2012 to 2016. Then in March, when the men’s head-coach position for the Dartmouth nordic ski team opened up, he applied.
“I was excited to apply for this job specifically because it was at Dartmouth,” Osgood, a native of Putney, Vt., wrote in an email. “The Dartmouth Ski Team has been very important in my life, first as a student-athlete, and more recently inspiring my desire to coach.”
After much anticipation, Osgood discovered in early May that he had been chosen as the new leader for the Big Green men’s team. He had his first team meeting with half a dozen athletes and his co-coach, Cami Thompson-Graves, prior to Memorial Day weekend and officially started on June 22. While he’s no nordic newbie, Osgood explained that writing training plans for large groups of athletes will be one of the biggest challenges for him as he takes over the reins from Dartmouth’s longtime men’s coach for the last 27 years, Ruff Patterson.
“I’m really lucky and fortunate to have Cami [Thompson-Graves] as a resource,” Osgood said of Dartmouth’s director of skiing and women’s head coach. “We’ve already started meeting and talking about what she’s done and I’m going to spend a fair amount of time as I get started, talking with the current and hopefully some past Dartmouth skiers just about what has worked for them and where we can experiment and change.”
Though Osgood has been mentored by Thompson-Graves as an athlete and assistant, this upcoming season will mark his first experience working alongside her.
“I am very excited that Brayton will be re-joining our staff!” Thompson-Graves wrote in an email. “I think his passion for skiing and his knowledge of Dartmouth will help generate a lot of excitement with the team, and will allow him to hit the ground running as we start the new training season.”
As the pair looks ahead to the beginning of a new season and partnership, Osgood points out that key to their success will be complementing each other as coaches. The two programs will work together to shape the future of the Division I program.
“She has a great history of success in terms of graduating skiers that move on to the U.S. Ski Team and World Cup podiums,” Osgood said of Thompson-Graves, who’s entering her 28th season coaching at Dartmouth. “She’s done a really good job of building that team atmosphere, which I think is a key to achieving success, so I think there’s a lot I can learn from her there.”
With the tutelage of Thompson-Graves and current and previous Dartmouth skiers, Osgood hopes to not only continue Dartmouth’s history of program success, but expand upon it.
“Ruff has been a hugely important figure in my life and skiing,” he said. “So having the opportunity to take over for him is really exciting and a little bit daunting because it’s a great legacy he has and I would love to carry on the success that he achieved.
“I definitely want to have a team that has All-Americans and hopefully podiums at NCAAs and a lot of skiers All-East for EISA [Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association],” Osgood added. “Then just as important I think is to have a team that’s happy and excited to be out there skiing and racing every day that they ski … There’s going to be 12 to 15 men on that team and they can’t all race carnivals, they can’t all go to NCAAs, but I want them all to feel like they have successful winters and are achieving the goals they set or are making progress towards those goals.”
Another aspect of the job Osgood sees as both a challenge and a chance to learn is the student side of coaching a collegiate sport.
“At a school like Dartmouth, finals are never more than 10 weeks away,” he said. “There’s often midterms and a whole host of external factors that you need to account for when writing [a training plan]. There’s also class schedules. There are a lot of constraints to work with, but that’s going to be a new and exciting thing for me, for sure.”
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Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.