Welcome to the Women Ski Coaches Association
WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE’RE DOING
According to a recent U.S. Ski & Snowboard membership newsletter, men outnumber women by 2:1 in cross country ski coaching positions in the United States. At the head coach and program leadership levels, that ratio skews even further away from equal representation. Five out of 25 head cross country coaches in NCAA skiing are women. At the post-collegiate level, there is just one woman in charge of an elite team.
Enter the Women Ski Coaches Association, or WSCA. We are launching today, in the fall of 2019, to encourage more women to enter, remain in, and advance through the cross country ski coaching profession and bring women’s representation at all levels of coaching closer to 50%.
Why? Because we believe in the importance of equality within ski program leadership. Ski teams are often led by one coaching staff for both genders, and we believe that if women have power equal to men within team leadership, the needs of male and female athletes in our sport will be equally met. Furthermore, we want the women and girls on our teams to see that it’s possible for them to coach at the highest levels of our sport if they want to.
Pepa Miloucheva, Head Coach of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and the only female head coach of an elite post-collegiate ski team in the U.S., put the importance of gender equality in her profession this way:
“Men and women coaches think a little bit differently in how they think about the athletes,” she said. “You just relate much more to your own gender. Training-wise, men coach and women coach pretty similarly. But when it comes to working through athletes’ problems, it’s always been easier for me to communicate with women coaches.”
The creation of the WSCA has been the work of many women who currently lead ski teams across the country. Maria Stuber, Head Nordic Ski Coach at The College of St. Scholastica, organized a meeting of women coaching at U.S. Nationals in January, 2019, to brainstorm ideas about how to get more women in the profession. From there, Stuber spearheaded efforts to organize as a 501(c)(3), to come up with a mission and goals, and to generate support and funding. Throughout the process, Stuber emphasizes that she had help from her peers at collegiate, national, and club teams alike.
“This is a true group effort and the WSCA includes and represents every woman coach,” she said. “There are lots of hard-working women to thank this summer!”
The collaborative beginnings of the organization is affirmation of why Stuber and company have been so driven to build the WSCA in the first place.
“Every single time I get a chance to work at a camp with another female coach, it is light years better as far as my enjoyment, my energy when I leave, and what I learn at that event,” Stuber says. “That’s what this organization is doing. So that we can have more than that one-camp-a-year experience; take that distance between us all and close it up.”
The WSCA aims to provide networking, coaches education, and career development support for women ski coaches across the U.S. One of its primary educational projects is to fund travel for two American women to attend the Norwegian Ski Federation’s Ski Leaders of Tomorrow International Seminar this September in Oslo, Norway, with the support of a grant from the Oregon Nordic Ski Foundation. The Norwegian Ski Federation has seen the research that suggests a diverse work environment is more productive, successful, innovative, and happier, and is investing in women’s leadership development accordingly. The WSCA believes it is imperative that American women are represented at the seminar and able to take what they learn back to the U.S.
Across its initiatives, the common thread between the WSCA’s goals is to give women the tools to build their knowledge and confidence, so that they are able to show up and be capable. In the absence of many female peers, that confidence is hard to come by. Start to grow in numbers, and that confidence grows, too.
“I think in general it’s just the thought that when you’re the only woman there, you think that people think you’re not good enough, like your gender isn’t good enough to be there,” Miloucheva noted. “It’s so important to give women the confidence to continue developing in coaching.”
In the States, U.S. Ski & Snowboard has made recent progress in developing female coaches. In May 2019, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team hired Bernie Nelson as its new D-team cross country coach. Nelson is now the first and only woman on the national team coaching staff — a significant step forward in representation at the highest level of cross country skiing in the U.S. Not long after she was hired, U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced a women’s cross country coaching fellowship to take place in October at two national team camps.
Stuber looks at Nelson’s hiring as groundbreaking, noting that it debunks the common and destructive myth that women do not want to coach because it’s too hard or too time consuming. Of the 22 people who applied for the D-team job that became Nelson’s this spring, 11 of them were women. Opening this position up for applications was evidence that, “women want to coach at the higher levels exactly as much as men do,” Stuber said.
Want to be involved? Go to https://www.womenskicoaches.org/membership to become a WSCA member or sponsor membership for a woman you know.