It’s been a busy few weeks for Sam Naney. The former Methow Olympic Development Team racer welcomed a new baby girl into the world with his wife Allison on May 28. The couple also hosted three running races and moved to Seattle from the Methow Valley in the span of six weeks. On top of all that, Naney is starting his new position as Momentum Northwest’s head coach and program director.
If you’ve never heard of Momentum Northwest, you’re not alone. The nordic program is a new push from the Seattle community to bring back nordic skiing to the Pacific-Northwest’s largest city.
The idea was hatched by Coert Voorhees, a Seattle native and former U.S. Skit Team member. Voorhees attended the Overlake School in Seattle and was a member of the nordic team under three-time Olympic coach Nat Brown.
According to Naney, Voorhees was intent on brining back nordic skiing to Seattle, and this past winter he had his chance.
With the interest of several donors, the Voorhees family along with several others in the Seattle ski community such as Gretl Galgon, came up with the name, Momentum Northwest, secured sufficient funds, and sent out a hiring advertisement.
That’s where Naney came in.
After a successful 2013/2014 season in which Naney finished sixth in the freestyle sprint at U.S. Nationals, the Washington native made the decision to retire from racing.
“I felt like I got a lot out of the sport and in particular a lot from the support from others. In combination with that I felt like I had a good season last year and was more interested on ending on a high note than going on a downward spiral,” Naney said in a phone interview.
In addition, his wife’s pregnancy made the decision all the more easy.
Despite his retirement, Naney wasn’t sure what he was doing next. When he saw the employment advertisement for Momentum Northwest, he realized all the opportunities starting as a head coach for a new program would present.
“The thing that first attracted me was how new and unique the program was because of the opportunity to start and design a program from scratch,” he said. “Instead of coming into an existing program with a lot of history or politics or an existing board that has an agenda. I get to create that and determine how this project goes.”
Even before Naney moved to Seattle, he realized the challenge that he has ahead of him. In a city that is traditionally thought more conducive to summer sports, Naney will need to make a winter sport program attractive to the cities residents.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been done before. In addition to the Overlake School, Sun Valley head Coach Rick Kapala was a former coach at Pacific Lutheran University and recent Olympian Holly Brooks found her start with cross country skiing while growing up in Seattle.
Despite the challenges, Momentum Northwest is already off to a good start. The club has roughly eight to ten children who regularly attend practice. Several of them recently made a trip to Bend, Ore. to participate in a training camp.
In order to attract more participants to the program, Naney is enacting traditional methods.
“We’ve put together some social media pages. I started to send out mailings and posting print fliers,” Naney said. “I also sent out an email flyer to all the athletic directors in schools in Seattle, Bellevue and Issaquah to get their students who are looking to do things in Seattle.”
In addition, Naney plans to market Momentum Northwest as a club for all athletes to boost their fitness, regardless of sport. However, once participants are training with the team during the summer, the goal is to convert them to cross country skiing.
When the athlete base is built, Naney hopes that word of mouth will be the future recruiting technique for the club.
Athletes or not, the question arises as to where Momentum Northwest will train.
According to Naney, there are several options all roughly an hour away from Seattle, located east of the city on Snoqualmie pass. They include the Cabin Creek ski trails run by the Kongsbergers Ski Club in addition to the nordic ski trails at the Summit at Snoqualmie.
Naney’s plan is for the team to train three days a week on snow once winter settles in, with a Wednesday night headlamp-ski on the Cabin Creek trails in addition to daytime skiing both Saturday and Sunday. The other training days will be spent in the city, where the team will rollerski and run in surround parks despite the persistent precipitation that often plagues the city in winter.
Naney sees the club continuing to grow and develop in the future. Within two years the goal is to attract over one hundred athletes. Long term goals include advancing athletes to junior national podiums and college-level programs.
“My hope, and our stated goal with the program, is to see it as one of the formidable nordic programs in the country,” said Naney. “We spent a lot of time talking about places like Cambridge Sports Union and what they’ve been able to do there. That’s our goal, to make it comprehensive, far-reaching, and competitive.”
For now the program director and head coach is hoping to juggle all the new events going on in his life as he furthers nordic skiing in the big city. Fortunately, he’s aided by a month-old girl named Fiona, who literally sleeps like a baby.
“In the midst of all this, we have a really easy baby. From the first night in the hospital she’s slept through the night,” Naney said. “When people say I must be exhausted, I tell them I’m actually sleeping really well. I haven’t felt like it’s a hindrance. I feel like it’s enriched our exciting life.”