Sunday, 2 February 2014

Changing the Landscape of Youth Cross Country Skiing...

shaking it up...

Its pretty cool to see an idea turn into reality.  That happened yesterday.  It started with some conversations with friends and colleagues about how to engage more kids and more clubs in ski racing - to make ski racing more accessible for more kids.  There is alot of inertia moving against this.  It takes a shift in thinking to think beyond your own club and the kids you coach.  But its been that kind of leadership that created an event yesterday where almost every kid there was pretty new to ski racing. 
Refreshing.  Inspiring.  Fun. 
Casual conversations turned into more formal discussion about what was important to all of the stakeholders.  This allowed some shared values to be discussed.  The conversation focused on creating a shared vision about the future of skiing in our region.  Everyone agreed that more clubs and more kids engaged with racing would be a good thing.
Next came some conversation about what it would take for clubs currently not engaged with racing to join in.  From this, we learned about the diverse needs of clubs of different sizes and stages of maturity.  What was remarkable in our process was the willingness of big established clubs to accommodate the needs of younger, start up clubs in our region.  We decided on two types of events for our new regional development series - 'open' events that would accommodate any child and 'development' events that targeted kids in their first year or two of racing.  Our provincial sport organization, Cross Country Alberta, was quick to pick up the event series and support it with the idea that this type of regional series would be good for any region in our province to roll with.
Yesterday was a pretty amazing day.  A young, start up club, Crystal Ridge Nordic Ski Club from a small town in the greater Calgary area, Okotoks, hosted the Built for Speed (B4S) Event Series first 'development' event.  I'll tell you it was awesome.  Almost 80 kids from 5 different greater Calgary ski clubs, almost all of whom would be too intimidated to line up in a provincial level race, were there lining up at this development race. 
Its where it starts.  Racing needs nurturing.  Outside of small pockets of highly motivated parents and a small percentage of ski clubs, the reality is, racing is new.  Taking the high rollers out of the equation meant that kids who might usually finish 20th in an Alberta Cup race, were there winning their event.  Every kid needs a chance to step on the podium.  In our highly competitive region where a few clubs are large with professional coaching staff, but where most of the clubs are run by volunteers and keen parents who want to do something good for their children, we created a valid interclub regional race where the needs of kids starting up can compete with others who are about the same place as they are.
My own personal children didn't race (I have three of my own offspring, who are all pretty keen on racing).  Most of the kids I coach didn't race.  Some of the kids I coach competed, because in every club there are kids who are just getting started.  For a group of ski clubs to agree to create something to foster and engender positive racing experiences for those kids on the edge, for kids who don't have parents who competed at some high level, the event yesterday was incredible.  Bravo to the leadership of southern Alberta ski clubs for creating a space for this type of event in our regional event series for children.  Not one kid finished 10 minutes behind the winner - every kid had a chance to see themselves as a contender. 
Hats off to the Crystal Ridge Nordic Ski Club for hosting B4S2.  It was an unqualified success. 


  1. Thanks to Roy and our great coaches at Crystal Ridge. Our whole family had a great time.

  2. Way to go, everyone who was involved! What a great event series.