Monday, 26 May 2014

Building Capacity in Beginning Coaches

A few weeks ago some good fortune dropped on my lap.  Dick Taylor contacted me via this blog.  Dick was a national team coach in the US for a number of years, as well as a national team skier.  He sent me his book - No Pain, No Gain. 2002. Mechanic Street Press. Bethel. Maine.  I need to tell you, Dick's writing is brilliant, insightful, intelligent and reflects intellectual and practical wisdom that I have so rarely found coaches taking the time to share. This book needs to be a must read for any beginning coach because it provides a frame of reference that is a great jumping off point for those of us who love coaching adolescent cross country skiers.  What is truly remarkable to me is the relevancy of the content to our present context.  No where have I come across such an incredible resource as this one.  In addition, Dick has created a website  that aims to share out best practice and current knowledge.

I've set out as the purpose of this blog to create a space where beginning coaches can be stimulated with some ideas about the important pieces of coaching young skiers - who want to do the work of transitioning kids to a love of going fast on skis.  The piece I have found most beginning cross country ski coaches want to start with is the technical pieces - what are the priorities in technical skill development.  Helping kids learn to ski technically well is super important, but equally and maybe even more important is having a solid understanding of the physiological priorities of working with adolescent skiers.  Predating Sport Canada's Long Term Athlete Development Plan, which is still the focus of current best practice discussion, Taylor speaks to the important physiological windows of trainability that exist for adolescent cross country skiers and many of the challenges that exist for our young skiers when faced with the lure of school sports which are predominantly high activity-relief sports.  This insight is one that I haven't come across in the Canadian LTAD and yet represents key understandings that are just as relevant today as they were ten years ago.

You'll find me reflecting again on Taylor's writing,as it is rich in substance and process; linked to cultural lenses that affect how athlete development in cross country skiing has been actualized in North America.  I'll be honest, this is the sort of book that will change my practice - well written, not as a textbook or a summarized/bulletted coach training manual, but instead as a refreshing, insightful and richly deep and broad perspective of our uniquely North American context of athlete development in cross country skiing.  Thank you Dick for creating a resource that is engaging, useful, and discerning and which every coach should have in their professional library.

Roy Strum
Canmore, AB

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