Connecting with Steve Argue – Performance Level Certified, Master Coach Developer

It’s interesting to reflect on how coaching education has changed significantly from the mid 70’s. My first 2-day coaching course was with the Alpine Coaches Association of Ontario. We didn’t have a lot of reference material at the time, just showed up, skied and learned how we could ski better. The following winter was the start of my coaching education pathway. I signed up for the Level 1 Canadian Ski Coaches Federation (CSCF) course. We were presented with a quarter inch thick manual with information on the four levels of coaching, race organization and FIS rules, ski preparation, a few ski drills and physical conditioning exercises. As I continued to learn from other coaches, I obtained my Level 2 & 3 CSIA and then Level 2 CSCF as coaching had integrated with the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). Coaching education took on a whole new form, still with a lot of emphasis on technical skiing, but now there was a broader range of information and larger manuals relating to coaching and skill development. I continued the education pathway attaining my Level 2 and 3 Race Officials courses and then Level 3 CSCF Coach Certification. A few more educational courses in recent years allowed for transition into a Performance Level (PL) Certified Coach and NCCP – Master Coach Developer.

In the early 80’s I was inspired to become a CSCF Course Conductor/Examiner after passing my Level 3 Coach course. The hard work began with learning how to deliver course materials effectively, understanding teaching and coaching methodology, physical and psychological training principles and honing skiing skills. Course conductor training was usually held in Quebec or Alberta ahead of skiing season in Ontario. Attending courses over the years, it allowed me to better understand the challenges coaches face from other regions in Canada. Over the years we have transitioned from Course Conductors to Learning Facilitators (LF’s) and Mentors. Our Canadian sport organizations changed the coach certification levels from Level 1 to 4 Senior Coach to Entry, Development, Performance and High-Performance Level designations, more integrated with the NCCP, Coaching Association of Canada and Sport Canada requirements. 

Changes to the coaching course format have been improving significantly. In the early days of examining, we had one Level 1 course at Mount St Louis with 125 candidates and 14 examiners. You can only imagine how we monopolized an entire ski run for a good portion of a day for ski offs. Then, everyone was evaluated on a skiing level scale of 1-10 over four skiing skills. Can you imagine lining up 125 candidates at the top of a hill and standing around waiting for your turn? Course candidate numbers are more reasonable now and the ratio of facilitator to candidate is 1:8 ideally. Why? To create a more inclusive interaction and the ability to share experiences and knowledge amongst the group. Today, evaluations have been updated to different skill levels: Initiation – Needs Improvement, to the Meets Expectation categories of Acquisition, Consolidation and Refinement.  There’s more room for relevant critique and discussion for self-improvement. It’s the change towards more competency-based education that has made a huge difference in the delivery of course information. While high standards of skiing are required for each level, it’s the overall coaching knowledge and how to coach better that is the base of our success. It allows us to work more effectively with our athletes, share in their success and provide better skill training through coach mentoring programs.   

It is my hope Alpine Canada and Provincial Sport Organizations will formulate a return to pre-season on snow training for club coaches. It’s a great way to start the ski racing season with relevant technical discussions/coaching ideas and principles, with the opportunity to tune up your individual skiing. We can still reference material in books and manuals while the preferred methods have changed to on-line seminars and meetings. There is still nothing better than on snow training to solidify technical skills or training concepts. There are many more online courses one must to be compliant and meet annual certification standards. While time consuming, it protects the athletes, coaches and organizations supporting ski racing. Safety of our athletes in training on and off the hill helps our programs, skill development and is a significant step forward. 

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to facilitate Entry and Development Level Courses across Canada and gain so many friendships along the way. To those senior & head coaches/instructors, mentors, coaching partners, friends, fellow facilitators, athletes, parents, Alpine Ontario, Alpine Canada and NCCP – THANK YOU for contributing to my passion for coaching over all these years. Much of what I have learned through coaching, I have been able to transfer into life and business skills. I may have hung up my facilitator helmet after 36 years but will continue to be involved with ski racing and coaching for many years to come. Set your goals and you can achieve them! 

For those just starting, in a full-time coaching career or a weekend coach – learn from your mentors/peers, try things outside your comfort zone in a safe environment, support your athletes and programs. Be sure to have fun along the way and ensure your athletes are engaged. Remember to thank coaches or mentors who will or have helped you achieve success along your journey.  Coach with passion, commitment, and purpose, while continuing along your own coaching pathway. Good luck!