Mid Season Deep Thoughts by Kip Harrington

FEBRUARY 2019 — Submitted by Kip Harrington, OST Head Coach and Program Director 

Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to be involved with the Ontario OCUP racing from U14 to U16 and FIS plus this week’s U14 Speed Camp at Searchmont.  I saw hundreds of racers, dozens of coaches, volunteers, and parents, and it was awesome. I am reminded that we have talented athletes, great coaches and a lot of support from volunteers and clubs. It is great to see ski racing alive and well in Ontario.

We had some great conversations with coaches and parents including the AOA/SOD parent meetings at the U14 and U16 OCUP Mid-winter series and the AOA Athletic Committee town hall meeting plus a U19 coaches meeting. This was a lot of input and be assured we are listening and we know we have work to do.

I also had individual conversations with racers and coaches, on the hill and riding the lifts. I saw familiar faces – people I raced with or coached with over the years, ski suppliers – and met new people. Fun all around and it is terrific to see so many energized and motivated people. One of my major goals with AOA is to harness that energy and bring people and expertise together to improve our programs and raise our collective game.

At Searchmont this week the coaches held daily debrief sessions after training to talk about the day; what we saw, what we can improve, and specifically about skiing. These debriefs were very productive, and we saw great changes and improvements in the kids from day to day. There is always something to talk about with regard to programming, politics, points and qualifications. It was really fun and refreshing to talk about kids and skiing. That is what this is all about, right?

Having watched the U14-U16-FIS races in Collingwood, I saw talented skiers, and terrific performances. I also noticed a fairly high DNF rate in all age groups, particularly in slalom and spent some time thinking about and discussing why that may be, and what we can do. My opinion is simple – continue focusing on the skiing fundamentals which includes good balance and position on the skis and maintaining a quiet upper body so the legs can work and the racer can control the turns and adapt to courses and terrain. I saw really strong carving skills, but a lot of lateral movement with the body, and extra movement with the shoulders and arms, which makes it hard to stay in balance, control the turn, and adapt to terrain and courses. I encourage the racers to keep up the gate training, but also free ski working on technique and make sure to “soul ski”. Soul skiing is when we ski for fun on all terrain, a different speeds, at every chance we get. Good for the soul. Good for your skiing.

I want to congratulate all of the athletes that qualified for the U16 National Championships. This is a level of achievement that you should be proud of. There is still time to prepare and improve before the championships so stay focused and keep up the good work. Best of luck, we are behind you.

I also have a message for all of the athletes that worked so hard but did not qualify for the U16 championships – we believe in you. You have worked hard, and you are competitive people, so not achieving a goal will hurt. This is perfectly natural. There is one thing that is certain in life for every single one of us – there will be challenges, there will be setbacks, there will be disappointments. That is a sure thing. What matters is how we respond. There is always an opportunity that comes with any challenge, to improve something you may not otherwise have taken time to improve, and to see things in a different light. Becoming a great ski racer takes time. So keep the faith my friends. Enjoy ski racing and keep working.

All the best,
Kip Harrington