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Help starting a high school ski team for my son

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 



So, my son will be in high school in the fall.  (I remember taking him skiing for the first time to a bunny hill on a very, very cold day when he was ~5.  That day was so cold, there were very few on the snow with us.  We were both hot and sweaty after a few minutes, from all the falling, getting up, helping him get up, etc.  Fast forward 8 years, he is a much better skier than I ever was or will be, especially after racing with a local mountain team for the past 4 years.  I can't believe how fast time flew but I'm so glad he enjoys skiing as much as he does.  But, I digress...)


The high school my son will be going to does not have a ski team.  All the surrounding towns do.  For obviously reasons, other schools are not thrilled about having other towns joining them.  So, my son is very keen on wanting to have his own school team, and obviously I like to help/drive the cause.  There are several families interested in joining the forces, but no one really knows what's involved.  If you have experience in starting a school team (ski racing or not), I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions.


So far, we just have names of kids, ~7, that are interested.  I suspect it'll grow to a dozen+ or so once we spread the word, maybe more, not sure.  We need to talk with the HS athletic director, we do not have a coach yet.  We are in Massachusetts, US.


In general, I'm trying to understand what the school's concerns/hesitation would be.  Obviously, if we just knock on the door and ask them to start a ski team, that won't go too well.  If you can help me understand issues associated with the following, that'd be very, very helpful.


- What homework do I need to have done before talking with the school?  I assuming that the easier we make it for school, the more likely they'll approve.  I'm told that the school had been approached once in the past but nothing happened.  


- How do I go about finding a coach?  Easiest would be finding a teacher that has ski race coaching experience.  Doesn't seem that likely.  Not having raced before, I don't even know what credentials to look for in a high school race coach.  I'm sure there are all kinds (my high school soccer coach didn't know how to kick the ball properly).


- Expenses?  I'm assuming that equipments, race fees, lift tickets for practice come from the members.  How about expenses for the coach, is it reasonable to ask the school to subsidize the cost?  Or will that be like nails on the coffin?  Does the school have expense associated with assigning an advisor to the team (which I hear needs to be done for all school affiliated groups/teams)?  Transportation would be another cost.  I can already see fund raising effort needed.


- Practice location.  Do local mountains give discount to school ski teams for tickets, etc?  Do they (roughly) designate a section for practice to avoid bumping into general public?  I can easily call and ask, but like to hear others' experience.


- Anything else?  I'm sure there are things I haven't even thought of.


Your help/suggestion/comments are much appreciated.




post #2 of 7

I'd start by speaking with the AD at your school.

post #3 of 7

Hi Brick,


First of all - I commend you on your plan to start a HS ski team. I never had that opportunity at my high school but gee, I sure wish I did!


I'm don't have a whole lot of experience with this sort of stuff, but thought I would offer some suggestions off the top of my head.


The Good:

  • It's a worthy cause, and in doing this your contributing to future generations of skiers! But also, providing an opportunity to students to get involved in skiing that otherwise may not have been presented.
  • You have interested participants: 7 is a good number, but the more names of students you can 'bring to the table' the better. I imagine it will encourage the athletic director to support your cause.
  • Get the parents of the other interested students involved in the process. I.e. work with them on an ongoing basis, even approaching the school as a collective group of parents would help significantly, and it will certainly allow you to delegate some work that may be involved.
  • Having other schools in your area with ski teams is a really good point of justification to the school. I.e. you are representing the HS in local/regional sports and providing the same opportunities as other schools.
  • On that note, you should consider approaching the coaches or athletic directors of the other schools to determine or inquire about the details of starting and running a ski team (i.e. capital cost or initial investment, and operating cost - travel expenses, gear, etc.). They may also have ideas about local coaches.
  • Further to this, a little bit of homework with respect to how to run a ski team and the investments needed (monies, time, people, etc.) will better prepare you for approaching the school.


The Challenges:

  • Other sports (i.e. football or basketball) may have most of the schools attention and resources. Might be difficult to get funding or interest.
  • I think it can be pretty expensive to run by the time you factor in travel, practicing, and especially gear.


Things to think about:

  • Approach local or nearby ski hill?
  • Find out if there is a local ski team - if there is, it might be difficult to get skiers interested. If there isn't, great opportunity to start a school team.
  • Hopefully one of the parents with skiing interest or someone at the local ski hill would be interested in coaching. Im sure it doesn't have to be a teacher from the school, but obviously this would be best.


Thats all I can think of right now, but Im sure there will be lots of input from the epic community. Wish you all the best, and keep us up to date.

post #4 of 7

First place I would go is the other schools that have a team...and talk to them.  Just copy.



Everywhere is different...but my experience is this:


HS Ski Teams dont have coaches, or training, or uniforms.  Just "chaparones", and basically they just show up and race.  A few experienced guys tend to be around to offer pointers here and there...but there is little else.  Somtimes a few schools might get together and orgainise a training day or 2 for the season, but that is about it. Kids chip in for the coach.  Coach will need to organise hill space etc for you...


Races are organised by the hill, and since there are other teams around, you will likley need to get their schedule, and work to that.  they will already have safety rules, etc.  Again, you will just take their rules and work to them.  Main issue is getting kids to the hill for the race, and home again.  That you will need to do.  Also waivers so the kids dont sue the school etc.


Kids cover their own lift tickets, and gear.  Usually deep discount tickets are offered for the kids and chaperones. 


Good luck.

post #5 of 7

Kudos for you to show some initiative in getting a high school team.  Before you go to the school's athletic director, go talk with the coach or an athletic director of one of the other schools.  You can get insight on the league organization that the schools compete in.  From there you can talk to a league representative on how to get a team organized.


Here is what I remember from my years back on a high school team.

1.  The team was really designated as a club.  It got very little funding or no funding from the school.  Parents and donations paid for everything.

2.  The school coach is more of an administrator and/or dry land trainer.  The team pays for a coach at the resort.

3.  The local resort will make arrangements for the team to train there.  Usually a package deal is made that includes training and a season pass.

4.  To keep costs low, some teams train together.

5.  Usually teams provide their own transportation.

6.  The league set the race schedule.



post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks to those that commented so far.  They all make sense.


I've got a couple of local contacts for more info, which will be very helpful.  I'd definitely like to understand how things got started at another school.  Fyi, my son currently races for a local mountain ski team, so this would be additional commitment if/when the school team (club?) starts.  It looks like the school teams race in their own venues, apart from the mountain ski teams, makes sense. 


I'll keep the progress updated.


Edited by Brick - 3/4/12 at 9:24pm
post #7 of 7

-First off great idea and stick to it is the number one piece of advice that I have.


-I am actually a member of a HS ski team that just finished its second season in New Jersey.  We do have a coach BUT he is not, was not, and probably will never be a racer.  He is just a teacher who was really enthusiastic about skiing and being outside (he hated winter track). He, however, was married to a former College racer and her father is a long time race coach so they came by and helped out when they could (less than 5 total is my guess for last year).  While I can not say how Mass runs their program I can comment from my side. First off I am assuming that your son will be in a public school. My school is private so the approval process will be different from my experience. Regardless you will need either a coach from the school or a faculty member to oversee the program.  This is mandatory at every school I have ever heard of.  If you cannot find an in-school skier or coach you may be able to have a faculty adviser and possibly a coach from outside the school if they were willing to do that.  I will say that having a race coach is extremely beneficial.  We were able to find an Alum this year who helped out on a few nights he had free and the advice he provided to us was immensely helpful.

-The process to getting a team will not be easy.  You will need to show credible support from current or future (next year) students to the administration for them to even consider it.  You will need to find the "enthusiastic" support of a faculty member (cant say yea what ever I have nothing better to do, he/she has to at least act into it).  Also it would be good to have a rough idea on the costs.  Costs for the school will be at least transportation to and from.  This can vary greatly depending on how often you go up and how far away it is.  In NJ the hill is open for training four days a week with races three of those four days for three separate leagues. In an average week we bus to the mountain twice a week (one training day, one race). There are also going to be league fees.  In NJ they are per racer and you would need to contact the league or other coaches to find out what those may be.

-Other costs are generally borne by the racers or a booster club. Not sure if the racing happens at one hill or multiple but you will need lift tickets or a season pass.  These will be discounted for racers.  Equipment needed for racers will be a hard eared helmet for sure but the rest depends on the leagues regulations.  In NJ we can ski on what ever we want (but most kids use race skis) and we need a slalom chin guard or mouth piece.  All other race stuff is optional but worn by many varsity racers (speed suits, pole guards, shin guards, etc.).

-I forgot to mention an upfront cost of starting a team may be the purchasing of race bibs depending on whether or not the mountain provides them.   

-You mentioned that you are already in contact with about 7 kids/families about it which is a great start.  Not sure what their background is but be accepting of all levels of skiers (they should at least be decent at skiing), even if they skid their turns it is a great way to improve ones skiing and add numbers and reason to start the team in the eyes of the administrators.  My ski team started with one kid who had previously raced and about 15-20 other kids who were just good athletes and skiers.  In our second year, with the addition of one other racer, we are fourth in the state.  (I had never raced before last year and it turns out I am racing varsity.) Be sure not to scare anyone out of doing it, remember numbers are your friend.

-To some other questions

-To the question about designating a section at local hills it really depends.  The races are always either on trails shut down for the race or fenced in from the public.  The training courses are mostly on open public trails there in NJ but that public generally stays away from those trails.

-Depending on his role I would think that the coach would definitely need to be comped in some fashion but I would not make to big a deal about that.  The AD will take care of that

-to find a coach try have some of the kids ask around the high school.  Ask teachers if they ski, if they know one that does, and so on.  You will eventually find one that at least skis.

-For you homework:

---try and find the Mass high school racing website if one exists and read up on all league rules, policies, etc.

---Get in touch with other surrounding schools and their coaches.  You would be surprised at how willing many of them are to help out

-Lastly, don't wait to long.  Make sure that you start early to give yourself enough time.  Even though next season is 10 months away, starting a team, especially at a public high school, takes a lot of time.  You will need to get approvals, that take time, gather interest, etc.

-Also if the season is still going on go to a race and see what its all about.  There you have easy access to coaches and your son can talk to a bunch of the kids.


I am sorry for being so long in my answer but I hope it helps you out.  It is awesome to race high school and I know that just about everyone I know really enjoys it.  I hope my experience in NJ is somewhat similar to that in Mass to I don't sound too ridiculous.  Also if you have any other specific questions don't be afraid to PM me and I will do my best to answer them.  Good luck in starting your team.

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