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I need some ideas for getting 8-9 year olds to get forward.

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Today I filled in for another instructor in a season long program.  In this group there are seven kids, 8-9 years old.  They are all skiing groomed blacks with a reasonable degree of confidence.  I couldn't help but notice that they were all WAAAAY back, a few of them so far back that I'm puzzled as to how they stay up.  On the steeps they revert to a braking wedge and lean back to brace.  On more gentle terrain, they are mostly parallel, but still way back.  

 

Their regular instructor likes to let them just ski and explore.  He thinks that at this age, they just need to ski.  I'm not sure I agree with him completely.  I think that unless someone pushes them out of the back seat, they will stay there for a long time, and it will only get harder to correct.  

 

So I'll be with this same group again tomorrow, and I'm looking for some ideas.  I'd like to at least try to get them out of the back seat.  Based on my experience with them today, I don't think they will be too receptive to listening, observing, and drilling.  So I'm hoping there might be a few fun ways to get them to make contact with the front of their boots.  

 

I'd also be happy to hear about drills to do the same.  I'm sure they will come in handy somewhere down the road, and maybe I can find a way to work them in somewhere.

post #2 of 19
Check out Laurie Gullions Ski Games
post #3 of 19

Bumps...jumps (small!)...rollers...tree trails...gullies...half-pipes...hop turns and leapers...skating...thousand steps...uphill arcs...shuffling....

 

Check their boots--some kids' legs are very skinny and float around inside the boot cuff like a straw in a bucket. That requires them to lean either forward (rare) or back to get their legs in contact with the boot cuff for support. 

 

Are you sure they're really that far "back"? With relatively larger and heavier heads in proportion to the rest of their bodies, kids' hips often move way back to counterbalance their heads. Hips are not center of mass, so the appearance may look much further aft than it really is. Additionally, as I have often described, I submit that "conventional wisdom" and persisting mythology keeps many skiers trying to get too far forward, too much of the time. Is it possible that these kids, not shackled with false dogma, are merely finding a balance that is functional and centered, even though it might look "too far back" to some eyes? 

 

Keep them moving, actively, with balance-challenging terrain and games, and their balance will get better and better.

 

Best regards,

Bob Barnes

post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post
 

Bumps...jumps (small!)...rollers...tree trails...gullies...half-pipes...hop turns and leapers...skating...thousand steps...uphill arcs...shuffling....

 

Check their boots--some kids' legs are very skinny and float around inside the boot cuff like a straw in a bucket. That requires them to lean either forward (rare) or back to get their legs in contact with the boot cuff for support. 

 

Are you sure they're really that far "back"? With relatively larger and heavier heads in proportion to the rest of their bodies, kids' hips often move way back to counterbalance their heads. Hips are not center of mass, so the appearance may look much further aft than it really is. Additionally, as I have often described, I submit that "conventional wisdom" and persisting mythology keeps many skiers trying to get too far forward, too much of the time. Is it possible that these kids, not shackled with false dogma, are merely finding a balance that is functional and centered, even though it might look "too far back" to some eyes? 

 

Keep them moving, actively, with balance-challenging terrain and games, and their balance will get better and better.

 

Best regards,

Bob Barnes

I think this is where their regular instructor is coming from, but they are definitely bracing on steeps with their calves pressed against the back of the boot.  To me they look like they are in the back seat, but it could very well be that I'm looking for the wrong things for children this age.  

 

As I think about it, maybe the issue isn't so much that they are leaning back, but that they are too dependent on a bracing snowplow for speed control.  When I skied with 5 and 6 year olds over the past few weeks, I spent a significant amount of my time working on turning up the hill to stop and using the same idea to control speed.  Maybe I need to take the same approach with these 8 and 9 year olds as well.  

 

With their regular instructor they do a lot of follow the leader, where each of them gets to lead and throw whatever tricks into the mix they can come up with.  It can be amusing to watch, but they come up with some pretty cool stuff in the process.  I've been letting them do quite a bit of this, but I think tomorrow I might have to jump in as the leader more often and try to get them to shuffle and hop a little bit more.  

post #5 of 19
I make it a point not to take kids on trails that reinforce poor ski habits. Until they can control their speed with turn shape, they shouldn't be on a trail that causes them to wedge that hard or that much.

It's expected and accepted that they will do this now and again, but if it all the time, they are on the wrong trail.

I had a few in my seasonal program that were doing this almost all the time- even on easy trails. I get them to understand how to extend off the inside leg and shorten the outside leg (as it becomes the new inside leg). We spend lots of time turning up hill and and getting a feel for where the sweet spot is to stop going uphill and start the next turn.

My kids are the same age group(ish), 7-9. Sometimes I get 6y/o. If these kids are in a seasonal program and still in a wedge this late in the season, something is amiss. I'm not a fan of just skiing around and having kids follow. Unless they are strong visual learners and you're picture perfect, they don't learn that much. I do like and use follow the leader and used it today.


have fun
Ken
post #6 of 19

From my instructor daughter.

 

Keep your hands on the steering wheel of your race car.

 

What COLOR is your race car?!

 

Works for me!

 

Just don't tell them don't!  ;-)

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by L&AirC View Post

I make it a point not to take kids on trails that reinforce poor ski habits. Until they can control their speed with turn shape, they shouldn't be on a trail that causes them to wedge that hard or that much.

It's expected and accepted that they will do this now and again, but if it all the time, they are on the wrong trail.

I had a few in my seasonal program that were doing this almost all the time- even on easy trails. I get them to understand how to extend off the inside leg and shorten the outside leg (as it becomes the new inside leg). We spend lots of time turning up hill and and getting a feel for where the sweet spot is to stop going uphill and start the next turn.

My kids are the same age group(ish), 7-9. Sometimes I get 6y/o. If these kids are in a seasonal program and still in a wedge this late in the season, something is amiss. I'm not a fan of just skiing around and having kids follow. Unless they are strong visual learners and you're picture perfect, they don't learn that much. I do like and use follow the leader and used it today.


have fun
Ken

I think we are on the same page.  My position in the program is as a floater, so I bounce from group to group as other instructors are absent or to assist with some of the larger groups when needed.  I don't love some of the things I see other instructors doing.  Unfortunately, I only get to spend a small amount of time with any given group, so I'm fairly limited in what I can do.  Next year I will most likely be given my own group.  Hopefully I will be able to focus on the right things and see better results if I am able to build them from the ground up myself.  

post #8 of 19

not an instructor and no experience with this issue so I can't offer advice, but I think you're right.  Why let the opportunity go by?  Make the learning fun and there's no downside.

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by L&AirC View Post

I make it a point not to take kids on trails that reinforce poor ski habits. 

I would agree.  Judgement is 90% of the game. Proper technique ON APPROPRIATE TERRAIN breeds confidence which leads to more measured challenges. 

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by L&AirC View Post

I make it a point not to take kids on trails that reinforce poor ski habits. Until they can control their speed with turn shape, they shouldn't be on a trail that causes them to wedge that hard or that much.

It's expected and accepted that they will do this now and again, but if it all the time, they are on the wrong trail.




Ken

I couldn't agree more with Ken's thoughts.   I also like to have the kids do lots of thousand step exercises, skiing one ski (game where you can only have one ski on the snow at a time) any ski but only one.   With these two exercises  you remove the possibility of the power wedge/breaking wedge and by nature of the exercises require that they stand in a better stance with feet closer and learn to balance on one ski at a time.   I also strive to get the kids to use the terrain for speed control rather than any sort of braking maneuvers.   One other thought for some kids is that they may need a heel lift.  Some junior boots have boot shafts that are too straight up or a heel that needs lifting to be balanced.  Has a particular look when the heel sits too low.     YM

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogaman View Post
 

I couldn't agree more with Ken's thoughts.   I also like to have the kids do lots of thousand step exercises, skiing one ski (game where you can only have one ski on the snow at a time) any ski but only one.   With these two exercises  you remove the possibility of the power wedge/breaking wedge and by nature of the exercises require that they stand in a better stance with feet closer and learn to balance on one ski at a time.   I also strive to get the kids to use the terrain for speed control rather than any sort of braking maneuvers.   One other thought for some kids is that they may need a heel lift.  Some junior boots have boot shafts that are too straight up or a heel that needs lifting to be balanced.  Has a particular look when the heel sits too low.     YM

 

Yogaman brings up another valid thing to look at; boots might be too big.  A couple weeks ago for the brave souls that showed up for training, I kept them inside the first part of the morning since the wind chill was -28.  We did balance games on a bosu ball and wobble board and went through how to put boots on correctly.  I also had them pull their insole out and stand on it to verify the fit.  It's an easy way to check the fit without having to pull the boot apart and try to verify shell fit.

 

Often kids are getting hand me downs from older siblings and they don't always fit.

 

Another equipment "backseat driver" is ski poles.  If the poles are too long, they go back.

post #12 of 19

I like what Bob wrote, skinny legs can act like a loose gear shift lever in a car. Finding second gear, or any gear for that matter becomes a bit of a search. Same goes for the big head small body phase that can lead to an aft but centered stance. I know it sounds contradictory but we used to do an indoor activity where we wore a heavy helmet (literally weights taped to it) to simulate the proportional mass differences between kids and an adult. It was fun to watch adults try to figure out how to move around wearing that helmet. All of this leads to the idea that without considering the relative greater mass of a child's head, we apply the wrong model (we erroneously use an adults model) and wonder why the kids cannot comply with our requests.

Add to that the fine motor skills in the hands and feet still not being quite hardwired and expecting those kids to perform adult like movements is even less likely.

 

Over time they will find their balance point and their related stances will change. So it's a hard thing to say much about how their regular coach is conducting that class. Imagine things reversed and how you would feel about that change. Maybe speaking with them prior to doing any of that is something you might consider doing...

post #13 of 19
All good suggestions.

Don't forget kids have brains. It's amazing how much they get if you speak and act in their terms. They have eyes, flexibility, and want to have fun. Over-terraining is bad, but don't bore them on their weekend vacation doing drills all day on the bunnies either. Play, drill, adventure summary is full-on PSIA "mumbo-jumbo", but it works.
post #14 of 19

"On the steeps they revert to a braking wedge and lean back to brace"

Now that you know that, don't let them go straight down the steep in their power wedge.  Have them follow the tracks your skis make across the hill, not follow you, 'cuz they'll short cut and go straight down that hill.

 

Invent games to get them too far forward.  If they're too far, they'll balance themselves not so far.  Use candy as a prize.  Have one of them judge and the rest ski across an easy hill, the one judged to lean farthest forward gets the candy.  Figure out more games, and have everyone end up a winner by doing something right.  Helicopter circles on an easy slope is one good one that gets them moving around their balance point.  Two things do not work--hands stuck out while their balance is back, and skiing backwards while being told to lean toward the hill.  Backward is good, being told to lean toward the hill is not good.  Sideslips are good--mix balance centered, back, forward to control the slip.

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for the input.  I ended up focusing less on the balance issues, and instead on what I think was the root cause.  The students that were skiing in the back seat were doing so mainly when they were using a braking wedge to control their speed.  They were perfectly capable of keeping their CoM over their feet on easier terrain, and in a lot of varied conditions.  So it wasn't their balance that was the problem, it was that they were relying on braking movements to control speed.  I spent a chunk of the morning working on turning up the hill and using turn shape and line choice to control speed.  After a few runs, I saw a big difference with most of them.  For most of them, this wasn't new.  They had done it before, but just stopped doing it unless they were reminded.  

 

Unfortunately, the student I felt needed the most help didn't show up in the morning when we were really working on things.  She did show up in the afternoon, but I had promised the group that if we got through all the "work" I wanted to do in the morning we could do a lot of fun stuff in the afternoon. 

 

Overall, I think it was a success.  A few of the students learned (or maybe re-learned) how to control their speed without a braking wedge, and it created a more organized situation for me.  There are a few wanderers in the group that are always off on the side trails, so by having them ski in a line and follow my tracks helped to wrangle them in.  

 

That brings me to another question I have.  With regard to the wanderers, I'm struggling with where to draw the line on letting them have fun, and keeping order in my group.  While I want them to have fun and explore, I have a huge obligation to keep them safe and to be aware of there whereabouts at all times.  So I'm balancing the idea of a controlled organized group and allowing them to do whatever they consider to be fun.  With the limited amount of snow we've had in the northeast this season, some of the side trails are marginal at best.  Small rock ledges that are usually covered in snow are now exposed, cover is thin, and things can get icy.  This doesn't stop 8 year olds from wanting to ski there.  It also puts me in the position where I have to tell them they can't do something they have done many times before.  For a few of them, there are no limits to where they will ski.  If there is a half inch of light powder covering bare ground on the side of a trail, they will try to ski it.  And after that doesn't work out so well, when they see another patch just like it 20 feet down the trail, they will try it again.  For these few students, fun stuff or free skiing means off the trails.  So how can I allow them to have fun, but keep them from doing stupid things that probably aren't going to end well.  

 

The other issue with the wanderers is that they hold up the rest of the group.  When they decide to take a "side trail", they usually don't make it up the mound of snow they are trying to get over and have to hike, or they fall and lose a ski.  The rest of the group skis ahead and stops at the next checkpoint, and waits...and waits...and waits while they repeat the process of trying to ski up, off, and over every snow pile, rock ledge, and bump on the mountain, falling down, and losing a ski.  The rest of the group will free ski the trail.  They might take a few of the more accessible side trails, but they spend most of their free runs actually skiing.  So how can I reign in the wanderers, but still let them have fun?  Their idea of fun seems to be strictly limited to runs with a lot of side trails.

post #16 of 19
Quote:
 So it wasn't their balance that was the problem, it was that they were relying on braking movements to control speed.

 

Every ski instructor and skier on the planet should read these words and take them to heart! This is the best-kept secret in all of skiing.

 

When the brakes are on, leaning back IS balance. More importantly, the vast, vast majority of recreational skiers virtually always have their brakes on! If turns are thought of as ways to directly control speed, and initiated in response to a need to slow down (or avoid speeding up), or to "avoid obstacles," or other defensive thoughts, those "turns" are merely misnamed braking movements. In such cases, "being back" is not the problem, it is the solution--it is "balance" when your brakes are on. The problem, as you have identified, is that the brakes are on. 

 

A popular phrase in Europe, especially applied to kids but applicable to all especially in the early learning stages, is "keep it fast and flat." Keep 'em on terrain (and I'd extend that to creating games, tactics, and exercises on any terrain) where they always want to go faster, not slower. 

 

Uphill arcs, "U-Turns," gulleys and half-pipes, and so on--anything where they're trying to go uphill, rather than trying to stop going downhill, to maximize and carry speed, rather than reduce it--is great for creating "offensiveness." If they have reasonable balance, they'll naturally adopt the forward movements of "go," instead of the aft movements of "stop."

 

Best regards,

Bob

post #17 of 19

Let me offer insight based on my experience as a seasonal instructor, and it's not going to be technical assistance. That has been covered in spades already. I'm going to talk a little bit more about the dynamic of a seasonal group. 

 

Unlike in a one-off group lesson, the focus of a seasonal rec skiing program isn't as heavy on intensive instruction. My typical standard is to "pay the bills" as far as technical instruction in the course of one, maybe two runs each day. That's during a day that consists of 10-12 runs. Other than that, it's mostly "free" skiing. I put free in quotation marks because the kids think it's free skiing, but it's not really. I'm quietly evaluating and throwing out pointers and reminders as we go, but we're not doing drills or things like that during the vast majority of the day. My terrain choice is often geared toward facilitating whatever skill i'm quietly focusing on that day. The reason for this is nothing more than self preservation. If I did non stop drills and instruction, my kids would force me out the gondola cabin window by Christmas. In all reality, the sheer quantity of time these kids spend with me on snow requires a more subsumed approach to formal instruction. 

 

Also, keep in mind that seasonal instructors spend a huge amount of time and effort building a certain group dynamic, and as a substitute, it isn't your role to chart a new course for the group. Nor will the group let you do so in the period of a day or two. If you try to get them to step out of their normal routine, you are going to make life difficult for yourself, and they won't be emotionally available to you to learn anything new. Think about when you had a substitute teacher that tried to crack the whip while you were at school. You didn't learn squat from that teacher, you just plotted ways to make their lives difficult. If you didn't, your classmates did, and nothing got done in the end anyways. 

 

When you're in the role of seasonal sub, go with the flow. Get as much insight from the regular instructor as possible, as well as the program supervisor. Then let it ride, gently guiding the group. If you step in and try to reinvent that group's wheel, you just end up getting run over by it. 

post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

Let me offer insight based on my experience as a seasonal instructor, and it's not going to be technical assistance. That has been covered in spades already. I'm going to talk a little bit more about the dynamic of a seasonal group. 

 

Unlike in a one-off group lesson, the focus of a seasonal rec skiing program isn't as heavy on intensive instruction. My typical standard is to "pay the bills" as far as technical instruction in the course of one, maybe two runs each day. That's during a day that consists of 10-12 runs. Other than that, it's mostly "free" skiing. I put free in quotation marks because the kids think it's free skiing, but it's not really. I'm quietly evaluating and throwing out pointers and reminders as we go, but we're not doing drills or things like that during the vast majority of the day. My terrain choice is often geared toward facilitating whatever skill i'm quietly focusing on that day. The reason for this is nothing more than self preservation. If I did non stop drills and instruction, my kids would force me out the gondola cabin window by Christmas. In all reality, the sheer quantity of time these kids spend with me on snow requires a more subsumed approach to formal instruction. 

 

Also, keep in mind that seasonal instructors spend a huge amount of time and effort building a certain group dynamic, and as a substitute, it isn't your role to chart a new course for the group. Nor will the group let you do so in the period of a day or two. If you try to get them to step out of their normal routine, you are going to make life difficult for yourself, and they won't be emotionally available to you to learn anything new. Think about when you had a substitute teacher that tried to crack the whip while you were at school. You didn't learn squat from that teacher, you just plotted ways to make their lives difficult. If you didn't, your classmates did, and nothing got done in the end anyways. 

 

When you're in the role of seasonal sub, go with the flow. Get as much insight from the regular instructor as possible, as well as the program supervisor. Then let it ride, gently guiding the group. If you step in and try to reinvent that group's wheel, you just end up getting run over by it. 

Thank you for this.  This is very helpful and reassuring.  For the most part I've been trying to go with the flow.  Its not easy to figure out and slip right into a different group dynamic each week.  With this particular group, I saw a few things I thought I might be able to work on with them, so I took a stab at it, and luckily it went fairly well.  

post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cgrandy View Post
 

From my instructor daughter.

 

Keep your hands on the steering wheel of your race car.

 

What COLOR is your race car?!

 

Works for me!

 

Just don't tell them don't!  ;-)


@lady_Salina had my kid pretending to dribble a basketball out front of his downhill ski reaching down the fall line when turning.  I'd never seen that trick before.  We've done various different, poles out front, across holding the shafts or balancing them on the arms/wrists etc..  Lots of different tricks, but the basketball was new to me and worked well.

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