We at Team Eldora......in Colorado have the same mix...national champions and folks who just want to do something other than mindlessly cruise the hill. Here's my thoughts:
- A lot of the direction for the program can come from the coaches. One thing that's important for coaches and athletes both: What's your goal or goals? Because it really varies. I have a friend who has dual citizenship in Puerta Rico, I think, and he wants to use Masters as a springboard to FIS races and then to qualify for the 2010 Olympics. There are people, on the other hand, who just want to improve technique and have a chance to go fast legally. My goals are always the same: have fun and win races. If I have fun and don't win races, it's still a success as long as I left it all on the hill. Ya gotta be honest about your goals, however. I say this because I'll ask people what their goals are, and it'll be something like "Oh, you know, have some laughs, maybe go faster" but as soon as Joe Beets beats them in a race, the athlete is either really upset, really mad, or both.
- Lots of free skiing, some gates. We have a "6 inches or more rule" at Team Eldo. That is, if there's that much new snow on the ground, the gates stay in the locker, we pull out our fat skis, and go rip some pow. Even if you don't have the advantage of Colorado champagne, spend lots of time just skiing and enjoying it. You don't necessarily have to always be working on something to improve your skiing, and if you're not doing this for fun, on some level, you ought to take up bowling.
- I know, in Western New York, you don't have the venues we do, so it's mostly SL and GS, followed by GS and SL. Having said that, do some free skiing on some bigger skis...as in, honest to God Super Gs...and do some of the exercises in the US Team F1/F2 DVDs. Gliding, low edge angle turns, dealing with terrain aren't just skills for speed events...they'll make you a better skier in the tech events.
- The U. S. Team F1/F2 DVDs, which I got when I went through my Level 1 Coaching certification last year, are a great resource. Get them and make sure they get passed around to everybody on the team.
- I assume you're using video, if not, start doing it. I can spend all day verbalizing what I see in somebody's skiing, but all it takes is one video clip for them to get the joke. A video is worth a thousand words.
- Most of all, have fun. If you win a race, you're probably not going to get an invite to the next WC race...and if you lose, they're not likely to stand you up against a wall and shoot you, either. I got into ski racing because it was a chance to legally go faster than most people drive their cars. Still works for me...