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Is it smart to teach kids gate blocking without ski poles?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I was presented this ide by one of our coaches. He said that its the best way to teach kids not to focus on the gates as they move from stubies to the real thing. To simply ski throught the gates and pretend they are not there. In order to do this he has told the kids to buy the type of harness that covers most of the upper body. I have never heard of this kind of method before and Im open minded about most everything but this time Im not so sure its a smart thing to do. He is saying that this way the kids will not be reaching for the gates with their outside arm and they will not be scared of the gates. They will get used to the gates slamming them every time in the head, arms chest and legs. They will be cured of fearing the gates.

I personally think this is a bad ide because I think that the kids will become affraid of the impact at every gate. Since I race myself I know that missing a gate with my outside arm can be a very unpleasent thing as it hits my face protector. A successfull turn IMO always includes a successfull gate block. No reacing, simply keeping my arms out in front or raising it a bit but no reaching. A bigger problem is to teach the kids to actually project them selves into the turn and get the skis on high angles. I dont understand how this will be achieved by not using the ski poles. In such a turn the gate will always slam against your helmet and face protector. Is that a good thing? Reaching for the gate with your outside arm rotating your hips out causing skidding is always coupled to bad general technique. If the kids learn how to turn properly the gate blocking will be much easier. 

What do you guys think? Good or bad? And how do you teach jr moving from stubbies to real gates? 
post #2 of 3
The idea of coaching the line, not the hit, is correct, but I would not do this without poles, even with upper body armour.

Poles are so important in blocking SL gates that I think it would be a big mistake to try to teach blocking without poles.  The SL poles have to have hand guards.

If there is a problem with the arm reaching across the centre of the body, the line needs to be corrected.  Here are a few traditional and effective drills to get a good line and good blocking mechanics:

1)  Run the training course while holding a single pole horizontally in front to block gates.  Start with the hands wide to give lots of ski pole length to clear the gate out of the way.  This is really effective for training quick feet through combinations with a quiet upper body.

2)  Set a drill course with the first group (8-10 gates) angled inwards at about 45 degrees, and the next group angled outwards.  With the first group angled in, racers can maintain a good close line without actually hitting the gate, and they start to train their eyes for being that close to the gates.  With the second group angled out, it is really easy to maintain the close line while the outside hand blocks the gate, without having to reach across the body to block.  Even with 11-12 year old kids (which is the age where I start seriously coaching SL blocking), this also puts the racer's head away from the gate, which is great for developing confidence and reducing fear.

3)  Use stubbies to reinforce a good line and to reinforce the feeling of shinning the gate.  Progress towards a group of stubbies leading into full gates.

Continue to emphasize that it's all about the line, not the hit, and reinforce to the racers that if they are not on the right line for a block, don't reach over just for the sake of bashing a gate.  Use an inside hand clear if you're close enough, or just let the gate go and set up for the next one.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your input mogulmuncher. Just the kind of information Im looking for.
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