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Drills for young racers

post #1 of 17
I've been doing a program like that for a few years. It can be fun but there are some pitfalls. I have to go to work but I will come back to this tonight or Tuesday PM, when I have some time to give a thoughtful answer.
post #2 of 17
Thread Starter 

Drills for young racers

I'm considering becoming a race coach for the small hill I usually ski at. The program has fallen pretty much into disarray in the past few years, and coaching is pretty much watching the kids for a few hours every week while their parents ski or leave the mountain altogether. The kids get bored with running gates with no direction after a couple years, and eventually they drop out. Not a pretty situation. It wasn't always that way. A couple of the parents have approached me about coaching part time, and I think it might be fun. While I'm no expert on racing or skiing in general, I have a enthusiasm bordering on fanaticism that for some reason they mistake for competence.

At any rate, all of my race education has been at the adult level, and I know that some approaches/concepts don't work the same for children. In my experience, kids will do pretty much whatever you tell them to do as long as you find the right approach, but what to teach and when? Chances are, I'm going to be given a group of kids between the ages of 5 and 10. Any drills that are appropriate for that age group? Any good resources for inexperienced coaches? I'd rather do more than run them through gates without direction every practice.
post #3 of 17
After I re-read your post, I'm not sure exactly what it is you are getting into. If you've been asked to be a supervisor of a group of kids large enough to by split into equal age groups, that's a reasonable job to take. If you have 5 to 10 year olds that want to ski together as a single group, that's will be a difficult situation. Five year olds and 10 year olds are just too difference in strength, motor skill development and social behavior to coach as a single group.

As far as children's programs go, (whether you are a supervisor, instructor or coach) the first thing is to develop good relationships with the parents. Ask what they want and tell them what is reasonable to expect. Develop as much good will as possible. You will need their support when something goes wrong. If you are a supervisor, most of your effort should go into communicating with the coaches and encouraging the coaches to communicate with parents.

We provide a written report card for each kid at the end of the year. It includes achievements in ski skills, physical/social development, and competitions. It also includes recommendations for off season training, and next years ski training and equipmaent. I'll send you a couple of my evalutions if you send me your e-mail address. That kind of stuff is important to maintain everyones' focus and to give parents the idea that you actually have an organised program and you know what you're doing.

As far as running gates goes, we minimize that. Our kids do 4 organized races a year, 2 home and 2 away. The smaller kids might only run gates the week before a race just to get the idea of going the long way around. 8 year olds are too young to stand around waiting at the start shack. Even for 10 year olds, racing is just good skiing, so we just ski them a lot. We use all the regular children's games and exercises. The main emphasis is always on fun.

Very few children younger than about 10 are competitive enough to actually race. Nevertheless, they like the idea of a team, especially if it has uniforms, and they much prefer "race program" to "ski school" and they would rather have a "coach" than an "instructor." By the time they are eleven or twelve, they get serious about race training, or other kinds of competition, or they quit skiing in organized programs altogether.

Kids never listen, (unless you use four letter words), they always do everything the hard way, they constantly force adults to choose between them in a way that will be hurtful to one kid or the other. Somehow at the end of the year, they all have learned to ski way better, and everybody thinks we all had fun all the time.

I hope this helps.

post #4 of 17
Hi Mike--are you familiar with the book Race Skills For Alpine Skiing, by Ellen Post Foster? Ellen knows what she's talking about, and her book describes lots of good drills.

It's available at Amazon.com. Be sure to get there via the link at the bottom of any EpicSki page--it's good for the cause!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 17
AK Mike
Take a look at the US ski team BASE test book and video. That will show you which skills to teach. The book "Skiing and the Art of Carving" will give you lots of drills. Kids will get bored with drills though. So mix in a lot of directed free skiing. Kids need to build up mileage on skis, They become real impatient when you stand around talking at them. So keep the drills simple, explainations simple.

Fun Drills/Skills
Skiing on one ski.
Skiing on inside ski only.
Skiing on outside ski only.
Skiing on outside ski, inside ski lifted high (stork turns).
Skiing without poles.
Skiing with one pole.
Moose turns, skiing with poles held on head like antlers.
Skating races
Skating without poles
Skating figure 8s.
Double pole plants.
Constant double pole plants.
Moguls and jumps, let the terrain teach.

Gate training
Kids don't necessarily need direction every run in a properly set course. The course should be set to teach them something, (ie rhythm changes, tuck turns, fall away turns, gate combinations/ tactics, flush to open transitions, tight turns, round turns) too many coaches just set a generic course with no goals for what the course is supposed to teach.
I would emphasize GS courses for kids that need to learn line/tactics and carving. Slalom is probably best trained in short drill courses rather than full length courses. It's too easy to get off your line and then spend the rest of the run practicing skiing a bad line.

USSA BASE test book available here.
post #6 of 17

Good suggestions so far. My concern is the age you will be working with.

The USSA BASE guidelines are great, but high for this age group.

Foster has great books for this age group.

Canadian SKi Coaches Federation has a lot of stuff for free download to get you started. Their Level 1 training is for your age group!

If you don't see many drills, send me a PM, and I send a copy to you.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Excellent points.

A little more information:
The program is on a little hill on an Air Force base, so the primary types of skiers are dependents of active-duty and retired military personnel. The program serves as a feeder program for the higher-level Alyeska Ski Club, although I haven't seen any kids make the jump recently- they either want to free-ski or just completely burn out from lack of direction. Since there is a fairly high turnover from people rotating in and out, retaining quality volunteer coaches (parents) has been a bit of a problem for the program. The program once turned out some outstanding young skiers, but over the past decade has slowly declined to the point it is at now. The head coach is a little burned out at this point, having carried the torch alone for so long. He still does the job, but needs help. On the upside, the program still has quite a few racers in it for the size of the hill, and really all it needs is a little enthusiastic direction.

Would I move in and take over? No, I don't have the energy, organizational skills, or time.

I'm not even looking at being a full-time coach, as my own racing development conflicts with coaching duties. A friend suggested we team up to handle the younger group, with me primarily serving as a "hired gun" for weeknight practices, running the kids through drills (or skills) and providing more direction than had previously been shown. She would provide the continuity, being there on race days and weekend practices, reinforcing what I went over. The lack of coaches of any ability level would prevent picking the size or makeup of the group, but between the two of us we might be able to split them as needed to cover different skills.

Given the right amount of activities and "tricks", I might just be able to keep them interested and prevent the "Lord of the Flies" from occurring during practice. Hey, they might even become better skiers.

With this in mind, any advice?
post #8 of 17

You mention splitting the group and using drills to improve skills. Do you need a list of what drills improves what skill?

To prevent boredom, turn drills into games. Have the kids help you think of what/how to do it. At this age they like to be involved in decision making. They have great imagination also.

If you feed Aleyska, ask the school there for thoughts.

I start skiing in less than 2 months!!! A smile is on my face.
post #9 of 17
I guess my favorite drill for kids is 1000 steps. It does so many things. It also keeps the old man (me) in shape!
post #10 of 17
AK Mike
The age range is 5-10 should be broken into at least 3 groups. If you don't have enough coaches, get a ski school to take some of the weaker skiers and get them up to speed. For bare minimum the kids need to be able to buckle their own boots, put skis on, clean their own boots soles.

"The USSA BASE guidelines are great, but high for this age group."
Our program is based on the USSA BASE skills and BASE skills testing. It seems to work pretty well.
However, the "average new kid" in our program is 7-9 years old with 1-3 years of ski school and has already outpaced their ski school classmates. We have tryouts and typically reject some applicants every year. If we had more staff(and more patience) we would take them all but we can't.

Te BASE test/skills stuff works pretty good except the kids hate being tested. So you have to incorporate the BASE skills into games. Except for the Gelande jump. They love that one and the straight run over rolls
post #11 of 17

I mentioned the BASE for this age group because of detail given to it in the "Alpine Athlete Competencies" from USSA. (American Ski Coach Vol 18, Iss 2, 1997)

Only five BASE skills (out of 14) were listed for this age group: Traverse, Hockey stop, pole jumper, visual acuity, linked parallel turns. Suggestion is for scores 3 or higher.

The thousand steps and rolls are in the next age group 11-12.

NOthing is written in stone, so it depends on the skills the students have, and their grouwth maturity.

You are right...you must have fun, and develop skills not drills. Again, one way is not more correct than another. You are there with the kids, not me.
post #12 of 17
If the area is really small it's hard to keep interest without gates(ours is 250 vert feet). On the other hand they get to do it over until they get it right.
I have worked with 10 and unders for our development team. I try to make each run different to keep them from getting bored. Fortunatly our area builds lots of terrain for the boarders and usually has a pretty good "artificial" mogul field with more than one "zipper" line. We boot ski and things like that.
At first some of the other coaches disapproved because they weren' in the gates. After awhile they figured out that the kids loved it and were more supportive. Most of the stuff was aimed at being centered and out of the "backseat" but I never told them what was supposed to happen. We just did it and let them figure it out.
A very enlightening experience came several years ago while team teaching. Another coach and I rode the chair with an eight year old between us. The first coach was telling the kid about staying forward and some advice on how to do that. When he finished, I asked the kid what he thought he was supposed to do. He pretty much repeated what he had heard. I then asked him "what does that mean?" "I don't know", was his reply. Right then I realized that even the simplest explainations aren't interpreted into action by kids this age. I try to limit myself to "do this" or "try this" and keep everone moving as much as possible. It works and it's more fun for everyone(myself included).
I've always run my program on the premise that racing is nothing more than good skiing. When I coached for Aldo Radamus at Blackcomb, he always started the camps by saying "the only difference between you and the best skiers in the world is that they do the basics a whole lot better".
post #13 of 17
Alaska Mike
I don't remember doing straightforward drills until at least age 10.

I do remember the most effective coaching tool whether 8 or 18 was the video cam. Watching your progress through a course back-to-back with your teamates in the hut late afternoon is a great experience at any age.
post #14 of 17
Video is a great tool. Especially if you put some WC turns in between the kids runs so they can see the difference.
On the downside, it only holds the attention of each kid for the few seconds they're on. The rest often "goof off". I found it not very productive to try to do it during training(I had a TV and VCR set up in the finish shack). Better to use it after the lifts are closed.
This summer I talked with some of my kids about changes they were working on. It occured to me that they weren't making progress because they didn't spend enough time imprinting their new moves(not enough free skiing). When I asked them about it, the answer was "not enough time with homework and everything else". They felt that if they were skiing they should be training and anyways, "free skiing on that little hill is boring". There's a message(and a challenge) here somewhere. I'm still processing it.
post #15 of 17
A goofy slalom course that uses some hay bales and a "limbo bar" ..... carrying a plastic cup of water ..... you don't go around the bales, you go over them ...... toss in a mild jump or two.

Low pressure NASTAR ....

synchro skiing ......

things to break up a long day ...
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone for the responses. It took me a while to wade through the information, but I have a better idea of how/when to proceed. The Canadian site was especially helpful, since it broke down goals for the different experience/age groups so practice planning would be more effective.

Hopefully the books and other stuff I ordered will be as helpful.
Thanks again!
post #17 of 17
Hey it has been a while. I see you have plenty to think about. One thing that will guarentee kids attention is speed. Just ski your best and at a speed that will challange the kids they will copy every move you make. Plus it will give you some time to think about what you will do next. I call this the "keep up" drill.
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