ZERMATT, SUI (Aug. 9, 2012) — Three ski coaches got an up-close and personal look at how the Canadian Alpine Ski Team strives for excellence at a ski camp in Zermatt, Switzerland, as part of a unique initiative organized by Alpine Canada and the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation.
Eric Archer, head coach of the Canadian ski cross team, Alberta Ski Team coach Duane Baird and the Ontario Ski Team’s Jeff Lackie spent time working with the men’s and women’s alpine teams to observe how the country’s top alpine coaches run their respective programs.
Lackie, a women’s team coach, spent most of his time with the ladies’ group led by head coach Hugues Ansermoz, Archer bunkered down with the men’s speed team and Baird spent time with both those teams in addition to the men’s technical squad.
“The intention was to interact with the coaching staff with both men’s and women’s teams and see what they are working on,” said Baird, a coach with Alberta’s men’s team who was a co-winner of the Dave Murray Memorial Coach of the Year award in 2011. “I had an opportunity to see everyone – it’s very rare that it actually happens. It was like a fact-finding mission for me and gave me some confirmation that everything we have been doing is moving in the right direction.”
For Archer, the longtime coach of the top ski cross team in the world, spending a week with the men’s speed team meant going back to his roots as an alpine racer.
“That was over 20 years ago, he said, laughing. “I think super-G was probably my best discipline at that time.
“Zermatt was really good. I was basically an assistant coach, just hanging out and listening, observing how the coaching staff work with their athletes, how they are teaching them, how they are working with the new skis and so on. It was to kind of reaffirm or give me new ideas and just see how another top-level program works.”
Archer spent the week working alongside Johno McBride, the head coach of the men’s speed team. Ironically, both coaches are from the Colorado area and ski raced together as kids.
“I grew up racing around him,” Archer said. “The week was fun – they’re a great group. Of the (athletes) there, they’ve all been on the (World Cup) podium except for Robbie (Dixon) and he’s been close. They could be something special.”
“I had the opportunity to see how much athletes I worked with have matured under the tutelage of these coaches,” said Lackie, who is the head coach of Ontario’s women’s team. “When Erin (won a World Cup race in Ofterschwang, Germany, last season), I was just so happy for her. Having watched her over the years you assume she would be capable of achieving something like that, but to see it happen . . .
“I’ve been really impressed with that whole women’s team – all the crew and what they were able to accomplish last year.”
Ontario and Alberta have both seen a large number of provincial team athletes graduate to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team in recent years. Lackie said he learned a lot from his time with the women’s team.
“I’m a huge proponent of coach education. There isn’t a better form of coach education than mentorship,” Lackie said. “It was a great confirmation to see that a lot of the things I believe in, the (national-team coaches) share that belief. It also increased my confidence to keep doing what I’m doing and try some new things. It was a really, really good experience. I hope they keep doing things like that.”
Keith Robinson, the CSCF’s high performance coaching education director, said there are many benefits to having provincial and national coaches working together, from creating continuity for athletes to ensuring there’s the potential for a smooth transition if provincial coaches move up to the national team.
“It’s something that’s been ongoing for a while,” Robinson said of coach education initiatives. “This is one of the first that’s happened in Europe. We worked with both the men’s and women’s teams and established an interface between the domestic coaches and the national team programs.”
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