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Get Educated on Sports Education

By Elise Saarela
June, 18 2019

The guiding vision of U.S. Ski & Snowboard is to be the “Best in the World” in international snow sports competition. In order to become the best of the best, it is imperative to have a strong foundation. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is committed to the education and development of its athletes and talent pipeline, and through its Sports Education department, focuses on regional club-level needs.

Thanks to U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Sports Education department, clubs, coaches, parents, and most importantly, athletes, receive sports education necessary for enhancing the quality of athletic success. Through its Sports Education Program, the department aims to provide aspiring athletes across the country with the best possible experience. U.S. Ski & Snowboard Sports Education Director Gar Trayner explains, “Sports Education is a critical part of us ensuring that each and every athlete has the best possible opportunity to fulfill their potential, their goals, and their dreams.”

The program is based on a long-term athlete development model that ensures the expertise, information, and assets of the organization are disseminated to clubs throughout the country to enhance the development of all athletes. “We provide resources to all clubs to ensure delivery of world-class operations and programming,” says Ellen Adams, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s club development manager. With a club-level focus, the department not only supports future skiing and snowboarding Olympians but also advances the educational and professional practices of coaches and club leadership.

The Sport Education Program’s main goal is to address athletes’ educational needs in athletics and improve upon them. One way the department achieves this is by prioritizing great athletes first and great competitors second. Although competitive skills are necessary for elite level athletes, fundamental skill is key. The program also emphasizes the importance of long-term thinking. The initiatives and values implemented into the program establish long-term impact for the athletes who desire to become professional. Its foundational principles establish the future success of athletes that grew up in this educational system. Finally, the program prioritizes the standardization of information and practice. With a replicable and unified program, the department hopes to deepen and widen the talent pool within the United States.

“We want to be able to provide support to our coaches and clubs to give them resources to provide positive experiences for young athletes that will promote a lifelong love of snow sports and athletic success,” says Anna Hosmer, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s sports education coordinator.

Multiple goals of the program also revolve around teaching the coaches and staff how to most effectively teach youth athletes. U.S. Ski & Snowboard provides consistent collaboration with the coaches and staff of both national, regional, and divisional teams to ensure all developing athletes are receiving consistent support. The Sport Education Program desires to strengthen that collaboration through communication, not only with U.S. Ski & Snowboard clubs, coaches, and sports staff, but with the high-performance staff, the national team coaches, regions, divisions, and partner organizations such as the United States Amateur Snowboard Association (USASA).

“What we often do is share practices and processes from our different clubs to help navigate through challenges,” says Trayner. “We also have club development consultants which can be sent to work with any specific club that has any challenges they need help getting through in terms of governance or best practices.”

Communication with all of these entities allows U.S. Ski & Snowboard to share the best possible practices, have consistent messaging, combine resources, and stay updated in the ski and snowboard world.

The Sport Education Program also has a hand in sport progression by motivating coaches and club leaders to take part in growing their knowledge base of the ever-evolving sports world. Ski and snowboard sports, as well as sports science, is constantly changing with new advances in technology and practices. It is imperative that the Sports Education Program is up-to-date with these changes and in turn inspire coaches to implement them into their teaching techniques. At every level of development, the Sports Education Program desires to teach coaches about how to properly communicate with athletes, understand and measure their teaching outcomes, and fully comprehend the content of their work.

“When we are putting the best principles in place, at the youngest ages and in the earliest moments of development, we can affect the most amount of athletes within our populous,” explains Trayner. These goals will lead to the most effective teaching of the nation’s future snowsport professionals.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard is fortunate to not only have a structured and developed plan but to have previous athletes and coaches within the Sports Education Department staff.

“I have spent my life in the snowsports industry; as an athlete, coach, leader of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, volunteer and parent of an alpine athlete and it is an amazing world in which to learn and grow,” says Adams. “The opportunity to give back in a meaningful way that can truly make a difference for our clubs, coaches, athletes, and their families is a dream come true.”

Trayner has also been heavily involved in snowsport competition, being both an Olympian in the alpine discipline and an international-level coach for multiple National Governing Bodies. “My past experience is a large part of the contextual fit I have in all of this, both from my experience as a sports coach and as an athlete,” he says. “But also my experience with managing coaches has helped me understand what tools would be helpful for me to build professional development plans for coaches.”  

With a strong sports education staff, structured goals, and an organization-wide passion for improvement, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Sports Education Department will make monumental steps in the current and future development of athletes. Without the Sports Education Program, the organization would not be able to achieve its vision to be the best at all levels and would lack a strong foundation of skilled U.S. skiers and snowboarders. Through the program, athletes receive the best opportunities to improve and succeed in the future, ultimately driving U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s vision of being the “Best in the World.”