U.S. Ski & Snowboard recently reintroduced “Rookie Camp,” where newly nominated U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes from across sports collide into #OneTeam to learn about the ins and outs of their new team.
In this year’s edition - held Sunday, June 10 through Tuesday, June 12 - 28 athletes and a number of parents from across multiple sports arrived at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Center of Excellence and were greeted by a full schedule, planned by Julie Glusker, head of Athlete Career & Education (ACE) and Kate Anderson, Athletics Manager. On the docket for this two-and-a-half-day program were sessions to teach athletes about their teams, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s programs and services and their responsibility as a national team member.
In-classroom sessions were chock-full of information that had young athletes’ brains full to the brim with knowledge on topics like marketing and sponsorships, communications, social media best practices, SafeSport, team building, sports psychology and more. In addition to the classroom, outdoor activities and workouts with top-notch strength and conditioning coaches like Michael Bingaman were woven into the schedule. Athletes broke free from the office to head outside and play team games like kickball, as well as a community service opportunity with Park City's Mountain Trails Foundation for a trail clean-up.
Athletes ranged from 14 to 25 years old and came from a variety of sports, backgrounds and clubs – from Idaho’s Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation to Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy and beyond. Response by athletes and parents was positive as U.S. Ski & Snowboard hopes to make this an annual orientation for athletes.
Glusker noted that the focus for this year’s Rookie Camp was “One Team.” Though Rookie Camp had been restructured the last few years, with the introduction of U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s #OneTeam unified brand, the organization noted the importance of bringing it back.
“Rookie camp provided a great opportunity for new athletes to meet and share their stories with each other, learn about all the different aspects and departments of U.S. Ski & Snowboard, meet and hear from team managers, coaches, Olympians and many people from across the organization,” Glusker said, “and find out about the support services available to them as they enter the team.”
Zoe Zimmermann (Gilford, N.H.; Burke Mountain Academy), granddaughter of former two-time Olympic medalist Penny Pitou – the first American to win an Olympic downhill medal – accomplished her goal of being nominated to the U.S. Ski Team for the upcoming season. As a new member of the alpine development team, she enjoyed her time at Rookie Camp meeting athletes from across sports.
“I thought it was really fun and super cool to meet a lot of athletes from other disciplines,” Zimmermann reflected. “Now I understand how serious and important it is to be part of the national team. I also now understand that what I put in my body can really affect my career and my performance. It was a lot of information, but it was all really informative.”
Lucas Foster (Telluride, Colo; Jim Smith Club) from the snowboard halfpipe rookie team echoed Zimmermann’s enthusiasm: “I had an amazing time at Rookie Camp. I did not realize how much the COE and the team have to offer. I’m so stoked to be a part of the crew and to have all this support!”
The eight alpine athletes who attended Rookie Camp also experienced their first dose of media and lived up to the challenge. While each of the athletes answered questions like, “If you could be on any other national team, which team would it be?” (the Norwegian Team was a frequent answer) and “What’s your spirit animal?” (answer by Abi Jewett (Ripton, Vt.; Green Mountain Valley School) included a catamount, fox or hippopotamus), their new teammates looked on, laughed, provided support and learned from each other.
Madison Varmette (Park City, Utah; Elite Aerial Development Program), an aerials C team member thought it was productive as well. “My Rookie Camp experience was informative but also fun,” said Varmette. “Knowing that the staff and my new friends are supporting me makes it exciting. I’m looking forward to using these tools and relationships to make the next four years filled with possibilities!”
Andrew Miller (Park City, Utah; Park City Ski Team), named to the alpine development team, walked away with new friends and looks forward to what it will bring. “I left Rookie Camp with a new group of friends and I’m excited for the future of U.S. Ski and Snowboard! The camp gives me the motivation to take advantage of this opportunity I have.”
With the #OneTeam Rookie Camp, U.S. Ski & Snowboard hopes to bring back a holistic approach to orientating our new athletes for years to come.