Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why is Coaches Education under the USSA umbrella so difficult to establish.

What happened at a coaches educational meeting during the winter of 1980 in New Hampshire? Georg Capaul, at that time,  Head Coach at Waterville Valley and I, at the time, I was program Director at MWV Ski Ed. Fd. George and I saw a need to work together not apart as program competitors, to get coaching more constant for New Hampshire race programs. We invited coaches from around the State to attend and we introduced a series of basic ski racer needs. We came up with some fundamental skiing requirements for developing racers. The coaches that attended put together a skiing movement program for racer development and we presented it to the clubs.

Comments by Crawford Pierce: Ex-US Ski Team Coach, Burke Mt Coach and Rocky/Central Development Region coach about that event.
"They were the most innovative and instructional coaching clinics I have ever attended."

A few years later USSA formed a US Coaches Association. With it, coaches education began at a national level. Unfortunately, coaches education at the National Level didn't get much traction, although there were accreditation levels established with certain criteria. This languished for a few decades; and two or three coaches education directors were hired by USSA, but no real viable coaching approach or system developed that US Development coaching could use. Definitely nothing that "US Coaches Education" did  lasted and carried over into anything worthwhile for today's coaching needs. Most of the well established race programs and academies gave the National Coaches Education programs lip service and continued to do what they thought was the best way to develop their racers.

Now to the present day. There are numerous coaches education titles such national educational director, or development director, being throw around at Park City the center for all US racing. However none of these positions, individuals or committees have come up with a viable US coaches system. Sure they have the "Skills Quest", actually this is in my opinion, a horrid system of contrived skiing maneuvers that has very little to do with teaching basic racing and skiing abilities needed for kids. And now it's part of the selection process, a disaster. The more we go forward, further we go back.

However, they did choose the correct name " Skills Quest"?? Shouldn't USSA know how to develop skills and tell coaches around the country how to develop these skills, not be on a "Quest" for Skills??? The irony in the name tells the story.

Now USSA had really done it, thrown in the towel and admitted defeat: they are using and going to PSIA for their ideas about the coaching of basic skills. This is a huge slap in the face to any coach who has been working in the USSA system for the last 20 to 30 years.

USSA is telling the US coaches that they have failed and they are saying with this, that USSA  has failed, as well, with the Coaches Educational programs over the last 5 to 30 years.

Now the present brain trust rather than coming up with a universal movement based teaching system for racers, from reputable national level race coaches, they have relinquished this responsibility to PSIA, the ski instructors of America.

 I have been with PSIA, for 4 years I was on the National Demonstration Team. I was also a trainer and an examiner in PSIA for 4 years. I left it because it had nothing to offer me and it is stagnated. My background before joining PSIA was with USSA and development coaching, in three major race programs.  I also was Head Coach of two US Ski Team development programs, one for Harald Scheonhaar and one for Bob Harkins.

When I make the comparisons between what the reputable coaches in the country know about ski racing and coaching compared to PSIA's trainers and technical base, it's amazing to me that anyone would encourage the use of PSIA for ski racing technique. PSIA technique and racer needs and development are incompatible and have technically opposite needs and outcomes.

Why has the brain trust at USSA reached out to using a ski teaching program that has not shown success with the general skiing public, let alone with elite or development athletes?

Few of the general skiing public take PSIA lessons, beyond beginner levels. There are so few middle and upper level lessons given in PSIA because skiers don't see advancement. In my opinion this is because skiers at middle to higher levels don't get instruction that helps then become better skiers. Yet USSA is applying PSIA training methods to ski racer development at the national level.

The general public in general doesn't take PSIA teaching, especially at the middle to upper levels for their development.  If  recreational skiers see limited progress or have little desire to take lessons to become better from  PSIA, I shouldn't have to enlighten anyone about what this means for the nations junior racers.

How desperate is USSA Education that this is their answer for teaching and coaching ideas? Anyone from mature, major race programs,  I mean Ski Academy coaches, in the East and West, can develop a coaching program that meets the needs of 90% of racers. There are programs in the East and West that are doing an outstanding job, for example: Burke back east and out West, Steve Bounous's program at Snowbird. And why can't USSA develop a task force of established coaches, who have a wealth of experience, and can be called upon to create a development coaching program?

USSA is glad and immediately ready to take credit for the Shiffrins and Goldbergs, even if they had nothing to do with their development. We are in a cycle where we have to wait for the next "child phenom" to show up. We don't produce top skiers in this country from the development pipeline .

Let me have a guess at why a development pipeline doesn't exist and why it is not happening?  Are the wrong people in charge of USSA Coaching and Development? Are they totally out of touch with racer development? Do they have a racing background?  Can they communicate with the development programs. Do they understand or know US ski racing and how it's structured? In my opinion, they don't understand the needs of racing at the highest levels. It could be any one of these and probably a combination of them.

This is just the tip of the systemic failure of USSA development, that needs immediate addressing. The racer numbers are down, the athletes are paying enormous amounts of money to train and prepare for a shot at the US Ski Team. The development pipeline is weak, empty or even non-existent.

Tiger Shaw has some serious issues to address in his new position, he will either go with the status quo or he will shake things up. If the second of these two options is not chosen,  USSA is in line, in my humble opinion, for the biggest drought in it's racing history.