Snowsports School open race clinic director Chris Fisher is an experienced coach and racer who offers these observations on the value of race training for young skiers.
As a professional ski coach, instructor, and father, I have had the opportunity to teach skiing to a broad spectrum of age groups and talent levels. One of my favorite activities is working with kids. Children are like blank canvases and are full of energy and free of fear, especially fear of failure. Due to their eagerness and joy, children typically learn faster than adults. Their learning curves are steeper. Typically, a natural progression in a young skier’s life would be for him or her to consider racing. I strongly encourage any young skiers who are passionate about the sport to try race training. Even if the child never enters a race, the skills the young skier garners will help him or her become a better skier and athlete in general.
In my younger race groups, I often coach kids who have never raced or trained in gates before. The best thing about this scenario is that because of their “newness,” they have no bad habits. New movements and ideas are assimilated quickly and become second-nature.
I have been asked by adults if it is a good idea to get children into racing at ages as young as five or six. My response is always, “Absolutely.” No matter the amount of experience or ability, race training can always be beneficial. My philosophy is that children need a wide variety of athletic experiences. I think that in this day and age, too many children are forced into specialization and given labels far too soon.
I have two sons, five and eight, and they wanted to play hockey starting at three years old. My wife and I supported their wishes, knowing that any athletic pursuits at that age would help them develop in a wide variety of ways. It was not until this winter that they both started to develop passions for skiing. My oldest son has started training with my race club, and he loves it. He is having a tough time deciding if he wants to ski race or play hockey next year.
What is important about this anecdote is that my son is no different than most of the other kids his age whom I coach. He enjoys the training because he gets to make new friends, be outside, go fast, and spend more time with me. It is almost an afterthought that he is improving his skiing by leaps and bounds. This is how it should be.
Race training for children, especially those who love to ski in general, can be the perfect way to quickly improve the child’s skiing ability while giving him or her a venue in which to socialize, enjoy the outdoors, and have fun. Give it a try!