ATC has become a lot like family for Lara and me, and the ethos of our home life extends outwards to the camps, underpinning everything we do. We celebrate success, of course, but achievement is not just about medals and podiums. We aim to develop all aspects of the athletes that train with us – and it all starts with fun.
In Norway we had three weeks of perfect weather, fantastic snow on the glacier and funky fjord accommodation, all of which helped the ATC coaching team get the best out of the athletes. One of the parents summed up the camp: “Thanks to all the coaches for making Norway camp so amazing – ‘best yet’ according to Daniel – he said the ski training was brilliant and he loved the adventure of being around the fjords and mountains.”
We try to inject fun into every aspect of a camp. Aside from the ski training, that can include scooting through the airport on a penny board, finding jumps for freestyle, yomping up mountains, swimming in glacial melt waters, launching a rowing boat, and playing man tracker in the forests of Nethy Bridge. After a day on the glacier in Norway, the race would be on to see who could get changed the fastest and dive in to the fjord, just three short steps from the hotel.
It’s important to harness this spirit of adventure, particularly when there are children as young as eight on our camps. We are not only coaching them in ski racing skills, but also holding their hands through what can be an anxious and emotional time. Before too long, they are the kind of international athletes who can navigate their way through Munich
airport on a penny board with minutes to get to their plane!
Up on the mountain, the serious business of becoming a better ski racer can also be fun. The feeling of skiing down a mountain at speed is one of the most exhilarating and it’s what draws us all to this great sport. The ATC kids love to race. They want to get faster and learn new tricks and are fiercely competitive. The kids also learn versatility, determination, mental toughness and self-responsibility. These are essential qualities in sport and in life.
Our coaching team facilitate the fun, in a role that aims to keep the training interesting and safe, and to challenge the kids to develop technically, tactically, physically and mentally. However, the best way to fast track progress and accelerate learning is to make it enjoyable – this skill is in all our coaches’ job descriptions!
Good coaches have a couple of common traits. Firstly, they are learners themselves – they ask questions and never lose an opportunity to build on their knowledge. Secondly, they all promote passion and fun in their subject – they lead by example and have a certain infectious energy when talking about their specialist subject. We are lucky to have many such coaches on the ATC/SSC coaching team.
Quite often on a camp it is the small stuff that make you realise the magic is happening. It might be overhearing one of the kids offering to carry a team-mate’s water on a hike because they can see their friend struggling. The Norway camp was full of these small acts of kindness and teamwork. The compounding effect of lots of this small stuff was in the building of a strong community, and that in turn accelerated the skiing progress of each and every racer.
When parents and kids are asked for the words that spring to mind when thinking about their experiences on a camp, the phrases that are repeatedly mentioned are – hard work, discipline, early starts, commitment, high altitude glacier training, gates, technical, video, routine, exercising, mountains, swimming, playing, rowing, tired, friendships for life, nurturing, teaching, eating healthy, respect, sportsmanship, caring. But the word that comes up more often that any other is...fun!