A Development Pipeline Update
This spring we announced that we would be expanding our Junior National Teams for both Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined in an effort to improve the pipeline and to create a clearer path for aspiring athletes. (Click here for the full article and here for criteria for this year’s team). Of the athletes who met the criteria, seven Jumpers and seven Nordic Combiners accepted the nomination to be part of the team.
A key piece of the new format was consistent communication between USANS staff and regional coaches who have been designated as Junior National Team Liaisons. These coaches include Colin Delaney and Mike Holland from the East, Scott Smith and Ken Ripp from Central, Karl Denney from Steamboat, Zak Hamill from Alaska, and Logan Oxford and Blake Hughes from Park City. A major focus of this communication has been a collaborative approach towards training plans. To accomplish this, National Team coaches created plans and programs that Junior National Team coaches can incorporate into their yearly plans in a manner that works for their athletes. Secondarily, there has been an emphasis on a common language for fundamental skills and a focus on consistency between coaches.
After the training plans were created and communication established, Junior National Team members were invited to three camps this summer and fall. These development camps are similar in many ways to the Fly Girls Program that has been so successful for WSJUSA over the past few years. As USANS and WSJUSA continue to work more closely together, we feel that the pathways should be aligned as much as possible for both men and women.
The first of these camps was held in Steamboat Springs over the Fourth of July. It was a week long camp with 24 athletes and five coaches. These included the entire Nordic Combined National Team, both Junior National Teams, and a handful of additional athletes who were invited based on results at Junior Nationals in Norge this past winter. Many sessions were combined with all athletes together, and coaches shared insight with each other on the coaches’ stand and at video sessions off the hill. There was even some time for a cookout with all the athletes, coaches, and families who were present, and some tubing on the Yampa. There are definitely tweaks to be made for future camps, and we feel it is important to have even more sessions with all the athletes together, but overall it was a decent first try with a new format. (see pictures below)
The second leg of the triad is currently going on in Austria and Slovenia, and for Nordic Combined athletes who fall under the age limit, it will culminate at a Youth Cup in Obersdorf, Germany. Right now Junior National Team members are training with National Team athletes, and also National Team coaches like Martin Bayer, Bine Norcic, Tomas Matura, Gašper Bartol, Clint Jones, and more. From coaches reports thus far, big improvements are being are made. The facilities that these athletes are getting the opportunity to train at, on both the jumping and XC side, are second to none in places like Ramsau, Austria and Kranj and Planica, Slovenia. Jared Schumate, a member of the Nordic Combined Junior National Team, stated that “we’re a new group training together with a new coach, but we jumped right into it in Ramsau, and I’d say we all made pretty solid improvements.”
This is all really positive, but there is another factor, and we have consistently heard from parents and athletes, that though these camps and trips are great, the costs associated can be a challenge and sometimes even a barrier. At this point in time unfortunately USANS cannot fully support these costs, so the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) has stepped up in a huge way to help offset at least some of the costs for athletes and parents. This summer they will contribute over $10,000 towards camp costs, and they have contributed additional amounts to camps for even younger athletes. We want to say a huge thank you to them! We also want to remind our community that both Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined benefit from these allocations, but it is incumbent upon us as a community to make sure that we are part of raising these funds during the Drive for 25 Campaign that happens every fall, so stay tuned for more information.
The last leg of the camps will take place during Flaming Leaves in Lake Placid, NY. The Junior National Team athletes are doing a great job and making lots of progress, and parents and coaches have been great to work with. Thank you for being part of this as we continue to move things forward and take one step closer to being the best in the world.
(See more pictures below.)