Growing As Fast As The Kids.
There’s something really special about the Minnesota Youth Ski League (MYSL), a non-profit organization, that get’s kids on cross-country skis, between the ages of 4- 15. Parents are welcome too, to learn along with their children. Under their fine programs, kids can learn to develop and enjoying Nordic skiing in a happy environment that reaps life-long benefits and starts young people off right.
MYSL is a true volunteer organization, with only one paid employee.
During the winter starting in December, each season the MYSL meets in many locations in the Twin Cities, as well as the Greater Minnesota area and Wisconsin, for roughly eight weeks.
Like all great ski programs, the MYSL emphasizes fun, fitness, development and encourages young people of all abilities to take part. Amy Cichanowski serves the Board as the Executive Director. Amy has a vast background in the sport, including being the Minnesota State HS Champion in 1988. She skied for Middlebury College and moved to Minneapolis to be part of Steve Gaskill’s Team Birkie and was a Red Group skier for a decade. She also won three Korteloppets, competed in three U.S. Olympic Trials and had a half-dozen top-10 finishes in the World Loppet marathon, along with many more honors.
We asked Amy how she got started with the MYSL…
”I became the Executive Director in 2005, taking over from founder and first Executive Director, Anne Rykken. The membership has tripled since then and we’ve filled out our programming to be more robust and focus more on proper development of skiers before their HS years. We are now the largest Nordic membership organization in the country, with over 2,000 members.”
“What I enjoy most about my job is the program development and community connections, “ Amy told us, “MYSL is the base of the development triangle, and as such, its important that we have a great relationship with everyone in the ski community. I enjoy using my life-long experiences and relationships in the ski community to formulate a vision on how MYSL can best serve the community. I’ve been an elite skier, coached elite skiers, coached HS programs and coached kids of all ages. I am from a small town skiing community, but now I am part of a large city ski community.”
There are a variety of special events throught the year, including this Summer, and with two sessions planned as part of the Skiwerx Elm Creek and Minneapolis Fall sessions slated for September 7th and 8th. Annual events include exciting opportunities like a pre-season get togethers and silent auctions (to be held this November), along with Youth Racing 101 Clinics, the biggest ski swap in the nation and much more. All providing a great opportunity to grow, learn and enjoy the company of fellow Nordic fans.
Some of the impressive statistics provide proof of just how special and well received the program is. Consider the Skiwerx Series which is in its sixth year, and attracted 130 racers this past season. The CXC Youth Cup program is heading into its second season which drew an amazing 92 young racers in the Under 12-14 age groups last year. Impressive indeed.
The future is bright for the MYSL, and the words of Amy Cichanowski provide ample proof of her able stewardship;
“Going forward, I would like to focus on our existing programming and events, making sure each event and program is well aligned with our core mission. MYSL will also need to grow its place in the community in terms of developing ski racers and overseeing quality kids events. We’ve started this with Skiwerx a few years ago and made a big step forward by cooperating with CXC this past season with the CXC Youth Cup, Skiwerx licensing and some coaches training initiatives, but it’s really only the beginning of what may be possible.”
Believe it. This program has the power to change lives, and the best is yet to come, I’m certain.
by Peter Graves, Winter Olympic Games Announcer and CXC Writer
Peter Graves has spent over 40 years in Nordic skiing, first as a racer, then as a USST coach and a USSA Administrator. He has worked in public relations and broadcasting promoting the sport, and has announced at eight Olympic Games. He is a long time voice of the Birkie and handles creative writing projects for CXC.