Coaching and being a part of a nordic ski team in the Midwest isn’t always easy, as the winters continue to become more and more unpredictable, it can be helpful to look onto others and see how they operate when times get tough.
We wanted some insight on how different teams of different sizes handle the challenges and triumphs of being a ski team in the Midwest. How to keep the kids excited with the continuous unpredictable winters? What fundraisers works best? And most importantly, how to keep kids and their families coming back year after year?
We sat down with three coaches representing three different teams in the Midwest. Jake Morgan of Endurance United in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ted Theyerl of Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Jon Stone of Copper Country Ski Tigers in Houghton, Michigan. Their passion for skiing and coaching has fueled their determination to continue to do what they love no matter the circumstances, or what mother nature throws at them.
Endurance United has been around for about two and a half years, but the organization itself has been around for 30 years under multiple different names. The team has two full time coaches, Jake and Executive Director Andrew Poffenberger, and 15 part-time coaches who help out with the large amount of athletes and adults who train with them throughout the summer and into the winter.
Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team (CVN) was established in 2006 and currently has a roster of about 17 middle schoolers and 17 high schoolers, coached by 8 volunteers and several parents who help out as well. CVN is considered a charter group connected to the Eau Claire Ski Striders, the local cross country ski club in town.
Copper Country Ski Tigers has been around since 1992 and has grown into a team of 80 youth skiers, 13 middle school skiers and 14 high school skiers. The Ski Tigers have 15 coaches in addition to many parents who help out as well.
For Coach Jake Morgan of Endurance United, keeping kids excited despite a lack of snow from season to season, begins with the attitude of the coaches.
“There are a lot of ways to keep the team energized, but I think staying positive is the most important piece. If I as the coach am positive about things despite the conditions, weather, or anything else negative going on, then the rest of the team tends to follow suit. This is one of the most difficult aspects of being a coach. Every athlete is different, and each of them have certain things that work for them in terms of motivation, physical stimulus, etc. Finding the right balance of keeping the whole team happy while also supporting each of the athletes as individuals is a challenging, but very fun and rewarding job.”
For Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team and Copper Country Ski Team, fundraising is a very important strategy for both teams, helping keep registration fees affordable for families. It has proven to be one of the best ways to keep families coming back year after year.
For Coach Ted Theyerl of Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team, one fundraiser the team does each year is having a brat stand at the local Festival Foods in August.
“The team, coaches and parents try to spread the word to other organization in the city to come to our brat stand fundraiser each year. This has been a really successful fundraiser for us, the team typically makes about $800 and that is the only fundraising they do. The team also gets donations throughout the year as well.”
The Copper Country Ski Tigers team participates in a variety of fundraisers throughout the year to raise funds, including:
- Bagging groceries at the local grocery store
- Assisting at the ‘Run the Keweenaw’
- Hosting a ski swap twice a year in the spring and fall
- A silent auction at the ski swap
- The coaches of the team also write grants to add funds for the team as well.
When we inquired what the biggest challenges were last season, Endurance United and Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team without hesitation said, lack of snow, but for Cooper Country Ski Tigers who rarely have that issue, brought up a different challenge which other teams may be able to relate to as well; team cohesion and leadership.
“The lack of snow and finding a venue that they could actually train on snow was CVN’s biggest challenge. We made use of what we had and hosted a race with Winona and shoveled a bunch of bare spots to make it work. If they had to, they used rock skis and just double poled around for practice some days. It never got to the point where they couldn’t ski on something and they went out to make the most of it, and didn’t let it bother them or bring them down. Fortunately on weekends they were always on snow for races. We always tried to keep it fun and upbeat.” Said, Ted Theyerl
Team dynamics change each season, because of seniors graduating and different personalities amongst the team develop. Jon Stone of Copper Country Ski Tigers had a great solution to this challenge:
“To build bonds amongst the team, coaches and parents have taken the initiative to create fun activities that are non competitive that help foster team building. Building coach to athlete relationships is also important to us because we want our athletes to be comfortable talking with us. Our goal as coaches is not just to support them in their athletic aspirations, but to also make them the best people they can be.”
No matter how big or small a team is, learning from others and sharing best practices can be great way to improve how a team operates when snow is sparse, challenges emerge and knowing what fundraisers works!
Support our Sport!
The clock is ticking on CXC’s end of the year drive, “Support our Sport” fundraiser. It’s through the support we receive from those who believe in our mission, that we are able to make these wonderful programs continue!
Mary Kozloski is CXC’s Communication and Media Coordinator. Mary has a Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where she majored in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration, competed as a member of UW-Grean Bay Nordic Ski Team and was team captain for two years.