Getting ready to coach


Karen Johnson, the co-ordinator with Ski North, demonstrates a fun activity during a coaching clinic over the weekend at the Hay River Ski Club.

Karen Johnson, the co-ordinator with Ski North, demonstrates a fun activity during a coaching clinic over the weekend at the Hay River Ski Club.


Karen Johnson
Ski coaching instructor from Ski North in Yellowknife
Dec. 5, 2015
Hay River
Photo by Paul Bickford
Northern News Services Ltd.

It’s important for young people to have coaching when they are learning to ski.

And that means it’s also important for the coaches to have some training.

That’s what brought together a dozen rookie coaches for the jackrabbits group – six to 10 years of age – at the Hay River Ski Club over the weekend.

They were there for a two-day workshop in what’s called community coaching from Yellowknife’s Karen Johnson from Ski North, which is a program of the NWT Ski Division of Sport North.

Johnson said it’s incredible important for coaches to have training.

“Because gone are the days when it’s just, ‘Oh, you know how to ski. You can coach kids,'” she said. “It’s like we’re past that. So the recognition now is that coaches need to know how to ski, yes, but it’s also having some information, some knowledge about how kids developed and what works for kids.”

One of the things Johnson teaches is to keep things fun for the youngsters.

“So hopefully these individuals who are here, having gone through the coach training program, will come out going, ‘OK, now I really get it that whatever we do it’s about having fun on skis,'” she said. “It’s about playing games. We’re teaching through games, so the games are reinforcing some of the specifics that we want the kids to learn. Doing it that way, hopefully it will be more fun for the kids and they will want to come back and ski next year.”

Johnson said learning how to teach skiing through play also teaches balance and motor skills, plus it gets children to enjoy being outside and having fun while they’re moving.

“They’re learning how to ski, but they’re not really aware that they’re learning those specific skills because it’s through play,” she said.

Johnson said if the instruction is too formal and features too much talk, particularly for children who are seven or eight years old, that’s not going to inspire them to come back again.

The participants in the workshop came from Hay River, Fort Resolution, Kakisa and the Hay River Reserve.

Kathleen Groenewegen, a workshop participant and the jackrabbits co-ordinator for the Hay River Ski Club, agrees on the importance of coaching for even the youngest skiers.

“As soon as they can stand, we put them on these little skis that their boots fit into and then they start building that agility and confidence in moving on snow like that,” she said, explaining that gives them the ability to slide a little bit. “It gets them much more comfortable to go on longer skis and start tackling the hills as they get into the jackrabbits age group. So we bring them out as soon as they can stand and get them out there skiing.”

Groenewegen hopes the workshop will help build community skills for coaching the jackrabbits age group, along with building the profile of the jackrabbits program in Hay River.

“We’ve got several parents and volunteers willing to come out and coach this year so we have the capacity to coach lots of kids,” she said. “We’re hoping that more and more kids will start to come out and bring their friends.”

Currently, about 15 to 20 jackrabbits ski at the club, depending on the weekend and if there is a hockey tournament.

In January, Johnson was also in Hay River for a workshop called introduction to community coaching, which focused on the youngest skiers – up to six years of age – in what’s called the bunnies age group.

Among other things, she worked with the workshop participants on the weekend on their ski technique, which included at least four hours outside.

Each participant was also called upon to teach a practical skill and lead a game for 10 minutes, said Johnson. “So the people who are here in the course will have that practical experience of teaching something on skis.”

The workshop had to deal with plenty of newly-fallen snow over the weekend.

“It’s going to be entertaining out there with all this snow,” Johnson said on Saturday. “I mean that’s one of the lessons actually as a coach. What do you do when you’ve got a plan and then the weather throws something else at you? How do you adapt? So I’m going to demonstrate that, I guess, today.”

-Paul Bickford