If your youngster has caught the ski racing bug, there’s only one thing to do: stoke that passion!
Ski racing has so much to offer young athletes, including lifelong friendships, healthy competition, and the great outdoors. Fueling their interest will pay long-term dividends. But there is a right way to go about it. Put succinctly, it’s all about creating the proper balance between enjoyment and progress.
Here are five key components to help you and your child find harmony on the hill:
The Right Group
Simply getting your young racer into a Nastar course or EpicMix race venue can help you tell if your child has the right kind of gleam in their eye after their first timed runs. So look for a nearby mountain that your youngster can train on safely and enjoyably. If they’re already into ski racing, chances are you’ve already got at least one; but a mountain with the right affiliations will allow them to time their races and join a bigger, national group of racers for camaraderie and competition. It will also help you tap into a network of like-minded parents who can help you select the best coaches and training partners, and answer all the questions you and your child will have when you’re relatively new to the sport. You might also look for a ski club through your town or local schools (especially good for carpooling purposes) or junior ski racing leagues, which will challenge your child without burning them out.
The Right Training Gear
Once you’ve found a good hill and maybe a good ski club to match, the next step is to consider training equipment. It will relieve you to hear that early on, no one needs a quiver full of high-tech skis. Apparel? That is important. Yes, we make it so we’re a little biased, but a cold, unhappy child is no good for anyone. Make sure their gear is comfortable, warm, and they actually like wearing it. Bulky hand-me-down parkas won’t cut it on the course, so make sure you’re looking for a good blend of insulating and tear resistance.
The Right Mindset
This applies to both the racer and the parent. Work with coaches to set reasonable, achievable goals for your racer early on. Maybe the goal at first is to string together 10 solid turns. Maybe it’s even just to make it safely down an icy course. Build on these small wins slowly so your child’s love of the sport grows as their skills do. And as much as you want your child to succeed, make sure you keep your own expectations in check. A bad day or even a bad week of practice shouldn’t ever ruin a lifetime appreciation for such a great sport.
The Right Fuel
Any high-level athlete will tell you that two things are especially critical to their success: nutrition and sleep. Your budding athlete is no different. Make sure that, between getting straight A’s in the classroom and carving S-turns into the slalom course, they have enough time to refuel and recharge. Since they’ll likely have early wake-up calls to get to the mountain on time, especially on the weekends, that means early bedtimes to ensure enough rest (and no, naps in the car don’t cut it). Good nutrition, meanwhile, starts at home, with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats (papers from the National Institutes of Health recommend something on the order of a 50%/20%/30% split for young athletes). But you also need nutrition on the hill as you burn tons of caloriesexercising in the cold. Make sure your child has something sleek to stash their nutrient-dense snacks in.
The Right Race-Day Attire
Buying the first race suit can be scary. But it’s really not that hard. Just look for proper fit and most importantly pick one out they will enjoy wearing! Also, learn the secrets of caring for a suit (Keep away velcro! Stash inside out in a bag!) and your investment will stay stretchy and fast a lot longer. Above all, be patient. Ski racing is way more about that first word—skiing—than it is, at least initially, about the second. Your young racer will need to practice, practice, practice before they get anywhere near actual competition. In fact, pushing them into competition early is a good way to amp up the jitters and make S-turns into stressed turns. But when the big day does come? It helps to look and feel your best. Hey, after all, they’ve put in the work. So keep an eye out for race suits that have the right blend of padding, durability, and flexion.
Keeping these things in mind will give your child’s new passion a real lift. Racing teaches hard work, perseverance, scheduling skills, and builds strong people, not just athletes. So don’t be worried about creating the next world cup skier just yet. Just let your child learn these life skills, meet great people, see beautiful places, and a lifetime of great skiing and growth will surely follow.