Coaches keys to success

Consistency aids Winter Sports Club success

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— The natural and manmade snow just outside the windows of Olympian Hall serve as a reminder that a new ski season in rapidly approaching.

Inside Olympian Hall on Tuesday - and just a few steps from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's offices - a group of about 30 coaches was absorbed in a preseason training session. It was just one of the steps the club takes each year to meet the high standard of coaching that has come to be expected at the Winter Sports Club.

"Those training sessions are very important," said Jon Casson, the club's snowboard director. "They are valuable because there are so many disciplines that whenever we can get together and talk about the issues and share philosophies, it's helpful. We really all do the same thing, we just use different tools."

Rick DeVos, the club's executive director, said maintaining a high standard of coaching isn't easy - especially because the Winter Sports Club's staff has grown to 125 coaches. It takes a combination of training, experience and a well-designed organization. DeVos admits that the Winter Sports Club, like most ski-industry businesses, experiences turnover each year. However, it has created a sense of stability with veteran program directors and a number of long-term employees willing to adjust to keep the program on track.

"We are in a seasonal business, so we have some turnover," DeVos said. "But we don't view it as high turnover."

DeVos said four of the coaches in Tuesday's training session are new this season.

Unfortunately, several top coaches will be missing when the athletes start heading to competitions next month. The good news is that of the top coaches the Winter Sports Club lost this season, four did so because of advancement opportunities.

Andy LeRoy, an Alpine coach with the Winter Sports Club since 2003, was hired as the head Alpine coach at the University of Denver last spring.

"My first thought was, 'What are we going to do now?'" Win-ter Sports Club Alpine director Chris Puckett said. "But it was a great move for Andy, and while we are losing a key guy, I think our program is going to be deeper than last year."

Tom Davis will shift positions to become the head Alpine coach, and Nate Johansing will replace LeRoy.

The Alpine program also added coaches Sylvan Kaufman and Bill Montag. Ty Upson and Angie Worrell will return to the staff, and Jeff Young and Tom Becker will shift positions to adjust to LeRoy's departure.

The Winter Sports Club also lost Nordic coach Chris Gilbertson, who coached nine years with the club. He became coach of the U.S. Nordic combined team's World Cup B at the end of last season. Gilbertson was replaced by Martin Bayer and spent the summer working with Winter Sports Club athletes.

Snowboarding coach Hans Joerg Berger also made the jump to the national level and will work with the U.S. Snowboarding Team as an assistant coach.

"I hate to lose him, but what kind of director would I be if I stood in the way of an opportunity like that?" Casson said. "At first I didn't want him to go, but after I thought about it, I was thrilled for him."

Despite the departures, DeVos is confident the club's athletes will continue to receive top-level coaching as they pursue their goals in skiing and snowboarding.

"It says a lot about our club when coaches go on to the national team or coach for a college team," DeVos said. "It reflects on what we are doing as a club and shows that other teams respect us."

DeVos said the Winter Sports Club has maintained a high level of coaching consistency thanks to a core group of directors, including Puckett, Wilson, Casson and Erik Skinner. He also said longtime coaches such as Deb Rose, Gary Crawford, Scott Wither, Timmy Meagher and Spencer Tamblyn and club athletics director Sarah Floyd are a big factor in the consistency of the programs.

- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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