John Russell: Awards part of the tradition

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Last week, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced something that most of us in Steamboat Springs already knew.

For the third time in three years, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club was named "Club of the Year." The club also won in 1998 and 2004.

Watch out, Rick DeVos.

At this very moment, spies from many other elite winter sports clubs in our country probably are trying to infiltrate your ranks, desperately trying to uncover the secrets that separate the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club from other clubs in the country.

Well, maybe not.

But the funny thing is DeVos, the club's executive director, wouldn't care if there actually were spies trying to figure out why the Steamboat Winter Sports Club has been so successful.

There is no secret, he claims. He also is more than willing to tell anybody who wants to listen why the club keeps winning.

"Time and energy, that's our secret," DeVos said earlier this week. "The pursuit of excellence is our goal. It's the goal of everybody in this club from the athletes on the hill to the coaches and the staff that supports those athletes."

He went on to say it's the goal of parents and volunteers who give up their weekends and weekdays to support the more than 100 events the club hosts every winter. He also credits the many local businesses that make sure the club gets financial support and access to top-level training at both Howelsen Hill and Mount Werner.

Throughout the years, I've been a witness to the Winter Sports Club's long line of success. I've written hundreds of stories about skiers who have excelled on the slopes and jumps. I traveled to Park City, Utah, in 2002 and Turin, Italy, in 2007, where, with a certain sense of pride, I covered the Steamboat skiers who reached their goal of becoming Olympians.

But DeVos said the club's pursuit of excellence isn't about creating Olympic athletes or winning ski races in our own country.

The club doesn't host all those events because it wants to be noticed by the U.S. Ski Team. Believe it or not, the club doesn't do it for awards like "Club of the Year." Or for the other awards the club won this year, including "Best Domestic Nordic Combined Coach" (Martin Bayer), "Best Domestic Snowboard Coach" (Spencer Tambyln), "Best Nordic Combined Program" or "Best Snowboarding Program."

DeVos said the Club's pursuit of excellence has more to do with the reason the club was started 94 years ago - the children of Steamboat Springs.

Sure, from the outside, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club appears to be an organization that parents can send their children to learn to ski. As a parent, I've done that.

For 94 years, the club has set an example in our community for other youth programs to follow. It has shown the people of Steamboat that our most valuable resource isn't coal, cows or champagne powder. It's our children.

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