Steamboat athletes focus on training after high school
Some choose to take a year off to pursue sports goals
August 15, 2010
Steamboat Springs — As Max Marno weighed his options after graduating high school last year, there was a lot to decipher.
Marno had offers to ski in college from the University of Colorado and University of Montana. But he was close to the national team. So Marno decided to take a post-graduate year, a year after high school where he could just focus on his Alpine racing career.
The post-grad year isn't new, but it's an alternative many have taken advantage of.
"I don't think I was quite ready to go to college," said Marno, who in his post-grad year was named to the U.S. Developmental team. "I got my goal for the year. I accomplished it, which I'm really happy with. That was sort of my dream goal taking my year. But it depends on the person. As far as ski racing, it's not going to be there forever for me. But I'm young and still competitive. College will still be there."
Not just skiing
The post-graduate programs at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club usually field a few skiers.
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Some, like Marno, are on the verge of making a national team. For others, college coaches sometimes will ask them to lower their FIS points before coming to school.
But the post-grad program isn't just for skiing. It's becoming increasingly popular among other sports. It's not uncommon for basketball, football or hockey athletes to take a post-grad year or go to a preparatory school.
Take Matt Dawes, who left Steamboat after his junior year to play for the Colorado Thunderbirds AAA hockey team.
Dawes, who graduated last year, decided to put off going to college in hopes of bettering his position as a recruit. He hopes to earn a Division I scholarship and has spent his summer traveling across the country trying out for Junior A hockey programs.
He wasn't alone.
"A lot of freshmen on hockey teams are 20 or 21 years old," Dawes said. "That's what it comes down to. From my hockey team last year, probably about 10 or 11 of us graduated high school last year. Every one of them is doing the same thing I'm doing."
Andy LeRoy knows a thing or two about the post-graduate program. The University of Denver Alpine coach was post-grad coach at the SSWSC before moving on to Denver.
LeRoy said he sees minimal benefit in a post-graduate year. Of the skiers he sees doing it, he said only about 25 percent improve on their standings from the year before. LeRoy instead recommends taking whatever opportunity is available. In his view, if a skier doesn't have an offer from a big college, he or she should take an offer from a smaller college.
"If you are very close to that goal of making that NCAA team or close to making the national team — pursue that dream if you're close," he said. "But to make the huge jump, when they don't have to study, I've seen far too many kids not make the jump. They are far better served to go to school."
Winter Sports Club Alpine Director Deb Armstrong disagrees. She said the post-graduate program has seen declining numbers, but because skiing is a sport where athletes develop and mature later, Armstrong said she encourages skiers to take the year.
Skiing, she said, isn't like gymnastics, where by the time athletes are 16 they know where they stand. She said some of the best development of a skier occurs after high school.
"I tend to think a year athletically to mature and develop — there is something to be said for that," she said. "For our program here, it's really important that we do offer a PG program. By the time an athlete is 17 or 18, part of our goal is to push kids through to the very top. You can't push people to the U.S. Ski Team if you don't have a program."
1 more year
Skiers Lorin Paley and Sam Glaisher are taking post-graduate years. For Paley, the year will give her an opportunity to ski on the Telemark World Cup. Glaisher hopes to improve his skiing before attending Colby College in Maine.
Paley will live in Europe and be able to attend most of the World Cups, which she wasn't able to do last season.
Paley, who plans to attend Dartmouth College after that, said it's a chance to see how well she can do and mature on her own before attending college.
"I think it's beneficial," she said. "You learn a lot about yourself and how you function."
Glaisher said he wasn't able to totally focus on the ski season because of school. He said most people he talked to recommended the year to physically and mentally mature. He hopes to work the kinks out of his skiing and be a terror on the slopes next year.
"Every year is different," he said. "The more and more you do things, the more naturally it comes. I think just having a good year this year will give me confidence going into my college year."
Those with questions have no further to look than Marno, who started his post-grad year looking to better his results and wound up on the U.S. Ski Team.
"It's tough to tell," he said. "But I don't see how I would have made the U.S. Team. I progressed a lot in my skiing. I'm glad I did it. I have no regrets."