World Cup ski coach mulls his future
SNOWMASS Local John “Johno” McBride said earlier this week that he’s done as a coach with the U.S. Ski Team – at least for now.The Snowmass resident recently told national team officials that he wouldn’t be back next season as the men’s combined coach. The decision stems from a desire to spend more time with his two young daughters, Ruby and Lucy, and his wife, Sunni, he said.McBride, however, has failed at quitting before. He walked away from his job as the team’s head speed coach after the 2006 World Cup season, only to be lured back by the team’s best skier, Bode Miller, during the offseason.McBride said his most recent decision had nothing to do with Miller’s announcement earlier this month that he, too, is severing ties with the national team. The split ends an often-contentious, 11-year relationship between the team and Miller, the 2005 overall World Cup champion who is on the verge of breaking Phil Mahre’s U.S. record of 27 World Cup victories.”I made that decision before he did,” said McBride, who agreed to return in a new capacity last season under the condition that he could come home monthly. “Those guys were looking for a full-time coach, and I just wasn’t ready to sign up for that. At this time, if they feel like the only people they want to hire are full time, I totally respect that. We talked about it and had some good conversations, but I wasn’t interested in signing on for a full-time deal again.”McBride hasn’t ruled out coming back to the national team next season to coach skiercross. The sport will make its Olympic debut at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010, and McBride said the U.S. Ski Team is in the preliminary stages of putting together a skiercross roster.
That coaching job is one McBride said he would consider because the competitive skiercross schedule is much shorter than the World Cup season.”It’s like 10 races in the whole season, and 70 percent of them are domestic,” McBride said. “Even if it was 20 races, that wouldn’t be that bad. The World Cup calendar is 44 races, all over the world, starting in October and ending in March. … We’ll have to figure out how that’s going to work, but it’s something I’m kicking around.”A number of likely U.S. Olympic skiercross racers are former World Cup veterans with whom McBride has previously worked – including former national team downhillers Casey Puckett, Daron Rahlves and Jake Fiala.The less demanding schedule was one of the reasons Rahlves and Fiala graduated to professional skiercross.”I think that appeals to a lot of those guys,” McBride said. “Just not being away from home so much is more appealing. And 90 percent of the guys in skiercross are guys that I worked with and coached. It’d be like a homecoming with old friends.”Even with the monthly trips back home during the winter, McBride said he actually worked 10 days more this past season than during the 2006 season.
McBride’s unofficial role as combined coach was to help Miller maintain his fitness – a problem during a disappointing 2006 in which Miller failed to win an Olympic medal in five events.”With all the conditioning and dryland stuff during the summer, it actually ended up being more,” McBride said. “That’s definitely one of the things that I need to work out with my own life, now that I have kids. I’ve got a lot invested in a lot of guys on that team, but I can’t just take on a full-time job – at least one that is so set in its schedule.”McBride has spoken with Miller since the racer told team officials that he was leaving the U.S. Ski Team. The proclamation came just days before Miller’s cousin Liko Kenney fatally shot and ran over a police officer in Miller’s hometown of Franconia, N.H., then was killed by a passer-by who grabbed the officer’s gun.McBride wouldn’t comment on Miller’s future, nor give any new information as to why Miller decided to leave the team. “All I can say is that he’s got a lot on his plate right now,” McBride said. If Miller competes next season, he will have to fund his own training. Miller declared his displeasure with new, more stringent team rules last season – rules, he said, designed specifically for him in the wake of the Turin Olympics.
One of the new rules stipulated that athletes had to stay in the team hotel the night before races, something Miller felt was inconvenient since he travels the circuit in his own personal RV.McBride said such philosophical differences were likely part of the reason Miller left the team, but suggested the media made too much out of something that wasn’t necessarily a big deal.”I don’t think he was always disappointed with those rules, except in the cases when the accommodations weren’t really good,” McBride said. “When they’re asking him to sleep in a 5-foot-6 bed, and he’s 6-foot-5, or eat at a place where’s the food’s pretty mediocre, that’s when he felt they were unnecessary.”Miller isn’t the first prominent U.S. skier to leave the national team to race independently. Kristina Koznick, a six-time World Cup winner whose mother lives in Aspen, left the team in 2001 and funded her own training before retiring from the World Cup circuit last fall.”He’ll be able to run it the way he wants, train the way he wants and be as flexible as he wants” McBride said. “He’s not going to say anything bad about the U.S. Ski Team, either, because when the season starts he’ll work within the ski team guidelines, most likely. Coaches are probably going to be giving him course reports and talking about lines with him. I think mostly it’s the preparation period that he has to worry about.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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