Where to place importance | AspenTimes.com

Where to place importance

Team 1 athlete MJ Mirano, of Woody Creek, makes a heel-side banked turn during the Aspen/Snowmass Series USASA's inaugural Banked Slalom.
Walt Evans/Courtesy photo |

A lot of people think that being a coach for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club is an incredibly easy job that requires nothing more than the willingness to play in the snow. Yes, that’s a part of it, but it’s not all we do.

As a long-term mentor and teacher to multiple athletes, a coach is put in some difficult positions at times. We may not have to choose if we should go to war over the issues between Russia and Ukraine, but the job is still demanding.

As our athletes progress through the club and team process, we continuously put more emphasis on dedication, practice, hard work and determination. These are obviously not the only aspects of snowboarding or skiing, but when we’re in the full swing of “competition season,” they are important.

As the kids get older and start deciding what they want for themselves and what they want out of their involvement with AVSC, we do our best to help facilitate those desires and goals. What some of our athletes intend to gain from AVSC is the mere ability to navigate the local mountains comfortably with their friends; others might want to make their way toward superstardom in the snow-sports industries. We coaches work hard to accommodate all of our athletes’ needs and desires.

“As athletes, we should be committed to bettering ourselves through a variety of venues and, most importantly, through enjoying that variety. We should be committed to having fun.”

Last weekend proved no different. In the snowboard division, we had two very different United States of America Snowboard Association events during the course of the weekend. One was a slopestyle event that consisted of various terrain features including jumps, boxes and rails.

The other was a banked slalom event, essentially a timed slalom race through gates with banked turns. Saturday’s banked slalom was actually an inaugural event in the USASA competition series, so everyone involved wanted it to be a success.

As coaches, we knew it would also be incredibly fun because going fast is basically a universal joy. We know that some of the more grassroots — and not to mention longest-running — events result in the most photos and stories of fun and smiles. The Legendary Banked Slalom at Mount Baker is a prime example. Now in its 29th year, the event includes a qualifying raffle due to the high demand of interest from potential competitors, both amateur and professional.

Not to say that the slopestyle event isn’t fun or worthy of merit, but it does tend to be one of the two events our athletes train for the most, and with that can bring on a certain nervousness and anxiety on the day of competition accompanied by a certain amount of stress.

The issue that I struggled with this past weekend was a unique one in that many of my athletes were so concerned with rankings and results of the slopestyle event that they wanted to forgo the slalom race. Never mind the fact that I had paid attention to the weather reports and realized that training for slope on Saturday (the day of the slalom race) would be hampered by horrible jumping conditions due to heavy snowfall.

My athletes were still determined to train hard to perfect their spins, grabs and rail tricks. How do I tell a bunch middle school-age athletes not to bother taking slopestyle so seriously and to try this new race just for fun?

What kind of hypocrite does that make me, and the club, as one of our core values is “commitment”? This is an event that the children have put weeks and months into preparing for, and I’m essentially telling them to forget about it — for now.

My response was to not read the definition of commitment too narrowly. Yes, we are committed to becoming better people and athletes, but that is not defined through the corridor of one singular event or competition.

As athletes, we should be committed to bettering ourselves through a variety of venues and, most importantly, through enjoying that variety. We should be committed to having fun.

Well, they should be; they’re still kids, after all. Isn’t the fun and love for these sports the reason we all began them in the first place?

“Making” the kids in this valley have fun (whether they like it or not) is one of the difficulties of being a coach. This weekend it worked out well, with tons of high-fives, smiles and victories.

I couldn’t be happier that my athletes sacrificed one single day of “training” for a fun day of making some powder turns as fast as they possibly could. Their commitment to having a good time is second to none, and I’m OK with that. Hope you are, too.

Josh Ganz is a snowboarding coach for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. He writes about the progress of athletes who live and/or train in Snowmass Village. Email him at jganz@teamavsc.org.

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