With Australian Interschools Snowsport Championships soon kicking off, many parents are asking questions about the best way forward for their snow-loving children. For kids who want to progress a career in snowsports – whether it’s gates, skier x, moguls or freeride, the development pathway can be tough to navigate. To help you make the right choices for your child, we asked The Arc Ski Program’s Jono Brauer – two time winter Olympian, former World Cup athlete, former Australian National Team Coach, current Head Coach Thredbo Mountain Academy, for some words of advice.
So Jono, firstly why is it that are you so passionate about the developmental pathways of skiing in Australia?
Core skills development in the foundation period is critical to the athletic path. When an athlete misses or skips the skill development phase it generally will hamper them greatly when they start edging towards the pinnacle of the progression. It’s super exciting to work with young athletes to help them develop solid critical skills and then watch their ability sky rocket.
In your opinion, what is the key to success in competitive skiing?
A super solid base of core skills is key, as explained above. Apart from that, hard work and dedication plus an immense amount of fun are all required for long-lasting success. We all ski because we love it and it’s fun. I believe it’s critically important that an athlete maintains a fun element each and every day of his or her ski career, as well as post ski career. Of course you lay down hours of blood, sweat and tears but you still have to be stoked in what you’re doing.
How does the pathways framework for young skiers in Australia look right now?
We are definitely on a positive trajectory. 12 months ago the governing body Ski and Snowboard Australia (SSA) was very fortunate to acquire Mick Branch as Alpine Program Director (for Alpine and Skier X). Mick brings a wealth of experience including over a decade coaching the US World Cup speed team as well as many years coaching the Australian National Team on the World Cup. Mick has, along with his team of coaches, scientists and industry experts taken a scientific approach, combined with his industry skills to understand what the elite alpine countries are doing to achieve success. They have learnt the pathways implemented from ages 6 through to World Cup; in particular what is entailed within this timeframe. The research has resulted in a completely new strategy with a substantial focus on core skill development, notably how Australia can work effectively with the key winter sport stakeholders including schools, race clubs and ski resorts to put Australia at the pinnacle of competitive skiing now and consistently into the future.
How important is Interschools participation in the pathway framework?
The Interschools competition has opened up an enormous talent pool for skiing in Australia. Where historically there may have been a few hundred entries nationally, in 2017 we saw 5500 unique individuals participating. This is a fantastic way for potential talent ID, and with SSA and the Interschools association working together closely I am certain that skiing will gain hugely positive outcomes in the future.
How does The Arc’s program fit within the pathway framework?
The Arc is working closely with Mick Branch and his team to utilise their findings and strategy to plan our on-snow skills development programming. We are working closely with SSA to implement the FTEM pathways focus. Upon SSA finalising their strategic pathways program provider requirements The Arc will be doing everything in its power to gain a Gold program provider endorsement and assist with national talent ID. We look forward to passing our extensive knowledge and guidance onto our athletes to assist them in mastering those core skills that will set them up to dominate.
Looking back at your career, what is the one piece of advice you would give to parents of budding competitive skiers?
Don’t rush. Remember that you started skiing for fun – keep that going. If you want your kids to reach the pinnacle of the sport be it Alpine, Moguls, Snowboard etc, be patient and play the long game. Don’t have the focus in the Southern Hemisphere winter to be all about racing. Remember that we as Australians are competing in a European and North American dominated sport and those countries are busy using our winter period for preparation and skill development to maximise their competitive season. That means that they are training when we are racing and they are racing when we are trying to race on their turf.
Take advantage of what’s on your doorstep. Australia has some of the best training conditions in the world during our winter months and often we get caught up overlooking that and instead competing in as many events as possible. Look far into the future and plan for success at the highest level. It’s great to win the National Interschool’s or even the SSA National Series, however it’s 100 times better to win Europa Cup, North American Cup and mix it with the world’s best in the World Cup and at the Olympics.
And the one piece of advice you’d give to the young budding skier?
Think BIG. Dream BIGGER!
Photo: Skier – Hugo Manka