One of NENSA’s finest traditions is the awarding of the John Caldwell Award. This award annually recognizes a single individual, or entity, which embodies the spirit, dedication, innovation and pride in our Nordic community of the award’s famous namesake. This year NENSA is thrilled to award this highest honor to Bob Haydock, a NENSA founding member, board member for the past 23 years, Bogburn Race creator, and a coach, among many other talents.
Bob, like John Caldwell himself, has quietly and selflessly dedicated himself to our beloved sport of cross country skiing. Legend has it that Bob was JC’s inside man when the “revolution began” when NENSA was formed out of the remnants of the USSA Eastern Division back in the early 90’s. Bob went to all the “Eastern Junior Committee” meetings, and that’s where the idea for NENSA was born, and then started in 1995. Bob was on the original NENSA Board of Directors, and he continues to be an active and vital member or our BOD today. Bob set up the first web page for NENSA. He also created the first system of displaying points and rankings, and scored the Zak Cup and Club contest.
Rob Bradlee, CSU juniors Head Coach, and fellow Board member says this of Bob: “Bob has done it all. He started as a racer, but quickly contributed his coaching, organizing, and logistics skills to help the sport in any way he could. He coached BKL with a special emphasis on the joy of skiing and how to have fun with adventure skis. He built a fantastic ski trail at his house in Vermont and learned to be an expert groomer. He has worked from the start of NENSA to make it the best Nordic ski organization in the country with his computer skills and his business acumen. Whenever there was a new idea for improving NENSA, it was usually Bob who did the actual hard work to make it real.”
Growing up, Bob and his brother and sisters used to ski from their parents’ cabin in Pomfret Vermont (Bogburn Hall) to Suicide Six. They’d go on their alpine skis with the old bindings, and release the heels for the cross country trek. Rumor has it that Bob also used to count the dashed highway lines on the family drive to Cape Cod… an early sign of his fascination with math and a possible inspiration for the app he developed to time interval start ski races. This app has been used at the Eastern Mass Bill Koch (EMBK) sprints for many years.
Bob raced biathlon in Europe in the 1980’s and was on the scene when skating first emerged as a technique. As a coach, told his young athletes stories of “no skate” zones, of skiers putting duct tape on their ski bases to cover kick wax so they could skate fast until the “no skate” hills where they’d rip off the tape and kick up. He remembered having to watch out for tape lying near to or in the tracks to avoid getting them stuck on his skis. In later years Bob excelled in all the NE ski marathons, and, ran a 2:37 marathon!
Bob was part of the group that formed EMBK after the various Bill Koch clubs in the local towns around Boston lost critical mass and were on the verge of extinction. Jamie & Lisa Doucett and Rob Bradlee were also part of the EMBK founders’ group. This same group took over Bob Fitzpatrick’s junior program in Boston and renamed it as CSU juniors in the 2001-2002 season. Bob’s boys, Will and Ben, went through the EMBK and CSU juniors programs and on to collegiate racing. He coached his own kids and followed them through both of those programs. He then took a break before coming back to coach with EMBK again. But when Bob came back – he came back BIG! Bob was a beloved EMBK coach for years, just recently retiring again, after moving to Vermont.
At EMBK practices he would have the kids run time trials (they didn’t realize he was conditioning them) complete with bibs and timed results published from his own app. He would also have the kids do relay races, with coaches participating. He was famous for setting a relay at a specific number of laps and then when the kids thought they were done and ready to collapse, he would wait for the last team to cross the line and then holler out “there’s one more – you forgot the victory lap!” The kids would all jump back into the mix and the finish would be tight.
Bob also developed the EMBK assistant coaches, giving them a night to lead practice every now and then. Along with that he gave feedback in a way that left you wanting more feedback, as his former assistant coach for “Finland” Mark Doughty noted. Mark went on to say, “I was incredibly fortunate to be paired with Bob as an assistant coach. He was the epitome of cool-headed. He wrangled the Finland kids and kept them motivated through low-snow seasons and our snowmaggedon season. In that snowy year we went on many adventure skis around the entire Leo J Martin course with headlamps. I requested to be his assistant every year until he left EMBK for Vermont.”
This story of Bob is not complete without the telling of the now ionic Bogburn Classic Race he started back in the winter of 1986, on a course that friend Jamie Doucett says “makes the current one look pretty tame”. Bob has been proud to point out that past Bogburn winners include the likes of Andy Newell, Sophie Caldwell, Ida Sargent, Paddy Caldwell, Pat O’Brien and other USST folks. A great pedigree indeed. David Hosmer, also a founding and fellow Board member of NENSA says, “From one of NENSA’s oldest masters, I give my thanks to Bob for keeping the Bogburn on the schedule each year, a race and course I always enjoy.”
Mark Doughty sums it up well when he says, “Bob has been a role model for me as well as the kids he’s coached and their parents. He’s set an example of a life connected to the outdoors and to other people, of mentoring and helping the next generation find their way, and of sharing his time and life with others… Nordic skiing provides the context for all he’s done.”
Amen to that! NENSA would both like to congratulate and thank Bob for all his years of service to our organization and our sport. We are in a better place as an organization because of Bob’s vision, hard work and love of the sport, and the good news is – he is still making a difference today!
Bob skiing the Geschmossel Bob at the 2015 Bogburn Bob at CSU Rollerski Race in 1980’s