Updated Aug. 18, 2009

August 2009 Gaining Ground Clinic:

Presenters included Andy Newell (USST), Nina Gavriluk (GNA), Fred Griffin (Northeast Nordic), Janice Sibilia (NENSA), Pepa Milocheva (Craftsbury), Lauren Jacobs (Craftsbury).


Technique Progression & Drills (All Instructors)
The foundation skills for technique can be developed through progressions
done with dry land training long before the ski season starts. For changes to be
made in body position, balance and timing, adequate time must be built in to allow
engraining of the movements to take place. First, here are some exercises that address the components of classic skiing.

Classic Exercises – Dry land

1. Exercises for Body Position.
•    Basic athletic Stance 
•    Classic Arm Swing
•    Leg Swing (Driving from the hip)
•    Arm & Leg Swing

2. Exercises for Timing & Motion
•    Falling forward with partner
•    Diagonal Motion –(One classic stride from start position) 
•    Linked Diagonal Motion ( one classic stride to the next)
(Shift focus from heels to balls of feet).

3. Exercises for Power  
•    Kicking impulse
•    Leg drive impulse (From start position, propel off of kicking leg and onto the glide leg- one stride).
•    Linked Diagonal Stride Motion with power
•    Jumps ( Plyometrics)
•    Standing still, Pole Plant w/ crunch (Focus on abs)

Classic Exercises – on skis

1. For Striding 
•    No pole skiing
•    Skipping ( high hips, impulsion off of the kicking ski)
•    Add 5 strides of “running” on skis to classic stride.( this works on forward hip position)
•    Ski in a train- vary pace and everyone stays in sync

2. For Double Pole
•    Locked and Loaded (Upper body into compression)
•    Standing Broad jump
•    Falling forward from ankles onto poles. (Keep heels on skis and flex form ankles)
•    Bathroom Scale- For arm placement (Elbows pointing forward) .

3. Kick double pole
•    Locked and Loaded
•    Retrieve arms to forward position and hold for 2 seconds in high position over the gliding ski. (Works on balance and glide)

Skating Exercises - on skis

1. Saddle feet (wide stance)

2. V1
•    No pole uphill ( focus on equal leg push)
•    No pole uphill with poling motion
•    Hop skate uphill

3. V2
•    Skipping Drill (High position into compression)
•    Double pole into V2 (high hands/hips into compression)
•    Skate 3 strides and hold

4. V2 Alternate 
•    Speed skater drill
•    Retrieve arms and hold high before placing ski down, (for practicing balance)

Core Strength Exercises with Medicine Balls, by Nina Gavrlyluk-Gunstock Nordic:

Core Strength with Medicine Balls

Warm up with run or game
•    25 sit ups x 2 sets
•    10 - 25 push ups x 2 sets
•    Light agility

(Keep core engaged by using palms of hand to catch and throw ball. Arms outstretched will engage more stabilizer muscles. Hands/ ball should stay in line with navel)
•    Overhead toss to partner
•    Lateral toss to partner. Partners face opposite direction, stand several feet apart; Then switch sides.
•    Wood Chop ( face each other and toss ball from along side the knee to partner. Should feel twist in core section).
•    Sitting ball toss. Butt on ground, legs and shoulders off the ground with legs bent, partners sit side by side and toss ball laterally to each other.
•    Now face each other in same body position and toss ball over partners head so they have to reach up to catch it. Momentum should bring shoulders near ground to catch (  this activates the core as much as the toss).
•    Reverse overhead toss- partner #1 stands several feet behind partner #2. Partner # 2 is sitting with legs outstretched in front of them and has their back towards partner 1.  Partner 2 tosses ball over their head behind them to standing partner.
•    Partners face each other several feet apart and toss ball to each other. Start toss from between the knees with an upward motion.
•    Double Pole Throw. Body position like DP and you can toss ball hard into the ground then catch; or back and forth with partner.
•    Supermans- both partners lie face down on ground facing each other ( very close together). Arms and legs off the ground and lightly toss ball back and forth. ( Pay attention!)
•    Partners sit on ground, legs outstretched facing each other with toes touching. Toss ball overhead to partner high enough so they have to reach to catch it. Partner tosses ball back.

Core Strength Circuit, Janice Sibilia, NENSA:

Warm up with Mobility exercises and easy jog

Set #1- :30 seconds on/:30 seconds rest.
Set #2-  :30 on/15 rest   

:30      Pushups
:30     Rest
:30     Crunches
:30     Rest
:30     Squat Thrusts
:30     Rest
:30     Bench Dips
:30     Rest

1:00    Plank – feet raised on bench
  :15     Raise Right leg
  :15     Raise Left leg

:30     Rest
:30    Wide Pushups
:30    Rest
:30    Tuck Jumps (Hold tuck for 15 seconds’ jump for 15 seconds)
:30    Rest
:30    Fire Hydrant Left leg
:30    Fire Hydrant Right leg
:30    Rest

:30    Bicycle Forward
:30    Bicycle Backward
:30    Butt Ups
:30    Knee Hugger Situps
:30    Kayakers

:30    Rest
:45    Extend and Compress (On all fours, alternate arm and leg-in and out)
:45    Extend and Compress- opposite side

Agility & Balance Drills, Janice Sibilia, NENSA:

 Balance drills: (Recommend Doug Garfield’s The Steady Ski)
Quiet Balance ( One Leg)
•    One leg- leg circles
•    One leg- Alphabet
•    Ski walk one step
•    Backwards lunge
•    Quiet balance eyes closed ( Have partner push person lightly to challenge balance)
Dynamic Balance
•    Med ball toss on one leg
•    Arm/leg swing  (One leg)
•    Arm Leg swing with hop (One leg)
•    Bosu balls

Ladder work
•    Run through with high knees, hitting each box with both feet;
•    Run through with hopscotch pattern;
•    Run through facing sideways, each foot in each hole– right and left;
•    Run through with both feet together•   

Lateral mirror
Two athletes face one another about about 3 feet apart. One athlete moves laterally while the other has to mirror his movements. The drill starts and stops on the command of a coach and lasts about five to seven seconds. The space in which the drill is performed is limited to 15 feet x 15 feet

Standing Start sprints. 5 on each leg. Full rest between. On foot or rollerskis.
Square drill
Four cones are placed to make a 15 foot square. The athlete begins by running backwards from the first cone to the second, laterally shuffling from the second cone to the third, sprinting forward from the third to the fourth, and then laterally shuffling from the fourth cone back past the first.                                    

Crazy Starts
Designed to improved reaction and ‘get up and go’ agility. Upon  the 'Go' command the athlete jumps up from a lying position and sprints .

Coaching Multi-Level, Multi-Age Teams and Clubs by Fred Griffin, Northeast Nordic Ski Club, NENSA's 1st Exectutive Director:

I hear it from both sides.

I hear it from coaches frustrated working with athletes of varying ages in middle school/high school programs, or from BKL Leaders in despair over dealing with the even wider BKL age group, 4 – 13.

“Some want to race. Others just want to socialize. What do I do?”

“I can deal with the committed ones, but it’s so hard to motivate the others…” I hear it from parents and kids alarmed by coaches who don’t run a program that meets their needs or their children’s needs.

“Suzy doesn’t want to race! She joined BKL because she loves to be outdoors with her friends and ski. She hates this…”

“I want to be the best skier I can be. I want to race in college. Coach is making us all do the same thing. It’s too easy. I need more! But he says it’s for the good of the team”

What is sad is that everyone wants the same thing: kids to have fun in a rewarding sport they love. So how do we get there? How do we please Mom, Dad, coach, athlete? For many years I’ve been coaching clubs and schools with kids ranging in ages from 10 -19 in the sports of tennis, running, and cross-country skiing. Quite honestly, we don’t have this problem. Below is my philosophy.

1. One Size Does Not Fit All.

A team is an aggregate of individuals. Each athlete has his or her needs. Maybe it is my years of teaching handicapped kids, or maybe a lifetime of being an unrepentant misfit—but it is very clear to me that when it comes to sports, each athlete deserves to be on his/her own IEP: Individual Exercise Program. Shift your thinking and stop fitting the kids to the program-- fit the program to the kids! I know this goes against “old school”, ball-sports theory, but do anything less and you are diminishing the chance for every child to succeed.
On our middle school/high school team we have kids who are loose-limbed bundles of tender growing plates, not ready for hard training physically or mentally. We have kids who show up tentative, who can’t look past just wanting to be more fit. Competition and hard workouts are a terrifying prospect unless and until they slowly transition into new bodies. We have kids who are highly motivated but who don’t report in shape. They have to be let off the leash gradually or they will injure themselves in their zeal. And of course, we have kids who know the drill, who come in fit, hungry, ready to eat raw meat.

In BKL groups this translates into first year skiers tentatively checking out a new sport on borrowed fishscales, fit kids who have no interest in racing but can live n the woods, and children of current or former racers who arrive on top end gear looking for high-powered action

If every child is run through the same program it is either too hard or too easy for those on the other sides a relatively narrow cross-section. The fit and motivated kids become bored and frustrated and act accordingly. The less fit are unable to keep up, and feel shame or dislike for themselves. They tend to be scorned or patronized on some level by their more fit teammates—that is, if they don’t quit after two weeks. Meanwhile a coach goes crazy trying to see some kids don’t slough off and trying to keep other kids in line. Clearly, one size fits all thinking creates unhealthy dynamics up and down the roster. The good news is that there is a way out of this mess. Read on.

2. Have the Kids Set Goals.

Goal-setting is at the heart of the coach/athlete relationship. The expectations the process creates in both parties constitute an informal contract. The terms of that contract take form in athlete’s training program and in the coach’s part in implementing it. We make this a formal process on teams I coach. An interview follows. For BKL kids it is most often only an interview. I give older kids a deadline for return of the goal sheets. After that, no sheet, no practice. I make them focus on what they want to learn or to change—not on where they think they should finish, or who they should beat. We race with our teammates, not against them.
When I know what they want from the sport, the season, I know how to coach them. Where to push, where to pat. Practice time is too precious to spend forcing square pegs into round holes. It’s also painful for the pegs. After all, I’m there for them—they aren’t there for me. Right? And a team is an aggregate of individuals, right?
I find the Success Chart we offer to BKL Club Leaders is an excellent goal-setting template for BKL kids. It also provides a seasonal lesson plan with multiple tracks offered each day. It binds a club program with a sense of purpose as well.

3. Set up different programs, or “pathways” for each practice.

From the goal sheets I learn how the team settles out and I correlate this to what I have seen of the kids fitness-wise. For this year’s group of thirty kids ages 11 – 18, I started with five 5 groups. I posted a list of who was in what group and hung it on the wall. If anyone was unhappy we would have gone back to goals sheets and talked it out. No one was. Each day while the kids were dressing I posted the day’s schedule on the blackboard thusly:

Everyone: warm-up, stretch, double pole lessons; afterwards by group
Wolverines: ski through the woods trail and double pole the two small hills of on backside; total ski 30 minutes then you are on your time.
Jaguars: 15 minutes dble pole only; ski 30 minutes more. Finish with 6 x 40 second dble pole repeats superfast, on soccer field
Civet Cats: dble pole 30 minutes; ski 30 more; 6 x 20 second dble pole repeats on the hill beside the soccer field
Bobcats: 30 minute dble pole, 10 min single stick,, 35 minute ski afterwards; 10 x 20 second power pole on soccer field hill
Everyone: British Bulldog at 4:45 on soccer field

For a BKL practice I prefer not to place kids in groups but instead to offer elective activities.
Everyone: warm-up, stretch, game; lesson on dble pole
Activity #1 ski tour looking for animal tracks; remember to dble pole on flats
Activity #2 dble pole relay followed by free ski with lots of double-poling
Everyone: finish with game

I add in specific activities from the Success Chart. I expand on Success Chart offerings

4. Provide Freedom to Change Workout Groups

This is the beauty of the program. Recovering from a cold? Drop down one group or two. Feeling frisky? Go up one and try it on for size. The only rule is you need the coach’s approval. If a person is not performing to a chosen group level, I take the athlete aside and ask if his/her goals have changed. They move to an easier workout if they desire. This almost never happens. Movement is upward, just in the direction you as a coach want it to be. Wolverine Suzy will ask to be a Jaguar for a day, then another. Pretty soon Suzy is a Jaguar. Most years if I start with five groups, I end with three.

5. Performance-Focused Coaching.

Granted, this is an athlete-centered as opposed to a team-centered model, but year after year it produces a community, a tight-knit caring team, second to none. Because each athlete is judged by his/her own criteria, every child has respect for every other child who makes an honest effort. The program is performance-based, and not outcome-based. It’s not what we do but how we do what we do that is the focus. As a coach of a performance-based team you are making it possible for each of your athletes to pursue personal excellence. You are creating a nutrient environment in which kids can grow. Team excellence follows organically. This may translate into one child losing ten pounds and skiing 5k without stopping, or it may result in another being state champion or making the Junior Olympic Team. It may mean a BKL Club that succeeds as a group because its skiers succeed as individuals. You have made room for both children and both visions—and the point is that there must be room for both.

You might just end up a satisfied coach of a thriving program with excited kids who have pleased parents.



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