Developing the total athlete
[ by Than Acuff ]
Despite the current pandemic putting the kibosh on the early race schedule for Colorado youth Nordic teams, the Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) is making the most of the time away from racing to develop more complete skier/athletes encompassing the mind, body and soul.
The CBNT race team of 16 skiers, including a handful from Gunnison, has been going at it since June once they got the green light from Gunnison County health officials.
“We got approval to start training as a team in June and literally haven’t stopped training,” says head coach Molly Susla.
The summer weeks consisted of six training days per week and once school started, Susla listened to her athletes to continue their efforts twice a week during the fall.
“We did morning strength training two times per week during the fall,” says Susla. “I would not have offered it but the kids requested it. “
Susla points out that now in her eighth year of coaching, she feels the program may have turned a corner based on what she has been seeing from her athletes even before the snow started falling.
“They all showed up—it’s amazing,” says Susla. “They are super dedicated. It’s a good place to be as a coach.”
Susla is also fortunate to have two assistant coaches by her side, Gordon Giannini and Alex Perkins, helping to keep the energy going among the skiers.
“It’s good to have some male influence among the coaches and both of them are incredible at working with kids and both have extensive Nordic coaching experience,” says Susla.
Once the snow started flying, the CBNT hit the track at the north end of the valley and were setting up for their annual trip to the Thanksgiving camp at West Yellowstone with training ramped back up to five sessions per week coupled with two strength training sessions. Yet, while Gunnison County remained in a place for them to be allowed to travel and arrangements were in place, Susla and the coaching staff decided to err on the side of caution rather than take a trip out of county.
“We had everything in place to go to West Yellowstone, however we didn’t feel it was the responsible thing to do,” says Susla. “Instead we had an awesome training camp here.”
Typically, the race season then kicks off with the first Junior National Qualifier races in early December. But given the current pandemic, that race was cancelled and while Susla hopes they can race starting in January, competitions this season remain in flux.
“Everything is still up in the air,” says Susla.
As a result, Susla and her coaches are using the opportunity away from racing to work on developing more complete athletes and young adults.
“No longer, as a team, are we working just on the physical and technical side of skiing,” explains Susla. “We’ve met with a local woman who talked about a healthy body image including proper nutrition and eating disorder prevention. Also, we’ve done some work on sports psychology with our sponsor Heights Performance. I believe all of this puts us on a different level.”
If the team does ever get to race, Susla believes they should see some success. And while Junior Nationals have already been cancelled, organizers have created regions with their own set of championships slated for March. The CBNT sits in a region that includes teams from California to Colorado and all states around the West.
“We have a strong returning core from last year including quite a few hopefuls to qualify for potential regional championships,” says Susla.
Races or no races, Susla is enjoying the freedom to work on other aspects of athletics with her team and it appears they have taken to the new training plan.
“Overall the kids have had great attitudes and we try to keep it interesting,” says Susla. “We’re going to be fine and it’s given us a great opportunity to develop the skier rather than just focusing on the racing season. And we’re still able to train together as a team, which is cool. A lot of places can’t.”