Aus­tralian Alpine Rac­ing Re­view

Alpine News - - News -

AUS­TRALIAN alpine and skier cross ath­letes will have a re­vised path­way through the ranks to the elite level af­ter a com­pre­hen­sive eval­u­a­tion and rec­om­men­da­tion by new Ski & Snow­board (SSA) Alpine Direc­tor Mick Branch.

Mr Branch said the main pur­pose was to un­der­take a com­plete re­view of the Aus­tralian Alpine sys­tem for the de­vel­op­ment of ath­letes and re-ex­am­ine the goals of alpine. Part of the equa­tion was to look at best prac­tice from around the world and in other sports and make a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions for fu­ture im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Af­ter be­ing ap­pointed to the po­si­tion in July 2017, Branch has set about un­der­stand­ing why Aus­tralia have not pro­duced more elite skiers, es­pe­cially in the alpine dis­ci­pline. We have strong ath­letes in skier cross as was high­lighted by Sami Kennedy-Sim at the Win­ter Olympics.

Part of the process was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the rac­ing com­mu­nity, race clubs and coaches, key re­sort per­son­nel, Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport and Aus­tralian Sports Com­mis­sion. Head Olympic Win­ter In­sti­tute Skier Cross Coach Shawn Flem­ing was in­volved in the re­view with Mr Branch.

In a 17-page re­port sub­mit­ted at the end of last win­ter and ac­cepted by the SSA board and other key par­ties, the changes will largely come into ef­fect this 2018 Aus­tralian sea­son. There is a new de­fined ath­lete path­way and one of the many changes will see re­moval of early sea­son SSA chil­dren’s races from the rac­ing cal­en­dar. This will al­low ju­nior rac­ers to con­cen­trate more on skills de­vel­op­ment. There will still be the usual re­sort sched­uled races.

Mr Branch said this will see SSA work closely not only with the Aus­tralian race club pro­grams, but also re­sort ski schools to shift the em­pha­sis to­wards an in­creased fo­cus on skill ac­qui­si­tion from a young age.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the fo­cus on ath­letic de­vel­op­ment shifts from pure phys­i­cal bench­mark­ing to in­creased phys­i­cal lit­er­acy with ed­u­ca­tion and ex­po­sure to best prac­tices at age ap­pro­pri­ate phases,” said Branch. “These changes are in­formed by ev­i­dence­based re­search and are sup­ported by the AIS.”

The last Aus­tralian Alpine Re­view by Mark Sharp in 2008 iden­ti­fied as­pects that needed to be ad­dressed, and al­though a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions were ad­dressed by SSA, the abil­ity to truly align the cul­ture with best prac­tice at ev­ery phase in the path­way has not been achieved.

His­tor­i­cally there has been an un­will­ing­ness to take own­er­ship to­wards long term out­comes from the club level of the sport. Cou­pled with com­mu­nity and clubs shared short term fo­cus rather than long term de­vel­op­ment, this has hin­dered the need for a cul­tural shift within the sport.

On com­ple­tion of the 2017 re­view the main rec­om­men­da­tions were to cre­ate an SSA Chil­dren’s De­vel­op­ment Watch­list (not pub­licly pub­lished) to iden­tify po­ten­tial ath­letes rather than se­lect­ing a SSA na­tional chil­dren’s team or squad.

By re­mov­ing the na­tional chil­dren’s squad, it will take away the em­pha­sis on race re­sults rather than de­vel­op­ing long term skill. A re­vi­sion of the na­tional alpine ski team se­lec­tion will also take place to re­flect as­pi­ra­tional mile­stones and re­al­is­tic bench­marks.

A re­struc­ture of the early sea­son races to al­low for more skill de­vel­op­ment rather than more races. The SSA chil­dren’s se­ries has now been sched­uled in Septem­ber at Thredbo for 2018 as the SSA Chil­dren’s Car­ni­val. The FIS races for older rac­ers will hap­pen across the same dates at Per­isher this year.

This will also al­le­vi­ate costs for fam­i­lies as­so­ci­ated with at­tend­ing mul­ti­ple races across the re­sorts dur­ing win­ter and al­low more on snow train­ing for ath­letes.

SSA will in­tro­duce a club recog­ni­tion scheme to en­sure all clubs are work­ing in line with the na­tional vi­sion and best prac­tices. Ed­u­ca­tion will also be im­ple­mented with coaches of young ath­letes and par­ents to show the long-term suc­cess of skills de­vel­op­ment.

Now that the Aus­tralian Alpine Vi­sion has a struc­tured path­way, let’s hope with sup­port for alpine and ski cross ath­letes they can de­velop more cham­pion skiers.

Photo by Steve Cuff

Harry Laid­law hits the gate in a 2016 GS FIS race.

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