GETTING STARTED...WITH KIDS by Natalie Hammel
Water skiing is a technical sport with many different elements.
To a person just setting foot into tournament water skiing there
are numerous new things to learn and experience. Especially if you're
trying to mix in kids into this scenario. Just remember though,
not everything has to be learned all at once.
You face a dilemma-- you want your child or children to excel
but you might not quite have the whole gist of tournament skiing
yet yourself. Don't worry. There are many tournaments and people
out there with ways to help introduce both you and your kids into
competitive water skiing.
A key point to remember is early tournaments for juniors aren't
about getting high ratings or beating the other kids in your division,
they're about having fun. Some types of tournaments that fit this
philosophy perfectly are, class "F" (Fun) or the NSL (National Ski
League) tournaments. They give the most relaxed environment while
still giving the competing aspect.
At a NSL tournament this year at Lake of the Woods, Steve Lohr
made sure each skier got at least 4 passes no matter if they fell.
This way if the children did happen to miss a buoy, gate, or fall,
they got to keep skiing. It helped make it less frustrating on the
kids and more fun. These types of tournaments encourage and motivate
juniors to ski in more tournaments and progress in their skiing.
One tournament that I went to this year came up with a new format
of events to help introduce jr. skiers into the sport. The Virginia
Federation tournament at Bear Lake tried to made it so all the junior
skiers would ski one day leaving the other day for other activities.
At this tournament I did notice a lot of juniors that I'd never
seen before. For many it was their first tournament.
Which brings up a point. Tournaments for juniors can be fun and
exciting but they might also be a bit scary, especially the first
time around. Think about it from their perspective. The junior goes
to a different lake, with lots of buoys, behind a different boat,
with people they don't know driving and judging them. I know when
I was first skiing I would get confused about which buoys were which,
end up pulling out in the wrong spot, and mess up my entire pass.
My dad has told me that I missed the gates every way possible, and
it's true! My story isn't unlike other young juniors; this is quite
a common occurrence.
To help the juniors feel not as frightened it is a good idea for
parents to take them to the site the day before for practice if
possible. (Always make sure to check with the ski club if this is
okay first.) Ask if you, the parent, can ride in the boat when your
child or children ski. When in the boat make sure to clearly point
out when and where they're suppose to pull out for the gates and
where the course is located. Then tell them when and where to pull
out on each end when the boat stops, according to what the driver
If for some reason you cannot make it to the site the day before
the tournament, here are some ideas that you can do on site while
the tournament is going on. Walk around the lake with your child
and point out to them where the course is located. Make sure to
tell your child what buoys are which; associating the buoys by color
is probably the easiest solution. Then, watch a few skiers. Point
out to your child where the skier pulls out at each end and to which
side. These ideas that I have mentioned not only get the juniors
adjusted to the different sites, but it also gives them confidence.
Your child knows if they can ski well on the lake before the tournament
they can do it on the day or days of the tournament.
Water skiing, as much of a sport as it is, is also a social event.
Of the time you're at a tournament, you or your child are only going
to be actually skiing about 1% of the time. So what do you do the
other 99% of the time, just wait? In a sense yes, but isn't it always
more fun to "wait" with someone else? The point I'm trying to make
is try to go to tournaments with lots of kids your children can
become friends with and hang out with during the day. You might
even arrange or "buddy up" with other parents to go specifically
to the same tournaments so you'll be sure your child has some one
to be with. This helps build happy relationships with other skiers
and happy memories associated with tournaments for your junior.
As I said before, early tournaments are all about having fun!
If you're looking for more information on water skiing there are
several references that you can look into. One is the internet,
which has many water ski web sites. The Eastern Region's Official
Web Site address is www.awsaeast.org. USA Water ski's Official Web
Site can be located under the address www.usawaterski.org. These
sites give information on the latest happenings in water skiing
as well as occasional coaching articles.
If you're are interested in getting a book teaching someone the
early fundamentals of skiing you can contact the USA Water ski Headquarters
at: 799 Overlook Drive Winter Haven, FL 33884-1679 or call them
at (941) 324-4341. Ask for their many pamphlets. Such as, beginning
slalom, beginning tricks, deep water starts, boat driving tips,
or even AWSA'S Level One instructors manual. The prices are small
on these items and they are a great source of information. It will
teach things like how to perform a deep water start on one ski and
how to perform a side slide, up to running the course and more advanced
USA Water ski publishes a magazine called The Water Skier that
every USA Water Ski member receives. It often has teaching articles
in it. Also, in addition to this, another magazine called Water
Ski that gives information about pro-skiers, coaching, interviews
with skiers, and tournaments. Water Ski is available by subscription
and at newsstands.
A reminder I leave you with is to have one goal when you're out
skiing, have more fun that the time before! More advanced tournaments
will come down the road with stiffer competition and more pressure.
For the time being, just take a relaxed but motivational approach
to competitive water skiing with your children.
I plan to write more articles in the future about skiing, emphasizing
junior skiers. Other topics will include coaching tips, bigger tournaments
like regionals and nationals, ski schools, and other issues.
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