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Updated 2/19/06


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 says.

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 USA Water ski's Official Web Site can be located under the address 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 tricks.

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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A series of articles about waterskiing by Junior Team Members


Natalie Hammel is a nationally ranked 3-event skier and a member of the US Junior Water Ski Team. She holds the Eastern Region and Virginia State Records in Girls 1 slalom, trick, overall, and Girls 2 slalom. She is the daughter of Roger and Lynda Hammel and trains at Timberlake Ski Club. She is 14 years old and an eighth grade student at Herndon Middle School.


Natalie is sponsored by
Performance Ski
and Surf

Jack Travers at Sunset Lake
Gold's Gym of Herndon, VA


2006 National Junior Teams

2005 National Junior Teams

2004 National Junior Team

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2002 JD Timberlake (awaiting new link)

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