GETTING STARTED...WITH KIDS by Natalie Hammel
A complication for some parents is coaching their kids. They
have to make the transition and switch back and forth from being
a parent to a coach. Sometimes the two roles can get mixed up.
Luckily, there are several good opportunities for parents to look
for coaching ideas, whether they be at ski sites, web pages, people,
or magazines. (In my earlier article I gave some information about
web pages, magazines, and other additional references.)
One source is asking skiers at
tournaments. Parents that have raised water skiing kids themselves
or people that have coached kids before are an excellent source.
You might even ask some of the juniors in the Boys 3 and Girls 3
divisions to see what coaching techniques worked for them when they
Also look for and ask about clinics and ski schools
you could attend. This year at Bear Lake, Marie Fields organized
a terrific Level 1 clinic for young skiers. The skiers consisted
of those who had skied maybe one or two tournaments but were still
just beginning competitors. The coaches at this clinic were
Adele Roach who works at Jennifer Leachmen's Ski School part-time
and me, a Girls 3 junior skier.
I noticed Adele using a couple
strategies for coaching the kids and I had some myself that seemed
to work well at this clinic. One strategy is always noticing
the skier's improvement and telling them when they did it right.
Always stay positive. For instance, if the junior didn't quite
do what you told them the before pass, but you noticed they were
at least trying, tell them they made a good effort and reinforce
again what they need to work on.
When you coach your kids, make
them repeat what you told them before they go out to ski the next
pass or try the next trick. This way you can see if they were
listening and if they understand what you told them. Going
a step further would even be asking your child when they came in
or before they go out to ski again what they're trying to improve
on and what coaching tips you gave them.
When your children get older and
more serious into competitive water skiing, they might write down
notes on the coaching tips they receive in their skiing lessons.
Many older juniors and adults do this to reinforce techniques and
pointers. Those days may be a little far off though, (unless
your child has a desire to keep the notebook.) For the time
being parents, why not keep a notebook of your child's skiing yourself?
You could include in it the new tricks they learned, how to perform
these tricks, information on ski schools, what your child learned
at a clinic, timing for the gates, ect. Keeping this journal
will give you something to look back to and track your child's skiing
Dry land practice helps tremendously
in building your child's skiing technique. Brent Larsen, father
of pro trick skiers Tawn and Britt, told me 80% of what you do on
land you do on the water. To practice for slalom, tie the
handle to the boat pylon or a pole and have your child practice
the right lean, or "leverage position" behind the boat.
The reason I say leverage position,
is that the right position behind the boat has more to do with position
than just leaning away from the boat. A couple of these other
things are: hips up to the handle (not always touching the handle
but as far up as they can go), knees slightly bent, back straight,
and arms kept into their sides, (or "hugging" their vest).
A technique to steer clear of is pulling in on the rope with your
arms. Many kids, and adults too think if they pull in they
can somehow control the boat. In reality, all this does is
give you a weak leverage position and pulls you up onto a flat ski.
In slalom skiing, the cut across the wakes is the most essential
technique to work on for beginning skiers.
For tricks make sure they know
how to stand on the ski or skis, knees bent, weight centered over
the ski, and hips forward. Have your child hold onto a handle
and practice turns on land. They can walk out the turns but
you also might have them try standing on a towel or socks on a slightly
slippery floor. This gives more of the turning of the ski/s
motion. When turning, make sure eyes are looking up in back
position, weight is forward on balls of feet, knees are bent, and
handle is close in to body in turns with arms bent.
In addition to practicing running
the course and performing tricks, other exercises or games, can
help improve your junior's skiing. For beginning slalom skiers
that are just running a couple buoys in the course, have your child
run the mini course at shorter line lengths. In the mini-course,
or B-course, the boat drives right in between the line of the skier
buoys and the boat guides. Then the skier skis outside the
buoys on one side and the boat guides on the other side. Keep
on pulling in the rope with each successful pass completed.
Once your child finished the 32-35 off loop range, try to go back
to the big course. The mini course helps establish rhythm
If you find that in the big course
they are having a difficult time making more than 2 or 3 buoys,
have them shadow the rest of the balls. Shadowing is turning
inside the ball. This way they can still be able to feel the
rhythm of the slalom course. Another slalom drill that can
also be a trick drill is counting how many times your junior can
cross the wakes in a certain amount of time (i.e. 20 seconds).
This helps if your child has a fear of crossing the wakes by giving
them more confidence each time they accomplish a wake crossing or
beat their best score. It also just helps the skier adapt
to riding the ski.
A drill similar to what I mentioned
above is the cut game. It is used in slalom skiing.
The purpose of this game is to help your child establish a good
lean behind the boat in both cutting directions. The skier
should start outside of number one buoy. They can turn around
the buoy or a little bit in front of it, if that makes it easier
to do the next part of this drill. Once they make their turn,
the must cross the wakes and make it outside of number two ball.
They don't have to go around the #2 buoy. All they must do
is make it to the line of the buoys before #2. After doing
this, have them wait out there till number four ball. Then,
have them do the same thing, this time trying to get over to number
On trick skis the possibilities
for games reach far. You could have your child try to jump
over first one wake, then as they get better both wakes. To
make it easier for your child, shorten their rope and/or bring the
boat speed up 2 mph when jumping the wakes. You also can have
your child ride or hold the back and reverse back position as long
as they can. Then, you can spice this game up by having the
junior cross the wakes while riding in the back position.
You could also have the junior run the mini-course on one ski or
These games although fun,
can become boring if you don't vary them regularly. If you
have more than one child doing these drills why not throw in a little
friendly competition into the games to make them more exciting?
Better yet, you could invent more games for your children and have
them make up ones themselves!
One family that I think has done
more for junior water skiers than anyone else I know is the Lohrs.
I always see new faces at the Lohr's on the weekends. As well
as hearing stories about Steve and Anne teaching kids how to ski
and sometimes lending them skis to use at their lake.
I know they helped me get started along with dozens of others and
I think they deserve recognition for their involvement in getting
juniors into water skiing, which goes far beyond their national
champion children Ben and Sue.
Encouraging kids to ski is great
but remember, don't push your children into skiing if they truly
don't want to. Some coaxing here and there is fine but when
it becomes a "dreadful" experience to go to the lake it's just sending
back negative feelings to them about water skiing.
Always try to have a strict goal
every time you ski--to have fun! Higher level training and
tournaments will come down the road, if you start out with the right
foundation of the basics. Hopefully, a loving, passionate
relationship with water skiing will result out of this with your
Watch for my coming articles on
bigger tournaments such as regionals and nationals, ski schools,
higher-level training programs, and more! As always, if you
have any suggestions or comments please send them to me and I will
try to incorporate them into future articles.
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