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FROM THE JUNIOR'S PERSPECTIVE

Updated 2/19/06

GETTING STARTED...WITH KIDS by Natalie Hammel

Ski Schools
Ski Schools are training facilities that offer juniors and other water skiers a great opportunity to heighten their skiing capability.  They are also an excellent, active vacation for a water skiing families, as many are a camp-like operation.  Schools are spread throughout the country, but the majority are found in the southern states due to warm weather and a longer season.

Generally ski schools run on weekdays, 5-days a week, and skiing is dismissed on the weekends. All schedules differ within the ski schools however.          Generally ski schools run on weekdays, 5-days a week, and skiing is dismissed on the weekends. All schedules differ within the ski schools however.  There are additional plans that you can choose from at ski schools.  Weekend lessons and private lessons by certain coaches are available at most ski schools.  These can be infrequent and availability should be asked of the owner of the ski school.  If you choose not to stay a week, plans also go by the day, hour, or set.

Each ski school has their different definition of a set but usually they last around 15 minutes.  This is about 6-8 slalom passes or 5 jumps.  Normally, on a week or day program,  a skier will receive 4 to 5 sets a day.  In all sets you are coached and driven by staff members that will help improve your childs or your technique.

The hours on ski schools can vary, but I've found most to start skiing around 7:00 to 8:00 am and finish around 5:00 to 6:00 pm.  Skiers will ski about 2-3 sets in the morning.  At noon or 1:00 pm lunch is served.  After about an hour lunch break, skiing is resumed and skiers finish the remainder of their sets left.

When picking a ski school, take into consideration your child's needs and priorities along with some things you would consider to be assets.  I would recommend that the first time your child goes to a ski school that it be a family trip or at least one parent goes along.  This is because kids might tend to be intimidated by ski schools.  Also, there might not be any children your childs age so they could get lonely and homesick.

Magazines like Water Ski   can help you pick a ski school.  They print lists of ski schools in their magazine yearly.  The directory was just published in the November/December issue of Water Ski.  The list included the levels taught, address, rates, telephone and fax numbers, e-mail and web site addresses, events taught, top instructors, their season, accommodations, and boats used.  You can also check on the internet at USA Water Ski web page (www.usawaterski.org) to find out recommended ski schools.

Another excellent way to find your perfect ski school is word of mouth.  Ask people at tournaments which ski schools theyve been to or would recommend for younger children.  Find out what they liked and didnt enjoy about the school.  Compare and contrast until you find a ski school suited for you and your children.

Before sending your child down to  a ski school by themselves or with your family, call the ski school and ask them some questions to familiarize yourself with how they operate.  I have listed below some questions you might want to ask the owners.

If your child is flying down by themselves, check to see what arrangements need to be made between you and the ski school so that they are successfully picked up and their baggage is located.  Also, you might check with the ski school if they are sending someone to the gate to pick up your child.  If not, ask if they can and also do it when your junior has to depart.

All ski schools run differently, with different accommodations, meals, instructors, entertainment, and their schedule.  Before sending your child to one or taking a family trip yourself, question them on these subjects.  It is important that you know whether your child will be supervised and instructed on the schedule of the ski school or whether it is expected of them to be more independent.

Some ski schools provide activities for children to do at night but it should not be assumed that all do.  Check with the ski school to see if they include nightly activities for children or children and parents.  If not, depending on the location, there might be some fun shops or attractions that your family can explore.

The next step after choosing your ski school is deciding when to go and how to get your child ready - being able to prepare them physically and teaching them about ski schools.  Below I have listed some topics you as the parents need to work on figuring out with your child.

Ski schools are run like tournaments in the sense that when the boat comes back to the dock, the next skier should be ready to go.  Make sure your child is comfortable with the set up of the course and is able to communicate with the driver.  They should know the proper hand signals and be able to verbally communicate their desires.  For example, if they want their trick speed slower or to raise their slalom speed they must know how to communicate this.

You need to decide what timing is best to send your child.  Do you want them to go in the spring to get a head start on their skiing, or in the summer before an important tournament?  Ski schools can be busier at certain times than others, especially the spring, and the rates might differ according to these times.

Skiing five days a week can be exhausting and tiring.  Conditioning your child before they go to a ski school can help with this.  If you decide that your child is going in the spring, try to time it at a point where your child has skied a few sets before they go.  In addition to this, you might want them to do some aerobic and strength exercises, or a sport before they leave to build up cardiovascular endurance and strength.

How long should you spend at a ski school?  Several things factor into this question: the amount of money you're willing to pay, your child's conditioning, if you're going along with them, and their level of skiing.  Ski schools can be expensive, running along $500-600 average per week.  For beginning and intermediate skiers, I would recommend a weeks stay, and if you can fit it into your schedule perhaps two weeks.   Different children from all ages to go ski schools.  What age you decide to send your child though is an individual decision.  I've seen children as young as five at ski schools.  My first ski school experience was when I was entering my second year in girls one and was eight years old.  It was a family trip with my dad and older sister, then 12 years old. At that time I was learning how to run the course at 28 m.p.h. and execute beginning wake tricks on one trick ski.

I feel that instead of judging when you should send your child based on age, send them based on maturity and ability.  For your child to get the most benefit and value for your money, I would recommend that they be able to at least be able to run the slalom course and do a couple of surface turns on a pair of trick skis.  However, ski schools can help any level of skier. Maturity is the key factor though.  Your child needs to be able to follow directions, listen, apply what the instructors tell them, and be able to interact with other ski school members with courtesy.

There are also some things parents need to keep in mind while at the ski school.  For example, it is fine for parents to ride in the boat to help their child adjust but just make sure you let the coaches do the coaching.  While in the boat, its a good idea to talk with the coaches and have them explain to you why they told your child a certain technique.  After understanding, jot down the pointer in a note book.  Then, when back home, you can recognize what your child needs to improve on and teach them what the coach recommended.

After a full week of skiing, you and your children will probably be exhausted and a little tired of skiing talk.  Take the time on the drive home or flight to just enjoy each others presence.  Wait until the next ski session to talk about their skiing from your notes.  With this little break, theyll be more willing to cooperate-and as always, things will be more fun!

For those who dont feel ready yet to send their child to a ski school or spend the amount of money needed, clinics are a great alternative.  You can check to see what clinics are in your area according to your region's web site and listings posted at local tournaments.  Also, you may inquire about clinics by asking your Junior Development Committee Representative.

Clinics usually last from 1 to 5 days.  According to the experience and rating of the coach or coaches used at the clinic, cost will differ.  Clinics are run just like ski schools and tournaments in the sense that you must be ready when the boat comes back to the dock.  They also might supply meals but this would have to be verified with the person organizing the clinic.

Clinics can be more child friendly and less intimidating than ski schools.  Clinics that are just for juniors are great since the coaches will know how to coach juniors well, there will be a lot of children your childs own age, and the experience level of the group will be roughly the same.

The atmosphere at clinics can be slightly more laid back than that of a ski school but they still follow most basic guidelines that ski schools do.  The same questions that you should ask upon the ski school owners or figure out with your child, should be done with clinics.

Return to Jr Perspectives Index

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A series of articles about waterskiing by Junior Team Members

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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

 

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