How and why did you get into coaching?
“Since I was a child, it has always been my dream to become one of the greatest skiers in the world. My whole life has been focused on skiing, so to speak, and I always told myself, If I don’t make the leap to the top of the world, I still want to be connected to snowsports. Unfortunately, I did have to call time on my skiing career due to a few injuries.
“Immediately afterwards I started my training in the ski instructor area and also in the coaching area, then I trained our home ski club for 2 years. Shortly afterwards, Mario Rafetzeder (GB Snowsport Alpine coach) called me to see if I was interested in training the GB Snowsport group together with him.”
What are your main responsibilities as a coach?
“Organising camps or training days as well as the slope preparation on the day before training. We have to set the courses in the morning on the snow, make sure that possible dangers are limited and that the course is always kept up-to-date in case a pole breaks out or something else. There’s also the nitty-gritty logistics, like booking hotels where we stay, and last but not least, building a good relationship with the athletes.
“But the main task of coaching is analysing, finding mistakes, correcting them, and make those corrections as quickly as possible, either through targeted slow driving, or through small tips that an athlete at this level can easily implement in the course. To find these small or big mistakes – the things that can make a real difference in an athlete’s development – we use a camera where we can play the videos in slow motion. All that video material is then discussed together with the athletes as part of their development.”
How important is the mental/psychological side of coaching in a modern athlete’s development?
“We know now that it’s one of the most important points for athletes who really want to become the very best. At the top the air gets scarcer and the athletes get better and better; it’s in those moments that being mentally strong is very helpful.
“In my opinion you can be the best skier but if your head doesn’t play along, your talent is unfortunately lost.”
How is the new generation of athletes’ expectations of coaching different from what was expected 10 years ago?
“I think that the coaches were very dominant in the past. What a coach said is correct; there was no other option.
“Nowadays it’s a more collegiate process. The athlete is more involved, there is a better relationship, and points are discussed before decisions are made.”
Is analysing competition/training footage useful for athlete improvement and development? If so, has tech like mobile phones and drones made this easier?
“Yes, that’s one of our main tasks and cameras, drones help us to find even the smallest errors that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
“A coach without a camera is like a jockey without a horse!”
What was the biggest challenge coaching athletes during the most restricted moments last year? How did you manage to maintain a coaching approach with athletes during lockdown?
“To be honest the last year hasn’t been easy for anyone. Not for the associations, not for the organisers, not for the coaches and also not for the athletes.
“The biggest challenge was to make a plan. You could hardly plan two days in advance, because nobody knew exactly whether the races would take place or not; each race felt like it was postponed 5 times! You always felt there was a risk that coronavirus regulations would change what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do.
“The good thing was that our ski area where we always train, Reiteralm Bergbahnen, was open to professional sports. Because of that, we were always able to keep a high standard of training up.
“That was our advantage: we only have a 5-minute drive to our “office”, to that mountain. And that’s what meant we were able to maintain the coaching approach with athletes during the lockdown.”
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