Review Committee Shares Feedback from Stage 1

Austin Taylor met with key members of the Review process on January 23rd and received some feedback on the Alpine Ski team’s stage 1 submission.

In this report he shares with us the key points he was able to take away from those meetings. This information gives readers a pretty fair impression of how the team is being regarded heading into stage 2 and is intended to spur on some collaboration and feedback among alumni and supporters that can be used to improve the team’s stage 2 submission.

Beyond this report, a profile of the team’s current coach, Austin Taylor, who finds himself spearheading this effort during his first season in this volunteer position.

REVIEW FEEDBACK | Introduction:

“The general feedback on moving forward is that the existing structure of alpine ski racing in Canada and our current team structure really limits us in 50% of the criteria:

  • Competitive success, competition and progression (35%); and,
  • Supports for competitive success (15%).

Thus, where we can really excel is in the other three criteria, still worth 50% of our assessment:

  • Community Support & Tradition (20%)
  • Partnerships (10%)
  • Fit with University Mission (20%)

A 3rd party consultant hired on by the school to oversee all the teams and help them impartially through this process so that they can be successful in the review suggested we (the ski team) might want to focus on the 50% where we can excel, essentially “blitzing” that 50%.

It is important to remember that the team will be designated a competitive club at the end of stage two if it is not successful in securing varsity status—the team will not dissolve. As a competitive club, it will likely continue to function as it does now. (I say likely because they have not yet defined competitive club, but from what I can tell, teams’ structures would look something similar to our current structure.)

Below is the feedback on where we need to improve to better meet the criteria:

Competitive success, competition and progression – 35%

    • The existing structure of alpine skiing progression to a national team is beyond our control. However, our team acts as somewhat of a consistent portal to the ski racing community by retaining passionate skiers in the sport who continue on to be coaches, volunteers, or administrators in ski racing. Through the athletes continuing on with their roles in ski racing after graduation, we are indirectly supporting and assisting the progression of Canada’s top athletes on to the national team.
    • Quality of league and our success is acceptable, with the only minor demerit being the only available league is in the US.
    • From what I can tell, it seems as though progression takes the bulk of the three subcategories in the criteria, with many teams not selected in stage one because they do not place athletes on national or professional teams. 

2) Supports for competitive success – 15%

      • They recognized we cannot have a ski hill on campus, and realize the relationship with Grouse is our best option. These, however, are not the TEAM’S facilities. From what I understood, they viewed our training at Grouse as more of a “friendly relationship” as opposed to a “formal partnership”. Ideally, I think if we could get something from Grouse committing to the team for 5 years in writing to support us with night-time training passes and space, the committee would find this much better.
      • For the coaching portion of this criteria, they see the Tyee coaching as mediocre at best. They want a devoted UBC coach who works primarily with the UBC team. To begin moving toward this structure, a coaching position would need to be created for on-snow training and competitions. (Dryland could potentially be delivered through a partnership with the Kinesiology faculty.)
      • Managerial/administrative duties could, for the time being, be run by a student-athlete (budget, scheduling, etc) (some of us would say that’s an opportunity!)

3) Community support and tradition – 20%

      • Our ‘tradition’ score is good!
      • Due to skiing’s nature we cannot draw fans out to fill a stadium.  However, teams in a similar position (track and field, for example) were successful here through their work running programs/camps in the community. Moving forward to improve I think we should pursue running weekly dryland sessions in Vancouver for local athletes. This could provide some (minor) additional revenue for the team (funding support) as well.
      • Alternative funding sources – they are looking for new ideas here. It wasn’t directly addressed as a weakness for the team, but in the end, “money matters”. It might be worthwhile to suggest a larger commitment from the school in this section. We operate on such a tiny portion of the department’s budget that they cannot realistically expect us to deliver a national team feeder program for them, while they lack any significant contribution to the team – the school should be investing more (comparable to other teams) if they expect these returns.
      • Further alumni support and corporate sponsors would benefit here as well

4) Partnerships – 10%

      • Again, formalize the Grouse relationship
      • Further pursue the relationship with BC Alpine and how UBC plays a huge role in athlete retention for them (for BC in particular)
      • If the dryland sessions are brought in, we could partner with kinesiology students to deliver (and possible to create) the programs.

5) Fit with University mission – 20%

They had us rated as fairly average here which shocked me!

Ambassadorship and student-athlete academic success was great.

What they noted was that our team as a whole does not have partnerships with volunteer organizations. Although individuals in the past (and current) have done great volunteer work in the community, it seems they are looking for a direct link between the team and an organization with repeated contributions. An example given to me was some teams are partnered up with the Habitat for Humanity Global Village program and consistently send athletes on their volunteer trips. It seems sending 3 athletes once per year (from an entire team) to a developing country for 10 days is more favorable than year-round work with diverse organizations in Vancouver. Frustrating to say the least!

To better fit their model, we should pursue a partnership with an organization in the area for committed support from the team though so it can be documented. As the ski season can get quite hectic, something unrelated to skiing would be ideal as we can put more effort into the work in the off-season. Right to Play might be a great option, and we’d welcome any ideas or affiliations the alumni may have.

Now armed with this direction, coach/athlete Austin Taylor has his work cut out for him—and there’s a mountain of it. Taking on the team’s coaching responsibilities this season from former teammate Ben Middleton (who also took over from then-teammate Ben Millar prior to that), he’s a 4th year BioChem student, currently heading with the team to Mt. Bachelor for conference races this weekend. In fact, the team will be competing over the next few weekends through to Regional Championships in Montana, followed by National Championships being held in March. Amid all that, surely with a few midterm exams to factor in, he’s got the deadline for Stage 2 fast approaching (February 3rd).

When asked why he devotes so much time to this effort, though, his answer seems genuine and clear:

“I really cannot imagine a university experience without this team. It has certainly been the highlight of my time here at UBC, and I would be devastated to see the team go. I took on the coaching position because I wanted to do more for the amazing people involved with the team. Whether it is carrying on the team’s legacy from the alumni, or maintaining and creating new opportunities for the current and future UBC skiers, it’s a dedicated and truly remarkable group of people to be involved with. In addition to surrounding yourself with incredibly passionate skiers, the coaching/managing side appealed as it was a new area to the sport I didn’t have much knowledge in — I did not know exactly what happened behind the scenes to run a team like this. At the time I didn’t really know I would be taking on this Sport Review, but I think it has really helped me to establish where the team has come from, where it is currently, and the key challenges facing the team, all of which have been instrumental in identifying problems and creating solutions to tackle these problems.  

Although it takes some time away from school, what I have learned in leadership, organization, and management this past half-year with coaching has been greater than in the entirety of my university classroom education. It is also really rewarding to see an idea unfold into reality, and to see the results of these ideas. Even more rewarding is having your teammates succeed, and knowing that you helped them achieve the challenging goals they have set.”

Testimony to the leadership skills he’s honing through his experience, Austin will now lead the Skibirds into Stage 2 of the Sports Review Process—but not alone.

Alumni collaboration is needed to ensure we have explored all opportunities to take Alpine Skiing to the level now required to maintain Varsity status, and continue the legacy that has become associated with Alpine Skiing at UBC.

Help Austin lead the ski team to continued Varsity status at UBC. Reach him at ajtski@hotmail.com with your feedback and ideas for a sustainable funding model before next week.

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4 Responses to Review Committee Shares Feedback from Stage 1

  1. Bob Donnelly says:

    As a former national, provincial, and club coach with over 40 years of experience, I would like to add a few points that may help the context:
    – there are dozens of universities in the States and Québec that hire top quality, certified professional coaches, train on-snow from between 25 and 50 days prior and during competition, and in many cases have athletes that either qualify or are considered by Alpine Canada for international competition.
    – these programs are funded by various means and may include the athletes, the universities and outside sponsors.
    – UBC punches well above its` weight class and could easily move from athlete run competitive program to elite level given the quality of athlete currently on the team.
    – consider that Alpine Canada is already moving athletes on a regular basis between university and national team and is at this time beginning a strategic planning process for the next quadrennial that includes increased emphasis on the university programs as a logical component of the development process and for mature athletes.
    – skiing is a lifetime, family sport with considerable lifestyle and health benefits apart from the industry generated by almost 4 million Canadians who are regular skiers. No other sport promotes health, personal improvement, and family unity and spirit as much as alpine and cross-country skiing. On this basis skiing should be promoted in the university as part of the fabric of our society.
    – finally, skiing is a supreme challenge involving every mental and physical capacity, technology, equipment, travel, and even finance, in relentless and impossibly variable environments to compete in, and against the clock that never stops. There is no better training of life skills than skiing and isn`t that also what a university education should be about?
    Yours truly,
    Bob Donnelly

    • Gill says:

      Thanks for sharing your comments, Bob, you’ve articulated what many of us feel are key points to this whole effort that are being undervalued by UBC through this process.

      • Bob, well said! Hopefully this type of feedback can be communicated to the athletics department.
        AJ, Ben? Bob is a great ambassador to ski racing in Canada and very well respected coach.

        • Gill says:

          These comments, and all feedback and survey replies being captured, are being incorporated into the stage 2 document being compiled by Austin, with Ben. Please keep the feedback coming!

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