Emilie Springer - Learning to ski
Homer’s Junior Nordic Ski Club held the first day of practice on Saturday (Jan. 30). Kathy Sarns is the Volunteer Director with a lot of volunteer help, especially this year with many COVID protocols to keep the program operating. She’s been doing this for awhile; actually started as the volunteer director for the Anchorage Jr. Nordic in 1984. Sarns says, “They needed a head coach. I stepped in, organized and watched that program grow from 20 kids to 800 or thousand. It felt really good to help establish a lot of what they did to organize that many kids.”
Sarns told me a little bit about her own ski background. She started skiing as an undergraduate at the University of Maine Orono. When the University had her join she did not know how to ski, but they needed girls for the team. It was a slow start, she said, “I came in dead last back East. Dead last unless somebody was injured or something. I clearly remember learning how to skate.”
“I've always had a passion for teaching kids. I remember in college I wish I had learned earlier in life. And, I think that just stuck with me and I have these junior Nordic kids that I get to watch get to be better and better skiers.”
The Homer program started in the 90’s and the first coordinator/ coaches were Dave Brann, Kenton Bloom, Doug Schweisow and Ken Jones. Sarns started helping locally in 2009 and there were about 20 youth participating then.
Despite the anxieties of COVID, the program is continuing this year with many restrictions in place to help Homer youth from kindergarten to 6th grade. This year Sarns and the Kachemak Nordic Ski club worked directly with Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink & her team to help develop this year's COVID plan. There are a few major differences. There are three locations for youth skiers: McNeil, Lookout Trails and Baycrest. Each place will limit the number of participants. There will be one head coach per location and then the youth are split into several groups depending on age, ski-level and gear type with a coach for each group. This year there is a total of 40 volunteer coaches.
Group names are: Sea Stars, Puffins, Cohos, Sockeyes, Harbor Seals and Salmon Sharks. The main goal for each group? Have fun. Sarns highlights that, “the biggest thing about this program is we emphasize fun on skis! We don't want the kids to get burned out or stressed out before they're even in high school. So, our emphasis is to keep moving, keep playing games, challenge them any way we can on skis. Like we play tag, we ski backwards, learn how to do three sixties, play hide and seek, play red light green light. This year we just have to play AND keep the kids six to 10 feet apart.”
Sarns concludes, “Once kids get hooked on Nordic skiing and that freedom feeling of going places on their own power, something changes in their brain and they develop a love for seeking healthy, fun adventures in life. It instills a confidence that carries to all areas of their lives.”
It is not too late to sign up! Find more details at Kachemak Nordic Ski Club.