After-school luge program returns | ParkRecord.com

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After-school luge program returns

After a successful run in 2013, the U.S. Luge Association will again team up with the Youth Sports Alliance and the Utah Olympic Park for the After School Luge Program.

Designed for youths between ages 8 and 13, the program targets athletes who have never been on a luge sled before.

USA Luge Western Regional Program Director Jon Owen said even though the program is designed for beginners, it can quickly lead to bigger and better opportunities in the sport.

"We have lots of kids who have gone through the program before," he said. "About half the Junior National Team right now has come through this program. It’s an experiential program for kids to come try it. Then, if they like it, they can stick with it."

The program will run on three Fridays Oct. 31, Nov. 7 and Nov. 21. The cost is $100. Students from Ecker Hill Middle School will have transportation to and from the Olympic Park made available to them. Children from other schools in the area (grades 3-7) can also participate, but they’ll have to arrange their own transportation. The program will limit itself to 15 kids, Owen said.

"That ensures there’s enough space and it doesn’t limit the kids’ sliding time," he said. "It gives them enough time each day so they can gain the skills and see themselves improving."

Owen noted that the kids in the program won’t jump right into Olympic-distance sledding. Instead, they’ll work their way up the track when they become more comfortable.

"They start down low on the track," he said. "We’re not pushing them off at Olympic speeds."

Once kids start in the luge program, Owen said, most of them will stick with the sport.

"We have a high retention rate," he said. "Last year we had 14 in the program. Out of all the kids last year who gave it a try, almost all of them are still in a luge program. The one who isn’t moved to Chicago."

This year will offer a great chance to quickly move into competition, should a child so choose, Owen said.

"We have Youth Nationals here this year," he said. "So some kids who jump in can end up competing at nationals at the end of their first year."

Owen added that the Park City program is unique in America, which is why so many of the athletes are able to quickly progress.

"It’s the only program like it in the United States," he said. "Calgary [Canada] runs a similar program, so there are only two in North America."

Owen said this is the best way Americans can try to match Germany, a country that dominates the sport of luge. In Germany, Owen said, kids often participate in luge as part of their in-school physical education programs.

Though it’s a great way to start a luge career, Owen said the most important thing about the program is making sure the kids involved have a good time.

To sign up for the After School Luge Program, email Owen at parkcityluge@usaluge.org or call him at 435-647-3800. The registration deadline for the program is Oct. 17.