After school gets active
January 16, 2009
For years, Youth Winter Sports Alliance (YWSA) Executive director Shelley Gillwald had been toying with an idea.
With all of the great winter sports options at The Utah Olympic Park (UOP) she wanted to figure out a way to get kids in the community up to the park to experience them. She finally launched a program last year, but because of conflicts with skiing and snowboarding and traffic issues, it didn’t quite have the debut she had hoped for.
This year, things are different.
Working in collaboration with Kerry Morgan, the ski and snowboard coordinator at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, and representatives from the parent-teachers organizations, Gillwald was able to launch a successful program that stretched throughout the Park City School District.
"It’s a community effort to get kids active," Gillwald said. "I’m thrilled with the program and the collaboration."
Every Friday for about three hours after school of the rest of the month, kids can climb on a buss provided by the Alliance and heads to the park to try a new sport. The sport options include introductions to ski jumping, freeriding or freestyle.
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Last school year, the program took place before the Christmas break, but there wasn’t enough time for the kids to really learn the sport before they the vacation. This year, Gillwald determined that January was the perfect time between school breaks and the busiest times at local resorts. A January start still allows kids a few months to enroll in more programs in whatever sport clinic they tried.
According to UOP marketing and public relations manager Linda Jager, it was an after-school program like this that gave Parkite Avery Ardovino her start in ski jumping. Ardovino fell in love with the sport and kept jumping until she made the U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping Team last year.
The two most important things about the program to Gillwald are that it gives local children choices and also promotes physical activity.
"Kids have Friday afternoons free," she said. "They can do more than sit in front of the Wii."
It also shows kids and parents all of the sport options in the area beyond alpine skiing and snowboarding.
Seventy elementary schools students signed up this years and Gillwald said that the popularity is growing.
"Every year, we hope to expand as much as we can," Gillwald said.
There is a price tag for the programs, $180 covers five weeks, but Gillwald says that scholarships are available so not child is excluded. Matt Terwillegar, the UOP’s sport services coordinator, did a lot of the planning with the programs. The National Sports Foundation will teach a Learn to Cross-country Ski clinic, Chris "Hatch Haslock" and Axis Freeride will teach Learn to Freeride, and Tim Preston from FLY Freestyle will teach children the basics of freestyle.
"It’s a huge effort everyone put together," Gillwald said. "It’s great to see everyone try to help kids."