January 12, 2016
Last Friday, around 2 p.m., my son Seth, a third-grader at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, tried Nordic jumping for the first time — thanks to Youth Sports Alliance Get Out and Play. the time he landed his second jump, he skated out of the runout, shouting, "That was awesome!!! Please let me join the Nordic club!"
Readers of my blog know that I was overcome by the emotional impact of witnessing the moment my child "found" a sport. They also know that by Saturday afternoon, Seth was a member of Park City Nordic Ski Club’s Hoppers program. Whether this is a one-winter experiment, a lifetime commitment, or something in between, my young child’s life has been enriched, already, by those first jumps. In fact, his older brother’s experiences in GOAP skating and XC skiing camps only fueled his enthusiasm for including those sports in his recreational quiver.
GOAP Program Manager Heather Sims told me that the first two days of the session involved six schools, seven locations, 127 scholarships, 15 buses, five vans, five ski shops—and I don’t know how many professional coaches and parent volunteers—all working together to get 690 students out to enjoy sports like snowboarding, skating, freestyle skiing, Nordic skiing, Nordic jumping, alpine skiing, and more. "So many kids had first experiences this week," Heather told me, "I can’t tell you how happy I was yesterday standing on the snow watching a bunch of kids who have never been on skis or snowboards before, wearing helmets, goggles, and huge grins on their faces. I knew who they were because I could recognize the skis and snowboards that Rossignol had donated (over 100 sets) and I had spent three nights with the staff at Switchback Sports fitting them. This program makes my heart happy."
Amazingly, in their initial exposure to these sports, our students are often coached by highly accomplished athletes. It’s sort of astounding to realize they can take such access for granted. When I described to my husband the ease with which three-time Olympic ski jumper Anders Johnson translated his skills and his love of the sport to his pint-sized charges, he turned to the kids and asked, semi-rhetorically, "How many Olympic athletes do you know, let alone having one coach you?" The joke was on him when the boys named the many Olympians they know. So much for making a point.
But, maybe that is the point — our village is richer for these athletes who give back and for the hard work and dedication of the team at YSA: Aimee Preston, Christy Dias, Jan Mitchell, Liz Craig Myers, Heather Sims, Trina Erhard, and Jennifer Carmichael, who create opportunities our kids can, in the best possible way, take for granted. This is not to say that they don’t appreciate it. My son thanked me, all the way home, for letting him try jumping. And I know he’s not the only one. I’m passing along his thanks to everyone involved with YSA — from private and corporate donors, to administrators and coaches, and to parent volunteers. As YSA enters the final stretch to complete the $2 million fundraising goal that the late Stein Eriksen set for the Opportunity Endowment, I can think of no better way to honor his memory, and the spirit of play we wish for our children, than to help — in any way we can — to reach that goal.