Blake Hughes, a once-standout Park City ski jumper, goes from student to teacher for USA Nordic
It’s a cliché to say the “student has now become the teacher.” But for Parkite Blake Hughes, his journey from student to teacher has been anything but trite — now culminating with him becoming the new women’s national team director for USA Nordic.
“I never thought I would ever be a coach,” Hughes said. “I don’t regret what happened to me as a ski jumper because it made me the coach I am — and now is the time to really work.”
It wasn’t always the smoothest of journeys for Hughes, going from a highly touted ski jumper as a youth to someone who completely fell off the radar by his early 20s. Still the lessons learned throughout his triumphs and tribulations ultimately helped shaped him into the coach he is today.
“My story, my journey was all about showing talent at a young age, I kind of coasted on being ‘good’ because that’s what I was told,” Hughes said. “I don’t say ‘good luck,’ I say ‘take luck’ — you can be told you’re good, you can be told you have potential, but you don’t rest on just that.”
Hughes got his start into coaching by a stroke of fate.
After retiring from ski jumping and returning to Park City in 2009, he found work in hotels and other odd jobs. He was content.
Just three months later, Hughes got his feet wet coaching. His close friend Evan Bliss, who was coaching ski jumping in Park City, got offered a job in New York and told Hughes to take over for him.
“I quit the hotel and started coaching full-time, and that’s how it all started for me,” Hughes said. “It’s all Evan’s fault. … It’s definitely safe to say that without him leaving, I would not be where I’m at today with the opportunity I’ve been given.”
After climbing the coaching ranks the past nine years, Hughes began to get a feeling that, when the women’s national team director position became open, he would be a natural fit.
“I kind of knew that this was the aspiration we were heading because there was a hole that needed to be filled,” Hughes said of the position. “They were going through the items of the job description and I was like, ‘I’m already doing all that’ so it was a normal progression.”
Hughes’ interest in winter sports began when he moved to Park City at the age of 2 — putting on a pair of skis at just 14 months old because his dad was a ski instructor.
But things got more serious in 1992 when he was 6.
Park City opened up the ski jumps at the Utah Olympic Park leading into the Olympics that would follow 10 years later.
“It was either with my dad or my uncle but they said let’s go try the new ski jumps,” Hughes said. “I did it once and I knew it’s what I wanted to do. Although my mom was kind of against it, I signed up for the ‘Learn to Jump’ program the next year.”
Hughes immediately climbed the ranks of the elite, competing in the World Juniors, possessing tremendous natural ability and potential to be one of the first American greats in the sport.
But it never came to fruition. After struggling to continue his growth as a ski jumper during his prime years (14-19), Hughes decided to “buckle down and give it one last go.” He ended up in Europe, competing in multiple competitions. Despite a myriad of results, some good and some bad, Hughes elected to retire and return to Park City in 2009. Unbeknownst to him, it led to the beginning of the rest of his life — as a coach.
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