Gate Talk: A pre-season Q&A with Brian Peterson of Team Breck
November 16, 2016
Editor's note: This is part two of a three-part Q&A series with coaches from the three local ski clubs: Team Summit Colorado, Team Breckenridge and Loveland Ski Club. See the Summit Daily on Friday for the final installment or visit the sports section at summitdaily.com for past interviews.
If a 16-year-old alpine racer can master the fundamentals on a crowded, icy, manmade run like High Noon at Arapahoe Basin in November, Brian Peterson knows they can master anything.
Before the start of on-snow training this winter season, the former developmental coach with Team Breckenridge Sports Club moved to a new position as fulltime ability coach. It was a major win for him — the Minnesota native has searched high and low for a fulltime ski club position since his time with Winter Park Competition Center — and an even bigger win for the club. He brings more than two decades of coaching experience to the team's ability program, which is designed for teenage skiers on the cusp of moving from good to great.
This season, Peterson's new role puts him on the snow with U-16 and U-19 racers. It's a much different atmosphere than the U-8 devo group he's been working with, but the veteran is up to the challenge. In his 10 years with Winter Park, he coached everything from age-class groups to the U-19 ability group, giving him the depth needed for Team Breck's intense — and highly competitive — teenage ability group.
Now, all Peterson and his crew need is snow. Like ski resort openings, the ski-racing calendar is stuck in limbo: Team Breck's season was scheduled to begin Thanksgiving weekend in Aspen, but the resort won't even open until Nov. 24 and races almost certainly won't happen. The next batch of alpine events at Copper Mountain the week after Thanksgiving is just as uncertain.
In the meantime, Peterson is preaching sound fundamentals during freeski sessions at A-Basin. His group is getting antsy, sure, but skills like edge control and body position are key to getting "stronger and better" — one of his overarching goals for the ability group.
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After putting his newborn to sleep around lunchtime, Peterson spoke with the Summit Daily sports desk about his ski club background, his plans for the ability group and why it's a coach's job to shape athletes into better people — not just better skiers.
Summit Daily News: Talk about ski racing as a kid. Where'd you get started?
Brian Peterson: I grew up skiing at Afton Alps (in Minnesota), which is now one of those Vail-owned hills. I raced there through high school, then I was a ski instructor and ski coach before I moved out here. I just had that love of skiing and the mountains, and I'd been to Colorado and Montana in the past for vacations. I interviewed at winter park, got a job coaching, and that was that.
SDN: Have you always been drawn to the coaching and instructing side of skiing?
BP: Absolutely. I've been coaching for 22 years now and I just absolutely love being on the hill. I love working with kids and seeing the progression, the discipline, that it takes to get from Point A to Point B. It's something that travels over into everyday life.
SDN: Funny you should say that. When I interview ski club coaches, it seems like they share one thing in common: they want their athletes to learn life skills and become better people through skiing. Why do you think that connection is so strong?
BP: There's a lot of responsibility, starting with taking care of your skis and equipment, or getting to practice on time, or having your lunch made even. For 10 and 11 year olds, you can give them responsibilities and it seems like a lot more than they can handle, but they do. With Team Breck, it's also a club sport. It's not affiliated with a school or anything else, like a baseball team where you can just walk out the back door. Parents are a big part of that too.
SDN: This season, you're making the transition from developmental coach to fulltime ability coach. Are you excited for the change of pace?
BP: I've been working on building a good foundation for that devo program, and one thing I always wanted to do was figure out how to do this fulltime. I tried the same thing in Winter Park: How can I make this financially viable fulltime for myself?
SDN: What has your ability group been working on early in the season?
BP: We've been working out at the rec center for the last seven weeks, going two or three or four days of training per week. We're working on balance and stance with weights and more, and a lot of this transfers to the hill. If the kids are having issues on the hill, we can figure it out and fix it off the hill a lot easier… Again, it shows the discipline these kids have to get to training.
SDN: Have you had any on-snow time yet?
BP: We've been doing a lot of freeskiing with fundamental drills at A-Basin. We've been doing that for a couple of weeks now and it's been good. The kids are enthusiastic just to be back on the snow. If you make it enjoyable and fun, that's how you keep it from getting monotonous on one run. The kids are wanting to get into gate training, but we can still get a lot of fundamental work done. That is key, and if they have those fundamentals, a racecourse is easy in comparison to A-Basin.
SDN: Before the season even begins, what are your big goals for the ability program?
BP: It's about getting the kids lots of experience at a lot of races. They'll start skiing faster and more comfortably with that experience, and then we'll keep working on strength and conditioning so that they can continue competing at that high level. We work on maintaining their season so that they peak in March or April for the championship races.
SDN: What's the toughest part of building a brand-new program, or coming into a new position with new athletes?
BP: It's the amount of sports these kids play. There are so many opportunities for kids to do other sports, especially in Colorado, so if we can keep them involved — show them the love of the sport of skiing — we hope they will stay with us and enjoy it. We'd just like to keep these guys moving forward and bring up some of these older kids as they get better and better. We're building a strong program.
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