Coach Sederquist acquires L200 certification at NENSA Coaches Conference on Dublin Campus
U.S. Olympic Coach Matt Whitcomb gave keynote speech while Head of Development Bryan Fish led coaches courses
With snow still at least a month away, coaches representing programs from the EISA, top New England junior clubs, and New England middle school and high school teams congregated on the beautiful campus of the Dublin School in Dublin, New Hampshire for the NENSA Coaches Clinic and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Level 100 and Level 200 clinics. Representing the University of Maine at Presque Isle was head coach Ryan Sederquist, who was in attendance to acquire his Level 200 coaches certification as well as interact with colleagues and hear from key note speakers, including Matt Whitcomb, the head coach of the U.S. Women's Nordic Ski team, which captured the first Olympic Gold medal in the sport of cross country skiing this past winter in the PyeongChang games in February. The weekend included a full day of classes on Saturday, followed by a dinner and the keynote sessions. The courses wrapped up Sunday morning with a rollerski demonstration and small group discussions on formulating training plans for various age groups, part of the final project to be submitted for L200 coaches.
"I'm so thankful I was able to attend the sessions – it was an incredible opportunity to be in a small classroom setting and receive instruction from the coaches who instruct our national athletes," said Coach Sederquist. "Even though Saturday was a long day – we were basically in a lecture from 9 until 6 – I was in full absorption mode the whole time! I think the sound of my keyboard as I took notes throughout each section probably drove some of the other coaches a little crazy!" he joked.
The sessions were led by Bryan Fish, the head of development at US Ski and Snowboard, and a former coach at CXC, a junior and pro development ski club based out of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sederquist, a former educator, noted a shift in focus by Fish in the L200 levels versus L100 as not being so much on the "what" but more the "how" to teach different techniques.
"I'm a big pedagogical guy – in music, sports, physiology, anything – so it was great to see how Bryan related the process of teaching Nordic skiing to many of these other disciplines."
The move toward an implicit learning process – experience and then explanation, depending on the age and stage – was emphasized through what U.S. Ski and Snowboard calls the "games approach." It was reminiscent to Sederquist, a former educator, and his approach to teaching music, where young people need to experience things with their senses before they are able to comprehend the concepts fully.
"In the same way that I'd have students tap out the beat on a drum instead of trying to give a lecture on why there are four quarter notes in four-four time, I don't always need to preface a rollerski drill by trying to explain to my athlete how the purpose is to focus on weight shift. We just do the drill and the concept is embedded in the doing." With a young team here at UMPI, Sederquist is hopeful that his education background will translate into efficient scaffolding of ski concepts for his developing skiers. "It felt a little bit like I was in a professional development class again – only for skiing! It was a blast."
Through an exceptionally clean and compelling keynote, coach Matt Whitcomb also provided inspiring words and advice on building team culture. In his first year, Sederquist has pushed for developing his own mantra for team culture, embodied by the acronym "SKI IT," with hopes of creating an environment where skiing is a means by which lifelong skills are intentionally developed in the pursuit of excellence. The topic was and is a keen interest and focus of his as he finishes is Master's degree in exercise science and begins his collegiate coaching career.
"I've seen some highly successful high school, collegiate, and professional programs close up, and the hallmark for all of them is a healthy team culture. Matt's speech – which was a clinic on public speaking alone, filled my notebook with ideas and concepts. Even after 10 hours of classes, I was fully mesmerized by what he had to say."
Whitcomb also showed the close knit nature of the Nordic ski scene, offering feedback to the young UMPI coach on his ideas for development of team culture and the SKI IT creed, which calls for athletes to Strive for true success, Kick with a purpose, Intensely focus, and value Integrity and Team.
"I reached out to Matt after the conference, thanking him and presenting the work I had done to develop our team culture, and he was generous enough to give of his time and provide feedback – and this while he was on some much needed vacation!" Sederquist revealed afterwards. "I think his taking the time to do that was another lesson in and of itself – a true leader is a humble, servant leader who is willing to give back to those coming up the pipeline. I look forward to hopefully having some future conversations with him. Someday, I hope I can be the coach who gives back to someone else, too."
A lifelong learner, Sederquist plans to continue studying and pursuing education in the sport of Nordic skiing. "I've already booked a recruiting visit to Norway in March," Sederquist excitedly brought up. "In addition to meeting with some junior athletes in the Oslo and Lillehammer area, I'll be partnering with a ski club there and getting in touch with some of the exercise scientists who work directly with the national teams. There's always something you can learn from everyone – and I'm eager to get it!"