Monday, December 18, 2017

Nordic Program Director Rick Kapala Teaches More Than Skiing Skills

February 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured Articles

By Nicolette House

Spend a few moments talking with Nordic ski coach Rick Kapala and you’ll immediately understand why the young members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation are so successful. Their achievements on the mountain are numerous, but as Kapala points out, it’s never the medals or results they reminisce about when graduating the program. It’s the friendships, personal growth, and the experience they talk about.

Much of that holistic outlook on sports can be attributed to Kapala’s coaching  style. It’s evident that his love of the moutains, a lifelong active lifestyle, and  an emphasis on striving to be one’s personal best makes him and the SVSEF stand out  among other ski programs. The SVSEF , started in the ’60s, was the first ski foundation started in  the United States. It has flourished to serve over 500 Wood River Valley  residents annually. They offer training in alpine, cross country, freestyle, and  snowboarding.

“Sun Valley is great because we have the facilities, assets, and support systems that we need here. It’s a convenient place to tackle all of things we do for training in a great natural setting, which is very complementary,” says Kapala.

The training process for cross country skiing is a challenging one. Variable winter weather conditions make training unpredictable. Not only that, but every race course is different, forcing skiiers to be prepared for anything. It’s training in a high altiude and varied atmosphere, like Sun Valley, that makes conditioning for such races possible.

Cross country skiiers condition themselves through roller skiing, running, and strength training. Using the valley’s varying terrain and numerous bike and foot trails for endurance training allow for athletes to gain greater aerobic capacity.

“We have an extensive bike path network that gives us a variety of terrain features. It’s great  because it allows our kids to roller ski safely and out of traffic,” says Kapala.

Making sure kids enjoy their time in the program is key to its success.The SVSEF and Kapala’s mission is twofold. One the one hand they are intent on building the best junior ski program in the country. On the flip side, and potentially more important side, is the program’s commitment to building healthy and active kids.

Realistically, athletics can be part of a child’s life well after their competitive career is over. Helping children live balanced and healthy lives well into adulthood is something that being a part of the SVSEF can help them with.

Every child that goes through the junior ski program is a priority, regardless of their Olympic aspirations. However, some members of the Gold Team Program do have their eye on the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“We have a National Team Member Simi Hamilton, who is on track to make the team. Mike Sinnot and Matt Gelso are just on the cusp of team selection and we’re just entering the time now where they will be stepping up their training and their results,” notes Kapala.

While watching students compete in an Olympics is “really really cool”  Kapala is cautious to gauge athletic accomplishments on a trip to the  Olympics alone.

“The Olympics are a moment in time. Everyday we still have to show up and  do the things we try to do really well in practice. It’s about process and it  always has to be about process,” says Kapala.

For youth aspiring to be professional athletes Kapala has only one piece of advice.

“You have to love the life of being an athlete. You have to enjoy training. If you really like that lifestyle all the hard work is viewed as an adventure,” Kapala offers.

The athletic process is an adventure in itself, with ups and downs, milestones, and roadblocks. Enjoying what each day brings makes the endeavor that much more fulfilling.

So, what’s the key for achieving peak performance according to Kapala?

“If you are striving to have an exceptional performance, your preparation and how you train must be exceptional,” Kapala notes.

An exceptional preparation encompasses many nuances, but a focus on the process and challenging oneself each day are the most important components of all.

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