Monday, December 15, 2008

Girls, Girls, Girls

This ski season may be the death of me.

We have three levels of seasonal programs for children where I work. We have a lower-end half-day program for the younger kids. We have an upper-end program for the really fast and aggressive skiers. That program draws lots of boys. Our mid-level program is where I teach. I'm one of the "leads" for that program, so I basically act as a supervisor and a trainer for my co-workers, but I'm certainly not the real boss. One of the additional jobs I do is as a lead is assign children to their coaches. We start with our returning skiers, who we know well, and put them with coaches. Then, we mostly put the new children into groups based on age. After that, we watch them ski and the first few weekends are full of changes as we move people to different coaches, based on ability levels. By the first of the year, everything settles down, and we have 3 months left to really coach a group with a fixed membership.

Because many boys go into the advanced program, we have more girls than boys in the program where I work. I think we have over 60% girls. Last year, we had one group of all boys (our most advanced group) and two groups that were all girls. Each of those 3 groups was led by a coach of the same sex as the students. When I put the groups together this year, it was a goal to have all groups be integrated - boys and girls. My initial group was 7 girls and 3 boys. But, for one reason or another, all 3 boys have transferred to another group, and I now have 7 girls, including my own daughter.

Yesterday, at the end of the day, I talked to a parent who has twin daughters in the program. The twins are neighbors (in Massachusetts) with one of the girls in my group and the twins are friends with some other girls in my group. I got the impression that the parent isn't completely satisfied wtih something about his daughters' current group, so he asked about moving them to my group. I skied with one of his daughters for a while yesterday and she'd be a perfect fit. So, I'm likely to have two new girls in the next week or so.

So, it's looking like I'll coach 9 girls, ages 8-10, for the entire ski season. The girls are really great - they get along very well and each of them seems to be bonding well with at least one other child in the group. One returning girl from last year - my youngest skier - would always insist on riding with me when we rode a double chairlift last year. This weekend, she would just ignore me to ride with her new best friend on the double. My daughter has instantly fallen in with another girl. I think it's going to be fun.

But, 9 girls of that age have a huge critical mass of energy. I can ski circles around every one of them, and I have a lot to teach them. But, their energy may still be the death of me. This is my 8th year of teaching skiing, and my 7th year teaching in the seasonal program. This is likely to be my most challenging year ever. It may also turn out to be the most fun as well.

I am glad for the recognition I'm getting from parents. I've been teaching long enough and I'm well known that parents are trying to get their children into my group. It's tougher for the less experienced instructors, especially those with no prior teaching experience. No matter how skilled they are as skiers, parents who have been skiing at the mountain for years are wary of new faces and prefer their children to be with the more established coaches. I survived those first few years of being the new guy, and I understand how it feels to have parents prefer other coaches. One of the benefits of being more experienced is that the experienced coaches tend to draw the experienced students. This allows me to take my group to more interesting terrain to ski.

Did I ever mention that I love skiing and I love teaching skiing to children? This past weekend was hard - lots of logistical work with the group assignments, the coaches, and the parents. But, when I'm out on the mountain, simply teaching or skiing with the students, I tend to smile non-stop. It's the greatest job I have ever had - something I look forward to every single day I get to do it.

Today is a gym day, focusing on squats. I've got two weeks left in my current lifting cycle, and I'm curious if I'll be able to repeat last week two more times. Last week, I increased my PR on the squat, bench press and deadlift. The sum of the three PRs is now 720 pounds. As I've said before, my lifting numbers are paltry for a real lifter, but not bad for a runner who dabbles in lifting. I think that currently, I have the most room for improvement in the squat rack, so I'll work hard on those tonight.

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