A British Invasion
Alex Standen, Snowsport Scotland's Coaching Futures Coach, gives his insights into a truely remarkable year for the British Nordic Ski Team and what lies ahead for the squads over the coming year.
FIS did a fantastic video this winter on the “British Invasion of Cross Country Skiing”, emphasising how impressive the achievements of this season are and how we got there. This season has seen achievements that Britain had never seen before in one season:
A podium at World cup
15 top 30 results
An Athlete ranked in the top 10 in the world (Andrew Young).
A Top 40 result at World cup in Woman’s distance
Frankly, the fact that we can now say a British cross country skier is ranked in the top 10 in the world is astounding! Andrew Musgrave said before Sochi, “our success has helped us reach the point where people have realised we're not just a bunch of idiots with two planks on our feet trying to waddle round a World Cup course.”
This season has reinforced that statement to the point where the team is now disappointed with results that are outside the top 30 in the world- enough said!
The main invasion planner and orchestrator has always been Roy Young, who deserves great credit for the achievements to date. His tireless work has enabled the athletes to constantly set new benchmarks for what is possible by British cross country skiers.
Outside of the World Cup, the athletes having been striving hard to build up their racing experience and get the snow time they need to be truly competitive. This year, the European weather has chucked a couple of grenades at us to keep life interesting.
The day before we were due to fly out to Germany, the race was cancelled and it was probably the most frantic day of the year as we scrambled around looking for any alternative. With everything and everyone booked to fly out at 5am the next morning, what do you do? Oh, the joys of being a coach!
Fortunately, we managed to find an alternative race at 7pm in a different part of Germany where they rescheduled the races. It was a very close call not to cancel everything! One of the British athletes had driven straight from school in Glasgow only to discover the next morning there was any issue and we were going somewhere completely different!
This season was rounded out by a small Brit invasion of Canada but this season has seen the Brits do well in a range of touraments and races across Europe and beyond.
So far this season, I have been in 9 countries and spent over 80 days abroad. Someone’s got to live the hard life haven’t they? One of the biggest events of season was the World Junior and U23 Championships in the surreal country: Romania.
The athletes got quite the culture shock as we drove through Romania to see a very high level of poverty. Driving past horse and cart, hordes of dogs chasing the bus, and gypsy towns was not quite what they had expected.
Conditions in Romania were some of the hardest I’ve ever seen at any ski race with temperatures of +18 leading to skis going through the snow to the tarmac below. It made it very challenging for the athletes and results were perhaps below what we had hoped for.
I have learned a lot from the first 6 months as the Coaching Futures Apprentice Cross Country Coach as I’ve probably coached more in that time than the last 3 years. Sport Scotland has been providing some great learning opportunities outside of my normal world in workshops with Coaching Futures and the High Performance Conference.
One of the biggest things for me with Coaching Futures has been the social aspect with the other coaches. We’re all experiencing many of the same things in our roles and it’s great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth with each other. Coaching is hard work and can seem pretty weird to people with “normal” jobs so it’s great to chill out and relax with people who totally understand that.
Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who’s helped so far: Snowsport Scotland, Sport Scotland, Roy Young, Petter Blindheim, Rob Jones, Bengt Hjort, the British Nordic parents and last, but not least, all the athletes I’ve been working with!