NSCF-FXC Prep Team Program Information (U14)

The NSCF-FXC Prep Team is aimed at middle school skiers in the U14 age group looking to take their skiing to a higher level. As the ‘Prep’ name suggests, this program is designed to prepare skiers for an easy and effective transition to high school competition, as well as regional and national level junior racing if the skier so chooses.

On-snow: further refinement of skiing technique, including the introduction of special applications and modifications, is applied through creative and challenging physical training where close attention is paid to key periods for the development of speed, strength and stamina which occur around the growth spurt. Further instruction in ski waxing and basic training theory, also occur throughout the season.

At this level the dryland program focuses on developing good habits and enjoyment of physical activity as well as establishing a strong foundation of physical fitness and athleticism which an athlete can build on later in their athletic career.

Early registration deadline is April 27, 2017. Deadline for initial review of scholarship applications is April 30.

Program Options

Prep Year round: Includes all Jr. Devo seasonal programs.

Prep Summer: (Memorial Day to Start of School Year) The dryland program is not a ski-specific training program, but instead focuses on broader athletic development through the lens of a ski racing program. During the dryland season, training is held at the same time and location as the Jr. Devo Team, although the groups often split up for their training activities. Typically a little over half the practices start at the West Ridge Trails on the UAF Campus with the rest held at Birch Hill Recreation Area. There is a week break for the 4th of July holiday and a week break later in the month of July.

Prep Fall: (August – October) The substance of our Fall training is very similar to our summer program. Athletes can select from a variety of programs that best fit their needs. In August and September we encourage athletes to participate in their school running programs, so Prep athletes can select from participating two or three days per week. After a two-week training break in late September, the October program meets three days per week and often includes a transition to snow if conditions allow.

Prep Winter: (November – mid April) During winter, the Prep Team meets four times per week. Days of the week vary due to a variety of factors, but we try to practice at set times throughout the winter. Practices typically occur on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on Saturdays and Sundays either in the form of a race, a tour, or an afternoon training session. Most practices are at Birch Hill, although we do try to vary our location when the weather cooperates.

Orientation

We organize two informational meetings for parents each year. One in May focused on summer and fall dryland activities, and one in November oriented towards winter activities. Contact us if you would like more information on when these meetings will happen.

New skiers are required to try the program for a week or 3 sessions when joining the program to see if it is a good fit. If payment is processed prior to this trial, a full refund is available.

Weather Guidelines

We train rain or shine throughout the dryland season, so proper clothing is imperative! In case of smoke from forest fires, we use the Borough’s air quality and particulate guidelines to help us decide on whether the local air quality is suitable for healthy activity. We do our best to make these announcements early, but the localized nature of smoke sometimes requires last minute decisions. We typically try to make announcements via email an hour or two before practice begins.

The Prep Team generally skis as cold as 10 below. When it is between 10 and 20 below we will often go for a run and then finish with some indoor activities such as strength or flexibility training, technique drills, stairs or even watching a World Cup race video. During long or extreme cold snaps, we may cancel practice or shift to indoor facilities.

Attendance

It is no secret that consistency in any endeavor leads to improvement. However, we also understand that balance is important in life and other commitments like music, school, family, etc. will need to take priority over training at times. As such, the NSCF-FXC race teams do not have a required attendance policy.

Coaches

The Prep Team is coached by NSCF-FXC’s certified professional coaches with the support of a team of volunteer and intern coaches. Many of our interns and volunteers are past or present college athletes who enjoy the opportunity to pass-on their passion for the ski training to a younger generation.

Expectations

  • Skiers are expected to abide by the Prep Team code of conduct which is signed by both the skier and parent before training with the team.
  • Skiers are expected to work hard and have a positive attitude.
  • Skiers must have the skiing skills, physical fitness, and desire to keep up with the group or a subgroup at training in order to assure safety of all members.
  • Skiers should arrive prepared for practice: these means equipment – both classic and skate gear plus running shoes – and nutrition. Make sure your skier is fueled for practice with a good healthy snack ahead of time!

Dryland Equipment

Summer and Fall programs

Proper gear is essential for making practice fun and productive instead of frustrating. It doesn’t have to be new, but it must fit, and be in good working order.

Running Shoes: Everything we do during the summer requires good footwear. A good quality pair of simple lightweight running shoes (or trail running shoes) often does the trick. Make sure the shoes have adequate tread for activities on trails. To avoid blisters or other foot problems, be sure to wear-in the shoes during regular daily activities prior to wearing them for training.

Clothing: Skiers should come to practice with appropriate clothing for training for that day’s conditions. Loose fitting athletic clothing that allows for movement in a full range of motion is essential. Materials that wick perspiration and keep one warm while wet are essential in colder or wetter weather. Gloves are recommended when the ground gets cold as we do a number of ground based activities in almost every session. Dress in multiple thin layers to be warm and shed layers as you get warmer during the session.

Dryland Poles: As part of the dryland program we introduce skiers to various forms of dryland ski imitation which use poles including ski bounding and ski walking. Dryland poles are the only necessary piece of equipment for this and are any pair of poles that comes up to roughly mid-chest height, although size can vary from the bottom of the sternum to armpit height and still work. Poles must have a good strap so the skier can release their grip on the pole, and an intact metal tip to dig into hard ground. Last season’s classic ski poles or a smaller sibling’s poles often do the job just fine.

Mountain Bike: We use mountain bikes as part of our summer program about once every week or two to add in athletic variety, and develop leg strength, endurance, balance and coordination. Each skier should have a mountain bike that is in good working order. We recommend purchasing your bike from a reputable bike shop in town such as Goldstream Sports, Beaver Sports, or Raven Cross Country (or a used one originating from one of those shops) as those bikes are typically assembled with greater knowledge and care and are built with components that are able to last through the rigors of trail riding. Be sure your bike is in good working order with shifting gears, functional brakes and tires that hold air well in advance of the first session so you can get a tune up if needed.

Helmet: Helmets are mandatory for all wheeled activities. No helmet, no participation (although we do have a couple of extras we can lend out in case an athlete forgets). Be sure your helmet fits properly – covering your forehead and fitting securely so it can’t be jarred loose in case of an accident. Check with a reputable bike shop if you need help here.

Water Bottle: It is hot in Fairbanks in the summer! Jr. Devo and Prep skiers should be sure to have a water bottle with them at each practice to maintain hydration through the session. Please note that this bottle does not replace but merely adds to good hydration and nutrition habits through the day particularly for those that spend the day outside.

On-snow Equipment

Late Fall and Winter Programs

Skis: Skiers should have one to two pairs of skis for each technique (classic and skate). If a skier has only one pair for a given technique, they should be of a quality and durability that is appropriate for playing games or using in the terrain garden, so the skier can participate fully in practice. Only once a skier has learned to take proper care of their equipment do we recommend purchasing a pair of lightweight race skis. The athlete should be responsible for waxing and maintaining their skis, and while the team provides facilities and equipment for this prior to most races, we have found the best way for skiers to become proficient is for them to practice at home.

Boots: Skiers should use either a combi boot that allows for natural movement of the foot and ankle, or have one pair of classic and one pair of skate boots.

Poles: Skiers should have one pair of poles for classic and one pair of poles for skate technique. Skate poles should come up to the lips, and classic poles should come up to the tip of the shoulder. Poles that are too tall or too short make it difficult and frustrating for a skier in developing proper technique.

Clothing: Skiers should come to practice with appropriate clothing for training in cold weather. This includes gloves or split mitts (aka lobster gloves), hats, ear muffs, neck warmers, buffs, balaclavas, or other means of covering the skier’s face and head. Skiers should dress in layers which should include a synthetic or wool base layer, potentially an insulating mid-layer, as well as a wind-resistant outer layer. Depending on conditions, more clothes may be needed.

Other: Skiers should bring a training bag with them to practice which should include running shoes for indoor training and practices that involve running (both happen once a week or when it is cold); a change of clothing for after practice to stay dry, warm and healthy; water (an insulated drink belt is a nice option for on snow); and a snack to begin the recovery process. Good training and recovery habits start now!

Racing

Summer and Fall: Fairbanks benefits from a great endurance sports community. With athletes at this age we encourage them to participate in a variety of sports as this builds their foundation of movement skills and enhances their athletic experience later in life. We encourage Prep athletes to get involved with various events and competitions that are happening in town to broaden their experience in sport. These events include various running races, bike events, canoe events and sometimes athletes choose to participate in summer sports such as soccer. The key is consistent and varied activity.

Winter: The NSCF’s junior racing programs view competition as an opportunity to apply the skills one has learned during training, much like a test in school or a recital for a dance class or a concert for a music group. As such, skiers are strongly encouraged, but not required, to take part in local races. We recognize that the actual results at this age have little bearing on the eventual ability of a skier, and try to keep the focus firmly on the application of skiing skills and racing tactics, and challenging ones abilities.

We feel strongly that skiers should race age-appropriate distances as these allow a skier to ski at high speed for the entire distance (up to 5 km for J3s, and up to 7.5 km for J2s). This allows the skier to reinforce good technical skills, instead of getting tired and developing sloppy habits. In Fairbanks, the Town Race Series, Turkey Day Relays, Besh Cups, and Interior Youth Championships all feature age appropriate distances. Longer spring events such as the Tour of Anchorage and Sonot Kkaazoot should be viewed more as endurance challenges, and the emphasis should be on completing the distance, more than racing as hard and as fast as possible.

At this level, we feel 10-20 races is an appropriate number to compete in over the course of a season.

Special Events and Activities

In the past we have conducted monthly program-wide hikes on Saturdays during the summer. These hike happen in conjunction with our weekly over-distance workout with the Comp Team to allow the younger skiers to see what sort of training awaits them in future years. To ensure safety and provide adequate transportation, we ask parents to serve as drivers and leaders of the Jr. Devo and Prep Team athletes.

Besh Cups – Often skiers on the Prep Team are new to the Besh Cup series. A good way to build into the series is to first try the local weekend, and the next year try one weekend of races out of town, before trying the whole series the year after.

Spring Trip – We aim to conclude our season with an overnight team ski trip each spring.

How Can Parents Help?

There are many ways a parent can help out. The most essential is getting kids to practice and picked up on time. Parents can also help a lot in providing an opportunity for “team building,” or help with one of our monthly program-wide hikes in the summer (see above). Hosting a post-tour get together, or potluck/pasta feed are just a couple of ways to enhance the social side of Prep. There will be various tasks to help with during the season too, such as uniform sizing and distribution, helping with waxing before races, and helping chaperone a ski tour.

A significant level of funding for the FXC program comes from various fundraising efforts. As such, we ask all families in the program to volunteer for our various fundraising efforts when they are available, and we ask each family that has been involved in the program for a year or more to take a leadership role in a fundraiser or other task that helps the program. Further details are available at semi-annual organizational meetings.

Cost and Refund Policy

Please see the 2018-2019 Devo-Prep Registration Form for up to date information on cost and refund policy.