If you’re tuning in to watch a ski racing athlete on their descent of the slopes at a World Cup race or the Olympics in February, it may be easy to overlook the contributions of the many people behind the scenes.
Alpine Canada took some time at the end of September to credit their many talented coaches with their “Thanks Coach” campaign.
One of those being recognized is Nick Cooper, who is leading Alpine Canada’s men’s training group for the Europa Cup.
With three seasons of experience coaching at the national level and nearly a decade provincially in British Columbia, he has high expectations for his group heading into the start of the competitive circuit.
“The whole group of guys have a ton of potential,” said Cooper, over a video call with The Toronto Observer. “They are all good, they’re fast and I don’t know who will step up because they all have the potential to.”
Cooper transitioned immediately from ski racing to coaching, getting his first job at the age of 22, and he has not looked back since.
The recipient of the 2021 Male Provincial Coach of the Year award is known for working as hard – or even harder – than his athletes, a trait that helps rub off on his team, along with his own opinions about training.
“I do not like drills; guys need to understand their body and put it in the right position, without reference,” said Cooper. “I’m a big no poles, slow sliding, weight transfer, and separation (believer). It’s so easy to complicate ski racing.”
Over the Summer, Alpine Canada launched an ambitious plan called Made For Canada, which aims to make the country a world-leading ski racing nation. This includes the expansion of athletic development, coaching and branding.
“It’s an interesting experience,” said Cooper. “We are going into this season not ranked where we should be, due to COVID-19 shutting down domestic racing. There are some pretty big aspirations for the group to accelerate quickly.”
To prepare for upcoming season, the racing teams spent September in Europe training on snow, with Cooper spending six weeks across the Atlantic.
“We have a really fit group,” said Cooper. “One of the things I would say is our group is big, strong and healthy.”
The men’s team is also a young one, as it features three athletes born in 1999 (Liam Wallace, Asher Jordan, Kyle Alexander), who have all shown tremendous promise that hasn’t yet been realized because they were unable to compete in the world junior circuit due to COVID-19.
“They were really in that sweet spot when they came up and they have lost that opportunity,” said Cooper. “I worked with Asher Jordan for the past four years and I think he’s got a ton of potential.”
The group’s first race of the World Cup circuit begins in Austria on Oct.24, while the Winter Olympics are just five months away. The team is excited, but the weeks ahead will hold a lot of hard work.
“Everybody thinks they are working hard but a lot of people don’t actually know how hard you have to work to get to the top, you’ve got to work your (butt) off,” said Cooper. “You’ve got to sacrifice a lot.”
Skiing hasn’t lost its lustre for the coach despite so many years in the sport. If he’s home in Whistler for the Winter, you can catch him on the slopes, so long as it isn’t too cold or wet.
“(Kids) on the playgroup can only run so fast and jump so high and then they get to go skiing and they can go as fast as they want,” said Cooper. “ All of us that fell in love with skiing have that experience young and we don’t know why we love that freedom but we do.”