We’re up and rolling with another Junior Nordic season. We have freshly groomed trails, 885 smiling young skiers, and a big roster of dedicated coaches.
And for those who haven’t heard, we filled every single Junior Nordic site in 12 hours after registration opened. The avalanche of signups was enough to crash our registration system. And by way of context, our first session of Junior Nordic has never filled. Most years see us at somewhere between 60% and 80% of capacity for the 1st session. And although we typically fill most of our 2nd session sites, that process has previously taken several weeks at least.
On top of our crazy signup numbers, this year the waitlist for Junior Nordic ballooned to 380 kids in just a few weeks. And it was still growing briskly when we finally closed registration.
On the one hand, all the interest in Junior Nordic is a wonderful validation of the quality of our program. But it also means that 380 kids don’t get to ski with us. And what’s even more painful, especially for long-time coaches like me, is the fact that our waitlist includes many families that have participated in Junior Nordic for years. These are families for whom, as one parent eloquently put it, Junior Nordic is part of the “rhythm of winter.” And now that rhythm has been interrupted.
We have a two-part plan to get at least some of these kids off the waiting list. First, we’re going to sort the waiting list based on the number of years kids of participated in the program. Our goal is to give priority to our long-time Junior Nordic kids.
Next, we’re going to hire more coaches for our second session starting in January. The number of coaches we onboard in the next three weeks is going to determine how many kids we can take off the waiting list for the second session. Our program goal is to have a ratio of eight kids to one coach, so every coach we hire translates to eight more kids in Junior Nordic.
And where are these coaches going to come from? We’ve exhausted our usual networks, but we’re hoping that new members of the Nordic ski community will step forward to don the blue-and-green Junior Nordic coach jacket! Our plea for more coaches goes out to all NSAA members, but especially to parents of kids in the program, who know well just how special it is.
And just remember, if you sign up to coach, then eight more kids get to ski in Junior Nordic. And you get to have the happiest job in Alaska. And you even get paid for it! You don’t need to be a rock-star skier to be a coach. You just need to enjoy spending time on our amazing trails with enthusiastic kids.
If you’re interested, have a look at the Coach Resources page, which includes a link to our NSAA coach application. And if you don’t have time to be a full-time coach, we still need more subs, especially on Saturdays. You can also sign up for our High School Buddy program to help cover race days for high school athletes who want to coach for Junior Nordic.
And on a closing note, I did want to let everybody that we’re working on several improvements to our program next year. These include both a complete overhaul of our signup system and an early registration period for prior program participants.
Thanks as always to the whole Nordic ski community for your support, and we’ll see you on the trails!