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The Future of Our Sport – Tips to Addict the Next Generation - By Bruce Butterfield


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Over the years, I’ve been asked for, and given recommendations, on kid’s equipment and techniques to many parents trying to get their kids involved in skiing. I thought it would be helpful to compile a somewhat comprehensive list of what we’ve gone through, what worked and what didn’t for the benefit of anyone interested. This is by no means the only or best set of guidance – it’s just what worked for us.

For reference, my daughter is now 17, a solid 3 eventer, and excels at tricks. My son is now 14, also a solid 3 eventer and absolutely loves to jump!

I’ve found that success depends on many things. Obviously each child’s basic athleticism, desire to improve and personality are at the top of the list. Often the make or break factors are parents’ attitude, equipment, and learning strong fundamentals before moving on. These make or break factors are all within the parents’ control!

So now for some free advice! I’ll attempt to use chronological order and try to explain rationale and offer some do’s and don’ts along the way.

A great thing I did with both kids was use a pair of “traditional” trainers – 48” long, regular width and tied together in both the front and rear. (In hindsight, I think the U shaped skimmers are probably easier to use.) Tie a 10-15’ section of ski rope to the crossbar and a short handle section from the crossbar to the skier's hands. Put them on the platform facing the left side, grab the towrope with your right hand about 3’ from the crossbar and the kid’s vest with your left hand. Have the driver put the boat in gear and lift the kid from the platform to the left side of the boat while pulling the towrope with your right hand. Hold the vest as needed to keep them stable and they are skiing! Really all you are doing is gradually getting them comfortable on the skis and over the water – the kid doesn’t have to do a thing except stand there and try to be still. For a 2yo, a few seconds of this, then lift them back on the platform and you’re done until next time.

http://www.ballofspray.com/images/2016/Butterfield/Zach_trainers_Apr_2006.jpg

As they get more comfortable, gradually release the vest with your left hand and feed the rope out until they are a few feet back from the boat. If they get scared or are ready to stop, just pull them back in and lift them back on the platform. If they start to fall, just release the rope and let it go back in the water. Be sure to laugh and cheer if they fall. It’s critical that they get the idea that this is fun and not something to be scared of. I cringe at the helicopter parent that worriedly exclaims “Are you alright? You didn’t hurt yourself did you?”

http://www.ballofspray.com/images/2016/Butterfield/Zach_May_2006.jpg

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  • Baller
Although dad still has the same Ski Nautique I learned to ski on 30 years ago, and it'd be cool to teach me at son on that boat, I plan on teaching him on my 17' Carolina Skiff. Much lesser wake at 10-24 mph and no rooster.
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  • Baller
I love your last point about cheering as they fall. Yelling, "that was an awesome ninja-wipeout!!!" has helped my kids in the past. That, and putting the skis back on them and getting them right back up so fast that they don't have time to think about it. Helps to be in the water for the latter, of course.
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  • Baller
Fantastic article, very well written. I will have to respectfully disagree regarding going straight to one trick ski. You have valid points, however I would follow the rule of thumb of competing on 2 skis until you can fill up two passes with 1 ski tricks. Too often do we judge a kid go up and down the lake for two passes trying to do sideslide and/or reverse, repeating the entire pass, rather than taking one pass on 2 skis, and getting more points, placing higher. I also feel this gives an introduction into performing a trick and it's reverse, and the usual sequence of tricks. Again, great article, just hate seeing the effect jumping straight to 1 ski has done to the appreciation of 2 ski tricks, and the value the tricks can have to a child's performance. Good job Bruce.
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