Snow Sports NZ have brought in ICaP’s Professor Dave Collins to work with carded coaches in the area of skill acquisition.
Following the award of a Prime Minister’s Coach Scholarship to Snow Sports NZ, Professor Collins will work with the park and pipe coaches of their carded athletes teaching them about "the best steps we can put in place to increase skill acquisition and skill execution while minimising the risk of injury."
In turn, the carded coaches will pass that learning on to other coaches in the system working with development athletes.
A key goal is to speed up the process of learning so that medal capable athletes progress new tricks more quickly but also more safely, reducing the risk of injuries that can mean valuable time on the snow being lost.
Two main blocks of time have been set aside for skill progression in the year, in June/July and October. Professor Collins will spend two weeks with the coaches at a spring camp at Whistler, Canada and will travel to New Zealand for a second block of training in October.
The scholarship will have an impact on athletes’ preparation for the Winter Olympics at Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. Following Swede Henrik Harlaut’s execution of a history-making Nose Butter Triple Cork 1620 at the 2013 X Games Big Air Finals, the bar has been set even higher for the rest of the world.
"The tricks are progressing. They’re getting bigger and more difficult," says Ashley Light, Performance Director of Snow Sports NZ’s high performance Winter Performance Programme.
"Until the judges reward execution of a skill and the style rather than amplitude and big tricks, there seems to be no ceiling on the height and speed at which the athletes can go - as the jumps just keep getting bigger with more features built on the slopes."
New Zealanders are already up there at the top in executing new tricks, including the up-and-coming Christy Prior, only the sixth female in the world to pull off a double back-flip with a snowboard strapped to her feet.
But for New Zealand athletes to stay among the leaders or keep up with the rapidly changing developments in the sport, they need to speed up the process for learning new tricks, Ashley says.
The progression in the sport is happening so fast, Ashley is sure there will be tricks performed at Sochi 2014 that aren’t being done right now and Professor Collins’ work will be a key component in this.