Nordic ski team succeeds despite lack of head coach


Courtesy of Matt Paal

As one of the only experienced athletes on the team, junior Nordic ski captain Clyde Sellke joins senior captain Claudia Elsenbast in helping with administrative duties of the team in the absence of a head coach.

While Minnesota’s been short on snow and this particular team has been short on head coaches, this winter, an essential piece of BSM’s winter sports abides nonetheless. With the season now in full swing, the BSM Nordic ski team looks to achieve success, find a head coach, and build for the future.

Almost all athletes would consider the head coach to be an integral part of any team. However, the BSM Nordic ski team has been without one since the summer months. “Our coach over the summer realized he wasn’t going to be able to continue being our coach, so he quit,” senior captain Claudia Elsenbast said.  “We kept our assistant coach, Jim Wander, [who] will coach the younger kids, where the varsity [team] will receive a workout and just kinda try and do it.”

With the help of assistant coach Jim Wander, the captains—Elsenbast for the girls’ team and junior Clyde Selke for the boys’ team–have shouldered many of the duties pertaining to the head coaching position. From administrative responsibilities like setting deadlines for uniform orders to heading dryland training and properly monitoring ski races, the captains have a hand in it all. “In years past the coaches did a lot more with the apparel–things like facilitating its deadline, and making sure everybody got their orders in. This year that was taken on entirely by [Clyde and me]. Making sure that people are in the right spots [at the start of a race] is a lot harder when you only have one coach—[we do not always know] where he will be at the start of a race but when we’re in the chalet we need to communicate with him,” Elsenbast said.  “So it’s a lot more of just making sure kids are getting ready for [their] races, kids are warming up, making sure everyone is getting their workout done, [and that] people have the right amount of layers on—just facilitating a smooth transfer.”

A handful of BSM’s sports teams find themselves in the midst of a rebuilding year; this rings true for Nordic as well. Developing younger skiers while still competing at a high level has become a great focus for the team. “It’s definitely a developing year for the team–probably a solid 50% of the team is on their first or second year.  I would say third-year skiers are considered very strong veterans. [Clyde and I] have the most experience–[this season is] our fifth year of skiing. So we’re really [rebuilding], but in a couple of years I think this will really pay off,” Elsenbast said.

Making sure that people are in the right spots [at the start of a race] is a lot harder when you only have one coach—[we do not always know] where he will be at the start of a race but when we’re in the chalet we need to communicate with him

— Claudia Elsenbast

Although only a few meets have taken place this season, some early season success has already been achieved. A handful of skiers have placed very well thus far. “We’ve only had two races so far—but [eighth grade Groves skier] Charlie Brown won both of them,” Elsenbast said.  “We’ve had two girls in the top ten each [race]–the first race was me and Erin Long, the last race it was Erin Long and Tracy Reinier. The guys’ team is struggling a bit because you need five for a roster and we only have seven, but the girls’ team is doing really well,” Elsenbast said.

While Minnesota isn’t exactly famous for its lack of snow, the early scarcity of cold weather and snowfall has contributed to a slow beginning to the Nordic ski team’s season. Rather than letting this obstacle stand in their way of success, the team has altered their practicing to more dryland training and roller skiing. “We’ve had weak snow years in years’ past so it’s just something we’ve had to deal with. We usually just do a lot more of dryland conditioning and roller skiing–getting ready for when the snow [starts to fall],” Elsenbast said.

Finally, although the captains and Coach Wander have done a quality job of filling in for the absence of a head coach, throughout this season and next offseason, a search for a new one will continue.  “[Athletic Director] Jerry Pettinger headed that [search]; he pretty much put a posting on the school website and will search throughout his contacts in the coaching world.  I also aided him with contacts at a club that I would ski at,” Elsenbast said.