Training to be a professional snowsports child athlete

Adir Sharon, Ski and Snowboard Instructor, Hokkaido Ski Club, Niseko, Japan

Hokkaido Ski Club’s ski/snowboard instructor and guide, Adir Sharon, shares his experiences as a coach for professional snowboard child athletes. He explains why having fun and becoming passionate about ski or snowboarding are the most important elements for any child who is learning, regardless of whether or not he/she will become a professional snowsports athlete.

Skiing and snowboarding are great fun recreational life-long activities for all family members to enjoy, young or old. To become a "great" athelete, however, requires an insane amount of sacrifice, hardship, and full-time commitment both from the athlete and his or her family. Burnout by age 12 is a real thing. How do we help our children balance between school, growing up, and a career in a sport where retirement by age 16 is standard practice?

Adir with his freestyle/freeride development team, Extreme Pink

Unless you live near a ski resort, skiing or snowboarding should be a fun pressure free environment.  Lessons should be focused on fun, safety, exploration, and character building, not drill after drill. Goals should be set to be attainable and realistic.  Peer or parental pressure can drastically affect the learning experience. Pressure destroys motivation. So how do we get children to push themselves to be the best in a highly competitive field?  Why do they even need to be the best? It’s not an easy answer.

Here at Hokkaido Ski Club, our focus is safety, fun and learning. With world/national champions, renowned coaches, national demo team members, instructor examiners and trainers from all over the world, Hokkaido Ski Club possesses the highest quality base of the best instructors in Niseko, Japan.  With a small crew of such individuals focused on providing the best learning experience, we offer an unforgettable experience one will not find in any large corporate-like ski school. Why? Simple. All our experienced pros are passionate about skiing or snowboarding.  They all LOVE teaching first-timers most of all.  

Passing on our passion is our passion! Seeing a first-timer light up the first time they link a turn is one of our proudest moments as pros.  We come to Niseko, Japan for the powder but more importantly, for our guests.  

A Real Life Story

I taught Samantha to snowboard since she and her twin brother, Jack, were 8 years old. In January this year, at 16 years of age, she achieved 3rd place at the 2020 Freeride World Championship in Austria. For Samantha to reach her competitive level, both her and her family had to sacrifice years of their lives. 10 months of the year were focused on dryland training, winter training, and competitions. This meant waking up at 4am every day for 10 months. Long hours on the road meant putting both her, her brother, and their parents’ social life on hold. Every spare minute was spent on academic education, travelling, and sleeping. There was not much room for anything else. Besides the financial burden, the emotional burden was immense. It can become a very lonely life for a developing teenage girl. Focussing on going to school and socialising like a normal healthy child was crucial for her.

Deciding at the age of 8 that she wanted to become a professional snowboarder, Samantha focused on small achievable goals throughout her training career. Her parents and I supported her while also reminding her how challenging it would be. That said, the focus was foremost on having fun, learning through failure, and being a better and more compassionate human by winning humbly and losing graciously; making lifelong friends and not enemies with her competition.

Hokkaido Ski Club Snowboard Instructor, Adir Sharon, with his award-winning young athletes
Adir (centre) with Jack (left) and Samantha (right) after placing 2nd and 1st respectively in the GoPro Big Mountain Challenge

Fun is the focus of my coaching! When children have fun in a safe trusting environment, the side effect is learning. The lower the pressure, the higher the passion and motivation to improve and continue. Pressure is the enemy.   

Parents, despite having the best intentions for their offspring, may have unrealistic goals or visions. This does not make them terrible parents; it just means their desire to provide the best opportunities for their children are most likely over exaggerated. Remember, when you travel once or twice a season to a snowsports resort, make your expectations of your child’s progress realistic.  Rather than ask: “what did you learn today”, ask: “what was the most fun thing you did today”. Maybe it was the lunchtime shenanigans with their instructor.  Maybe it was their first experience on a chairlift or linking turns without falling. You can trust us, or any reputable snowsports school, that is what learning a winter sport is all about.  Your child will be stoked. They will want to go back on the snow the following day or for their next vacation, even if the weather is miserable. They will have a lifelong passion for the sport because of you, mum and dad.  Remember, your child is one of the lucky ones experiencing grand vacations most could only dream. 

Let’s keep making it fun for them. Let us instructors focus on teaching or coaching to your child’s intrapersonal motivations or needs, while you enjoy your family vacation pressure and stress free.  You’ll only thank us for this.  And if your child is the next prodigy, you can be sure we will work with you to figure out how we can help them achieve such competitive success.

About Adir

Adir Sharon only started snowboarding at age 25. He started his snowsports career taking lessons after 3 years of recreational snowboarding, becoming an instructor at a local resort near his mountain home in Colarado, USA. 

Adir eurocarving on a snowboard in Niseko

Attaining his instructor and coaching certifications through the years, Adir established the freestyle/freeride competitive development team, “Extreme Pink Team”, for a local team of young alpine racers. The young athletes were experiencing burnout from their weekend jobs of competition. Providing the young athletes with an outlet from the burnout of their weekend “job” (by age 10-12), they were making podium at every regional, national, or championship race they entered. 

The secret to Adir’s coaching success was simple. He focused on fun, team building, and lifelong leadership skills while developing their individual unique strengths. 

Adir eurocarving on a snowboard in Niseko

About Adir

Adir Sharon only started snowboarding at age 25. He started his snowsports career taking lessons after 3 years of recreational snowboarding, becoming an instructor at a local resort near his mountain home in Colarado, USA. 

Attaining his instructor and coaching certifications through the years, Adir established the freestyle/freeride competitive development team, “Extreme Pink Team”, for a local team of young alpine racers. The young athletes were experiencing burnout from their weekend jobs of competition. Providing the young athletes with an outlet from the burnout of their weekend “job” (by age 10-12), they were making podium at every regional, national, or championship race they entered. 

The secret to Adir’s coaching success was simple. He focused on fun, team building, and lifelong leadership skills while developing their individual unique strengths. 

For more advice on how to manage your child’s passion for snowsports , or to book a private ski or snowboard lesson for them with Adir or one of Hokkaido Ski Club’s team, please send your enquiry to [email protected].

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