Ski team welcomes new coach

In a year of uncertainty and changes, the ski team will be met with yet another switch: their new head coach, Jack Bourdo. With five years of coaching experience, including coaching at Lacrosse Central High School and at Cedarburg High School, and after skiing for 22 years, Bourdo is anything but new to the sport.

Bourdo discovered his love of coaching after being asked as a college student to coach a ski team in the winter. He continues to coach even though he now has a full time job.

“It’s something to do in the winter,” Bourdo said. “Get myself out there, get on the hill, and help kids.”

Bourdo attributes much of his coaching philosophy to having played college football.

“You’ve gotta be a team player, gotta do whatever you can to help yourself and the team out,” Bourdo said. “Put all your effort into it and work hard.”

You’ve gotta be a team player, gotta do whatever you can to help yourself and the team out.

— Jack Bourdo, head coach

This year is an unfamiliar experience, even for established coaches and teachers who have been in the district for a long time. With a new coach, it will be even more unique.

“It’s coming from a different guy,” said Ezra Grinker, sophomore on the ski team. “It’s just a little different.”

The COVID regulations will not be uniform for all races. 

“Obviously we’ll have masks on at all times,” Bourdo said. “Other than that it kind of goes hill by hill.”

Many hills have a small lodge or hut at the bottom, called a chalet. The crowded nature of these buildings poses a safety problem: how will athletes stay warm when they’re not competing without risking exposure to COVID in a small, crowded area?

“Last year, especially at Holy Hill, there were so many kids crammed into a tiny space,” said Maggie Dickman, junior. “That would definitely not be good to do that this year.” 

The rules for these potential risks are still unclear, and will vary depending on the race.

“It’s just a lot of uncertainty,” Grinker said.

Aside from the chalets, the sport primarily takes place outside, making it a lower risk activity.

“We’re usually outside or we’re going to be outside,” Grinker said.

Another change this year is that, rather than taking a team bus to the meet, each individual athlete will be relied on to get themselves to the hill. Aside from the obvious transportation issue this presents, the coach is worried that not taking buses will cause the team to lose a valuable team bonding experience.

“[Taking buses to races] kind of helped them get to know each other a lot more last year,” Bourdo said.

Having a team that includes athletes from two different schools automatically makes it a little harder to get to know the other people on the team, even in a normal year.

“We’re going to have to get to know each other,” Dickman said. “I don’t know a lot of people, since a lot of the new kids are from Nicolet.”

This year especially, there are a lot of athletes who are new to the team.

“At the beginning of the year, actually, we didn’t even know if we’d have enough racers to even have a guy’s team,” Grinker said. “It’s great that all these people came out.”

In fact, Bourdo had students contacting him asking how to join the team before he was even the official head coach. The team ended up being so big they aren’t able to practice in the same place they did last year.

Although it’s hard to practice skiing without snow, the team has been getting a head start on their goals with weekly dryland practices, training in a gym instead of on skis. The team is already working on their season goal of qualifying for state.

“I think they can easily [make it to state], but everyone’s got to work hard at it like everything else,” Bourdo said.

However, that’s only one part of Bourdo’s goals for the season. 

“My goal is to have fun with everyone, try to get everyone into skiing,” Bourdo said. “It’s something you can do with your family forever.”

Individual athletes also have personal goals for the season.

It’s a lot of kids that just want to have fun and aren’t really competitive. There’s also tons of competitive kids, so it’s definitely good for that too.

— Exra Grinker, sophomore

“I definitely want to make my time go down and just try as hard as I can,” Dickman said.

“My goal is not to fall over, and also to have fun,” Grinker said. “Those are the first two because they kind of come hand in hand.” 

Grinker also wants to “hit the gates” as he skis, a sign of maximum efficiency and speed.

Athletes on the team might be skiing just for fun, or for the competitive aspect of the sport. 

“It’s a lot of kids that just want to have fun and aren’t really competitive,” Grinker said. “There’s also tons of competitive kids, so it’s definitely good for that too.”

Whether a student wants to compete or simply have a good experience, Bourdo hopes his athletes recognize the many benefits of skiing.

“Skiing is a lifelong sport,” Bourdo said. “It’s not just about the racing part, you’re going to learn stuff for the rest of your life.”