Make Slalom accessible to mainstream skiers: No players = No future fans = No industry

greghayesgreghayes Posts: 118 Baller
edited November 2021 in News & Other Stuff
"Playing sports as a kid is the No. 1 indicator of future fandom. No fans, no industry."

The linked article and quote from it above really resonated with me after throughly enjoying watching the broadcast-quality webcast of the Mastercraft Pro last weekend (harkening back to the ESPN heyday) but noting the anemic viewership in the four figures.

First - kudos to the Pro Ski tour for televising their events. Ongoing thanks to those who have supported collegiate skiing and supported the USAWS grassroots program and junior development - smart investments in the future. Huge appreciation those companies who put their money where their mouths are like Goode and HO (specifically for funding passionate ambassadors like @MarcusBrown and his FlowpointTV project). Apologies and thanks to anyone omitted here for their activities.

So before treading further into this deep water, there's also a lot to unpack in this article -

- downstream impacts of underinvesting in the next generation of athletes - playership is down across the board, not just in our sport
- the nature and over-reliance on volunteer coaching in youth sports
- the potential and limitations of app-based solutions

My takeaway and challenge to us all is to figure out how kids broadly can get more regular access to slalom courses and connect with that rush that we all love.

Here's my concrete suggestion to the USAWS and industry broadly - put aside funds to make sure that every summer camp offering waterskiing, has a qualified coach, course and equipment to get kids hooked during their early and often only exposure to the sport of slalom skiing.
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  • unksskisunksskis Posts: 657 Crazy Baller
    Some of the best information yet, thank you for sharing. The over-reliance of volunteers overall is a major constraint. I'd take it a step further, don't even include the course, just get people on skis. Or majorly support public water courses.
  • unksskisunksskis Posts: 657 Crazy Baller
    I'll also add, waterskiing has its audience and participants, it's just too concerned about growing and adding new people rather than sustaining and maintaining current participants. It's easier to retain customers than gain new ones. There is an audience for skiing, it's just being ignored.
  • Fastguy888Fastguy888 Posts: 121 Baller
    I would love to take some neighborhood kids; my daughters age 10-12 y/o that are "acquittances" but I don't know them or their parents well enough to risk liability. I would also love to offer a free learn to ski day in my small suburb that has a nice little skiable lake. What holds me back is liability. It would be great if USAWS or another organization could sponsor liability insurance or draft a legally sound "waiver of volunteer" for such scenarios through an easy to sign-up website. Just like volunteering for AYSO Soccer possibly you first have to pass a background check and driver course to be eligible... I am a USAWS Cert Boat Driver, and have SafeSport and other credentials...

    If I could get one or two kids hooked on skiing to replace my own love for the sport I would consider it time well spent.

    What holds my daughter off from wanting to participate is having no friends or peers to share the experience with or "normalize it" as a fun recreation. Here in the Los Angles basin their are 4 million people, but I think like 25 waterskies, lol. The more good skiing folks I can expose my daughter and wife to; the more they are getting interested in the sport despite my wife and her extended family being non skiers. To many, the sport looks like magic that takes extreme strength and skill to enjoy; that very well may be the case to compete at a high level, more exposure to the joy of gliding on the water and not being too cool for school could bring in more interest.

    I tried to get permission to put a portable ski course in my local lake. The lifeguards who manage the lake and have final say indicated with such a wide variety of people whom they serve; fisherman, sailors, kayakers, boat cruisers, Jet Skiers... dedicating a section of lake even in the extreme off season would not be proportionally serving the community. Now if they have 50 different people requesting a slalom course and saw it getting used, they could validate the resources...
  • Skoot1123Skoot1123 Posts: 2,167 Mega Baller
    @Fastguy888 - I love your thinking. We were able to host a couple of “open” ski nights last year for our kids and their friends. They all had so much fun, and they loved coming back and skiing a couple times this year as well.

    One thing we did was have their parents come as well. I had one of the parents ride in the boat while their child skied so they could watch closely and monitor their child.

    This is a fantastic way to build community and get to know the parents of your kids friends. It truly is a win win.
  • aupatkingaupatking Posts: 1,787 Mega Baller
    I’ve been saying access is the biggest problem for some time. Access to slalom courses, and those who ski them.
    I think this needs to be a MAJOR initiative for USAWSWS. They need to have dedicated club resources ie. typical structure (LLC, Corp,…) documents, typical bylaws, possibly website templates that link back to USAWSWS.
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,399 Administrator
    There is merit to these ideas but the idea that AWSA or USAWS has the funds or people to do any this is profoundly naïve. There are no funds to be set aside. If you guys want to see something like this you need to start organizing.

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  • aupatkingaupatking Posts: 1,787 Mega Baller
    @Horton I don’t see what is hard about adding a page with documents, or links to documents, and maybe a template website. Even I can do that. Maybe some of the lawyers on here could draw up some very basic articles and bylaws. A simple committee created, or new mission for the existing membership committee, and a call to all members, who don’t currently belong to a club, to start one.
    I’m seriously asking, are you serious that USAWS/AWSA does not have those resources?
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,399 Administrator
    @aupatking I'm replying to the original post.

    Here's my concrete suggestion to the USAWS and industry broadly - put aside funds to make sure that every summer camp offering waterskiing, has a qualified coach, course and equipment to get kids hooked during their early and often only exposure to the sport of slalom skiing.

    Support BallOfSpray by supporting the companies that support BallOfSpray

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    Performance Ski and Surf ☆ Reflex ☆ Radar ☆ Rodics OffCourse ☆ S Lines ☆ Stokes ☆

  • MitchellMMitchellM Posts: 138 Baller
    How did each of you learn to ski? When did you first realize you could compete in a slalom course?

    Personally, my wife and I both learned to ski at summer camps behind 19ft outboard boats. No slalom course, but the goal back then was fun and we both could slalom. My three kids all learned to slalom ski on Robin Lake at Callaway Gardens. We go there every summer. Sadly, they pull out the slalom course after the Masters. We had never seen one until a few years ago.

    My point is that we should each consider how we were introduced to the sport. The lack of access to courses is a major failing and stumbling block. Outreach to specific summer camps with lake access who still teach waterskiing could work. Sadly, many camps have eliminated waterskiing due to perceived liability and cost.

    Personal outreach by you pros and accomplished skiers is paramount. Horton teaching his daughter is a joy to watch. Perhaps she has other friends who would like to learn and try the course. Pros with ski schools could do more outreach with the grass roots program. Jodi Fisher is having his 3rd such event in the past year with a good grass roots turnout (including my two daughters).

    We each need to consider how we can reach out and grow this sport or it will wither and die due to associated costs and lack of access and exposure.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • skiinxsskiinxs Posts: 704 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I believe that in many cases, there is access available, but no good mechanism to help those who would like access to connect with those who would be happy to welcome people to the sport. I for one have never turned anyone down who asked to learn to ski or get started on a slalom course (or jump, which is another level of liability.) I would bet that there are quite a few reasonably close to me that would love to ask, but have no idea there is an option. They also don't know there are people who actually still ski, or even that AWSA exists. A mechanism to connect all of those dots is what is needed.
  • aupatkingaupatking Posts: 1,787 Mega Baller
    Honestly, Waterski magazine was my inspiration. As a kid, my whole family were open water river skiers. No one skied the course but it’s all I ever wanted to do. I never did until I was 35 years old. Just didn’t know who to go with
  • Bruce_ButterfieldBruce_Butterfield Posts: 2,174 Member of the BallOfSpray Hall Of Fame
    @aupatking thanks for volunteering! I absolutely agree we need to open access, but USAWS/AWSA doesn't have the motivation or resources. Yes its a problem, but why does anyone need bylaws from lawyers to teach someone to ski? Sorry that’s a major rant that I won’t expand on.

    At any rate, teaching people to ski is great and most have done that. The problem is for them to progress they need regular practice, say 2-5 times a week for the ski season. How many skiers, lake homeowners, clubs, or ski ski schools offer THAT opportunity?
    I'm Ancient. WTH do I know?
  • skiboynyskiboyny Posts: 299 Baller
    It does take time and effort but mostly it takes money. That will always be the stumbling block for this sport.
  • aupatkingaupatking Posts: 1,787 Mega Baller
    If I’m towing people I don’t know well, and we all know any real sport is an injury when, not if, I want to be as legally responsible as I am being physically responsible. By that I mean, have the correct legal club setup, insurance, and anything else that may take as much liability off of me, personally, as possible.
    I tow new skiers any chance I get. I maintain the only public course in our area, and I try to be available and approachable. I just don’t want to risk my personal assets for people I don’t know, doing a sport that I know has real risk.
    @Bruce_Butterfield I agree with you, that it shouldn’t be this way, but I don’t think it changes the fact that it is this way. At least, it doesn’t change the way I view the risk to me. And I would be happy to volunteer. I’m getting my judges rating and want to get a drivers rating as well, so I can do more for the sport I love. If I can find someone willing and able to go 2-3 times a week, and can drive, even better!
  • Fast351Fast351 Posts: 276 Solid Baller
    @The_MS Who would I contact in w.metro to get course access? I'm an avid freeskier, a little over the hill (almost 50) and would love the opportunity to get a chance to chase some balls. I just have no idea how to get onto a course...
    Mike van Meeteren
  • The_MSThe_MS Posts: 6,844 Member of the BallOfSpray Hall Of Fame
    @Fast351 I sent you a PM. I know there are some west suburbs skiers on here so maybe they will post here for some help.
  • greghayesgreghayes Posts: 118 Baller
    “There is merit to these ideas but the idea that AWSA or USAWS has the funds or people to do any this is profoundly naïve. There are no funds to be set aside. If you guys want to see something like this you need to start organizing.”

    @Horton - sorry to be so naive, as to try to affect change. This status quo thinking will continue to shrink this sport into obscurity. Why else does the USAWS exist - to expand access and grow the sport?

    When USAWS embraces this as a goal, will be the day that I rejoin (and encourage others to do the same). Until then, we are just supporting an organization that is living in an echo chamber of ideas and events that produce diminishing returns.
  • BrennanKMNBrennanKMN Posts: 585 Crazy Baller
    @Fast351 Send me a PM sometime. I am one of the guys running one of the courses on the west side of town now. We'd love to have you.

    Since I took over responsibility and maintenance of this course 4-5 years ago I have met lots of new (and existing) skiers on the west side of town that didn't know this course existed. Now they are regulars out there skiing several times a week as it is one of the last floating public water courses in the area. It used to be just me and my crew, now it is 3-4 rotating crews.

    What I am trying to say is echoing what @The_MS is saying. It is not solely the AWSA's responsibility to get visibility and access for all. Sure they can help pave a way, but without people paying for a course, maintaining a course, using the course and building a community it will never happen.

    If you're not willing to put forth the effort to make it happen on your own, telling someone else to put forth that effort is a futile expectation. I love running that course and seeing all the skiers use it. Some of the skiers are super appreciative and helpful with maintenance and some are not as friendly. Whether there are others that use it or it is just me, I would still be putting in the time and effort to have a course.
  • A_BA_B Posts: 4,417 Mega Baller
    @Horton can you provide a link to where the USAWSA financials are published? I have looked around and have never been able to find. A Statement of Financial Activities would be good for all to see.

    Until I can review them I guess I will just continue to be profoundly naïve.
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,399 Administrator
    edited November 2021
    I do not have the link. I am sure someone who reads this does.
    My understanding is the books are not pretty.

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  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,998 Mega Baller
    Since mandates are so popular these days, USAWS could mandate that for every competitive sanction event, the LOC must also host a Basic Skills clinics where free site access is given to any person who possesses or signs up for a GR membership or day pass.

    BTW, I don't support mandates. It's a joke.
    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • KelvinKelvin Posts: 1,331 Mega Baller
    Here's a link to the 2019 Form 990 filed with the IRS.
    Kelvin Kelm, Lakes of Katy, Katy Texas
  • jhughesjhughes Posts: 1,195 Mega Baller
    @skibrain has it nailed. I didn't know what a course was until I was probably 22.

    I'm a "first generation" ski nut. When I was a kid we had family friends with a lake cabin and a 1977 Ski Nautique. As a little kid in the 80s I was mesmerized by that boat, it was the coolest thing ever. It's impossible to explain how much cooler that boat was to a 9yr old than any other boat at the time. From the spotter seat of that boat I watched one of those family friends throw up walls of water slaloming down the lake one morning and I'll never forget it.

    Much later in life it was a crappy Sea Ray I/O that I eventually learned to slalom on and the rest is history, total addict hook line and sinker. I bought my own Ski Nautique before I even had a tow vehicle! Priorities.

    I also remember in the 80s that almost every adult I knew would at least ski combos and could do it for fun without hesitation. My parents, their friends, it seemed way more common then for some reason. I don't know any people my age these days outside of "ski people" that even want to try combos. That might be a thing/sign of the times, I don't know but the appetite for trying hard things may be less now.

    So I guess keep free skiing on open water when the rest of the lake is watching, some kid is going to want to do that when they see it. That's probably one of the most important things we could do.
  • gsm_petergsm_peter Posts: 841 Crazy Baller
    Our club arrange ski school every year.
    We have plus 40 kids (type age 9 to 17) each summer.
    Many kids return to the school 3 to 4 times but do not continue to ski. We offer free membership the rest of the year, 4 months 2 evnings per week training. Few attend. We provide loan of all equipment.
    We help to drive the kids to/home from the club.
    They can also almost for free ski at another 8 clubs within less than 2,5h drive. Many clubs offer unlimited skiing for 100 to 200 usd per year.

    After 10 years about 3 familjes got adicted.
    Mostly alltså. 2 kids run 26 to 30 mph now.

    One can lead the house to the water but you can not forse him to drink....

    It is not the cost or availability.

    What more can we do??
    Life is too short not to enjoy every day!
  • DWDW Posts: 2,508 Mega Baller
    Sadly, on one of the financial channels the talking heads were chattering about how AI is going to create the ability to ‘be anywhere / do it all’ from the comfort of your living room and this will be the ‘in’ thing. Hopefully this won’t catch on and decrease doing the real thing although with how popular staring at a phone is, I have my doubts.

    So to previous question, I don’t know.
  • CommuterfisherCommuterfisher Posts: 96 Baller
    Here at Carlsbad Lagoon we have some young skiers. The course was in shambles due to lack of maintenance and the saltwater environment. Darn barnacles! We now have a good setup and some dedicated skiers.

    One wants to be on the SDSU ski team and we take him on the course weekly. So besides us old guys there are a few.
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