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Getting little kids up for the first time

fancynancyfancynancy Posts: 4
edited October 2012 in Technique & Theory
Hey guys! I'm new here. I'm a collegiate skiier and work at a summer camp teaching kids to ski. Last summer was awesome, I had an amazing boat driver and with him driving and me in the water with the kid, we got 100% of the kids who tried to ski up for at least a few seconds. This summer, my driver had exactly one weekend of experience driving a boat before coming to camp and our success rate was significantly lower. When I drive, I can get most kids up, but my driver wasn't very good at working with the kids in the water. If we had decent boats, this wouldn't be a problem, but we work with jet boats, and those are tricky to control at the best of times. (I keep begging my camp's director for Nautiques with booms, it's not going to happen :( ). The kids only get about 3-5 tries to get up before it's someone else's turn, and they may only have 2 or 3 opportunities to ski while they're at camp, so it's really important to me to get kids up on that first day.

I'm already thinking about next summer, and I really want to experiment with not just sitting in the water keeping the kids in the right position, but putting on a pair of skis myself and skiing alongside them. But just by thinking about how I would do that, I don't know how it would work. I think it would be the most effective for the under 10 crowd. I think for the smallest kids, sitting behind them with my skis on either side of theirs would be the best way to make sure they got up, but I don't know if that's safe. For bigger kids, I could sit next to them and hold on to the handle with one hand and the kid with the other to pull them up, but I don't know if that would actually get a kid up or if I would fall over sideways.

Do any of you have experience teaching kids to ski this way? Or any other methods that would work? I got into collegiate skiing because of a camp counselor, and even if none of my kids ever end up skiing competitively, making sure they enjoy the sport and have fun is my #1 goal.



  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,822 Mega Baller
    First, thanks for your true investment in growing our sport by teaching kids how to ski!!!

    Please consider looking into the USAWS Level 1 Instructor program. It will give you some tools to help with your instruction and also some liability protection should the unthinkable ever occur. (Locate Coaching Resources in the left margin...)

    A boom is an obvious advantage at these ages and levels. I hope your facility one day gets the opportunity to offer that to its kids.

    One of my most successful instructors where I teach, uses the method of skiing with the kid. He wears jump skis so that he can easily deep water and ski at the speeds which are appropriate for little skiers. He uses both methods (single rope, straddle the student's skis, and two ropes side-by-side). The straddle method seems to work best with the little kids. He tells them to sit on top of his knees and hold onto the center of the handle. He holds the outer edges of the handle and "hugs" them with his elbows as they come out of the water together. He will switch to 1 hand grip and hold the skier up with this other arm. If the skier is spaghetti legged, he will keep picking them back up with this arm. If the skier's skis begin to get behind him, he will bail with them to avoid a tumble. It is tricky, but it seems to be very successful. Once the skier begins to become stable and self-supporting, he will work to the edges of the handle and prepare to let go, allowing the skier to continue alone. He takes great care to make sure that the skier is fully skiing on their own before letting go himself.

    For older or more advanced skiers, he will ski beside them using two ropes. He will make sure that one of the ropes is about 1 foot shorter and he will use that one. He will get up 1-handed and hold the skier steady by gripping the back of their life jacket. Again, if they fall, he let's go, too. to stay near the skier for support. Once up, he will slowly provide less stabilization via his grip on their jacket, until they are fully supporting themselves. Then, he will let go and move away to the side a bit. If they start to get unsteady, he will come back over and again support them with his free arm.

    I have also seen a method where the instructor's free hand is routed under the student's near arm and then holds onto the student's far forearm. Thus, the instructor's free arm is like a boom supporting the skier's arm and handle at once.

    Finally, if you have time, please do a dry land instruction with the skiers. There is so much that you can do with just a handle section of the rope and some time. Talk about the keys to success:
    1) Arms straight (extension of the rope, relaxed)
    2) Strong hands/grip (while getting up)
    3) Nice and proud chest (upper body is upright)
    4) Shock absorbers - ankles and knees
    5) Patience - we say, go, we listen for the boat, we feel the water moving, we count 3-alligators, then we push up
    6) Slowly push up with legs, keep arms straight.

    You can have each skier, sit on the ground, holding a handle in a "cannonball" position, then have them say "Go", then make the boat sound, then slowly pull them from seated to a squatted position, then have them push up with their legs (no pulling on the handle), with arms straight the whole time. This little exercise really makes a difference. They know what to expect out on the water. They can practice keeping the arms straight, being patient, and using legs and back to stand up slowly.

    Other tips...
    Everything on the water should be smooth and slow. If they have their arms bent, have them SLOWLY straighten them out. If their legs are too straight and locked, have them SLOWLY bend those ankles to get better shock absorbers, etc. All corrective actions should be smooth and slowly executed.

    Have them always be looking where they are going. They should feel the water under their skis, not look at it. During boat turns, have them look where the boat is headed.

    If they feel a little out of control, have them increase the shock absorbers. This will settle things down a little.

    Watch out for the hunch back skiers. It is better to be tall and proud than hunched over. They will be very sore if they ski with too much waist bend. Encourage the proud chest posture.
    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • Thanks so much for such a quick and detailed response!

    I already do all of the dryland activities you suggested, and I definitely notice it makes a difference - especially getting kids to keep their arms straight! And I'll take a look at the Instructor program. Everything I know about teaching kids I pretty much learned on the spot, and it's really nice to see that I've already thought of almost everything you suggested.

    I'm especially excited to try skiing behind the kids, because it sounds like I can do everything I already do in the water, which is keep the kids relaxed and in the cannon ball position, and basically pull them up and ski with them for as long as they need. I definitely prefer getting kids up with as little help as possible, but when there is so limited time, even a few seconds of skiing translates to a massive confidence boost and an awesome letter home to mom and dad.

    When you ski next to the kid, are you still able to help them resist the pull of the boat? A lot of my job involves dragging behind the kids and holding on to their life jackets to prevent them from getting pulled over by the boat in the first few seconds of the pull up.
  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,822 Mega Baller
    Yes. My friend who does this method can guide the skier straight with his hand on the back of their lifejacket. Plus he is moving forward with them while they are both coming up, so he can sort of pull them up too...
    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • JordanJordan Posts: 1,177 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited October 2012
    You have to lose the jet boats. They are simply horrible for kids to learn on. Frankly, most kids would do better behind an outboard if the camp can't afford an inboard.

    Jets surge just as the kids are at the critical moment in getting up.

    My brother has a jet boat and my nephew, who is both strong and athletic for his age, struggled mightily getting up behind that boat. Once I had him try on my Mastercraft he got up right away.

    Push for different boats. Almost anything is better than a jet.
  • Oh believe me, I hate those jet boats and am constantly campaigning for new ones. We have them for "safety" because they don't have a prop, but I feel like an impeller is way more dangerous. They're fun to play with, but awful for skiing.

    I did have a little victorious moment when, during a meeting with the camp director and the ski staff, he mentioned that it's impossible to slalom behind a jet boat, and I casually said "Oh, I did that this morning!"

    My first driver made that boat his baby, and that's why we were so successful getting kids up. That jet surge is exactly the reason why I have to hang behind so many kids as they get up - if they're not leaning back exactly the right amount or are a little too tense, they get pulled over if I'm not holding them back.

    Thanks so much Todd! I think I'm going to practice that on my brothers a bit :)
  • MaryTeeMaryTee Posts: 25 Baller
    check out Seth Stisher's video of teaching little kids to ski...might give you some help.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 3,821 Mega Baller
    Get a disc or a "skimmer"... seriously - I remember as a little kid getting up behind tiny outboards on plywood discs covered in spar varnish and sticky tape.

    This is something you can make and bring to camp if they won't buy one.

    A skim board is tied to the boat, two rubber toe hoops, and is shaped like two skis with a connected tip. Anyone can get up on that.

    After that you can go to combos and no problem pull the kids up.
  • andjulesandjules Posts: 820 Crazy Baller
    edited October 2012
    @fancynancy I think the answer depends a lot on the strength/coordination and age of the student. I'd say by 8 or 9 years old, the time-cost of trying to ski alongside isn't really worth it, and it sounds like you are on a tight timeline (time-cost, as in: managing two ropes, helping them get set up & then getting your own skis back on, multiply with each fall). Younger than that (or for particularly challenging cases), it can be worth it, and I much prefer the ski-beside-with-one-hand-grabbing-their-jacket's-shoulder. If your goal is for them to graduate to doing it themselves, it's very tough to straddle the skier without making them totally dependent on you (at least during the start) - they tend not to learn anything in the process (about getting up).

    FWIW, while I'm no deep-shortline coach, I spent a lot of time in the summer camp instructor role. I eventually simplified my first-timer's lesson: 95%+ of new skiers' instinct is to do one of two things: try to pull themselves up with their arms (fall back), or stand up too early (fall forward). There's rarely more to it than that, so focus on a lesson that sticks to those two concepts.
  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,822 Mega Baller
    @andjules said: "95%+ of new skiers' instinct is to do one of two things: try to pull themselves up with their arms (fall back), or stand up too early (fall forward). There's rarely more to it than that, so focus on a lesson that sticks to those two concepts"

    Spot on! That's really it. Finding ways and words which help first time kids avoid those two issues is the value you can add as an informed instructor.
    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,822 Mega Baller
    I'll add that learning to get up is easier once the skier knows how it feels to actually ski. So it is a catch-22. Tools like a Boom or cradle/straddle solutions serve to get around this catch-22. They don't eliminate the step of learning how to properly do a deep water start, but they do improve earlier success.
    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • I really appreciate everyone's input!

    I'm pretty good at my job, and over the course of two summers, I've taught at least 100 kids how to ski, so I've definitely got a lot of experience to work with. Totally agree with that 95% statistic! And The majority of them can get up fine on their own, it's really only the ones who struggle a lot that I would ski with. I get everything from kids who pop up on their first try and ski around the lake a few times with perfect form and never fall to the kids who take a try or two to get up and are shaky and can only make it halfway down the lake to the kids who stand up and immediately fall. I count all of those kids as successes because they got up for any amount of time, and however long that is is exciting. They're the ones who are likely to come back so that we can work on improving their skills.

    It's only the kids who can't get up for any amount of time that I want to try the doubles skiing with (and coaching the more advanced kids, but that's just so I'm close enough to talk to them). It's already disappointing for them to not get up, and it's even worse when they watch three of their bunkmates ski around the lake for the first time and they can't get out of the water. I'd much rather do the work for them and give them the confidence to come back and try again rather than turn them off to the sport completely on day 1.

    During those first few tries, their perception of how they did is so much more important than how they're actually doing. My favorite line: "Look at how far away from the dock you got!!" Who cares that most of the distance was just the boat dragging the kid?

    Another question, what effect does having a rope tied to the skis have? We use skis that are tied together, and it would be pretty easy to attach a handle. I know that for it to be safe, the spotter would have to hold the other end of the rope instead of attaching it to the boat.
  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,822 Mega Baller
    Rope tied to skis... I did this with my son at the age of 3 and 4. He learned on a ski skimmer. Then, we moved him to a pair of wooden skis fixed together, with the skis affixed to the tow rope and a handle coming up from that. It can work quite well. It can also be one more piece of equipment to fiddle with. You have to get the length and attachment point of the handle section just right. If it is too long or too short, you cause the skier to be too far forward or back on the skis. Many trainer skis come with this type of setup. They all have a way to adjust the point where the handle section intersects the tow rope. I've found that this adjustment is very critical. Get it wrong and you end up adding failed attempts for the student.
    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • FrankSFrankS Posts: 169 Baller
    If you are teaching a lot of kids how to ski a boom (made by barefoot international) is a VERY helpful and useful piece of equipment. It really is a lot easier to get the kids up for the first time and you can work on form a bunch on the boom and short rope before you send them behind the boat. I teach many people to ski at my home every summer and my ski club runs a learn to ski clinic every year. If you really want to make huge progress, buy a boom.
    Swervin'... It's what I do
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,145 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Totally with @frankS. For my own kids, for their friends, for the kids I teach at camp, for adults who are friends the boom is the key. It not only gets them up but allows coaching within voice distance on form. Get it right on the boom, go to a short rope, then behind the boat is a snap.
    The key for my students is not to jump too quickly. Everyone can cheat themselves up on the boom. Get 'em up, correct their stance, drop 'em back in and work the starts with nice straight arms not using the boom to cheat. When going to handle keep it tight to the boom at first until they can do it, then loop it off a foot or so at a time working the starts all the this point they are usually fine's the start they need to master. Once they have the start at full handle extension in the bank repeatable, stick 'em behind the boat.
    I've taught new barefooters to step out of a ski on the boom to long-line behind the boat w/out a fall utilizing the boom.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
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