November 14th, 2012
The familiar platitude “money makes the world go ‘round” is as tired as Petter Northug approaching the top of the Alpe Cermis. But while such pointless sayings may induce lung burning and nausea akin to those experienced on the Final Climb, cash (or at least the promise of cash) is how we negotiate the practical transactions of daily life.
You may not need much money to hammer out level 4 bounding intervals, but try performing that session on an escalator in Chicago O’Hare or JFK, and see if it earns you a ticket to Europe.
Hard work, dedication, teamwork, great coaching and the encouragement of friends and family may be the key ingredients in the development of skiers but the opportunity to excel requires money.
In a perfect world, US cross-country skiing and nordic combined would be flush with cash from corporate sponsors and government funding, allowing top skiers and up-and-comers alike to focus on performing and improving.
It is not news that we don’t live in that world. The US Ski Team has worked hard to support the very best at a level that allows them to focus on racing, but that leaves little for the tiers below, and those on the A-team are well-funded only by the standards of this sport in the US.
As US skiing has moved from mediocrity (at best) to true international competitiveness over the past decade, and with a strong contingent of younger athletes demonstrating this is not a temporary spike, the need for financial support has grown.
If we want to see continued success and growth in the sport, we as a community need to do more than just cheer.
The challenge is that most already do. There are so many demands for money — the local club, individual athletes, regional organizations — all need support and all are critical to the mission of growing the sport and developing great skiers. And this isn’t considering all the other worthy causes unrelated to skiing and the countless hours that volunteers, parents and coaches dedicate to the sport.
But we still need to add another layer — call it the foundation or the peak — either analogy fits for the national level.
It is no secret that as a community and sport that we cannot count on USSA to come forward with any support beyond the top level. There is going to be no well-funded development program or all expenses covered trips to Europe for any but those scoring points on the World Cup.
Clubs are now commonplace and are the first line in development. Regional organizations, led by the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) and followed by Central Cross-Country (CXC) have taken over from USSA, allowing for better programming and a commitment to vision.
The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) was created to fill the gaping holes left by USSA on the national level — the one area where there was still nothing beyond what USSA would offer. From the relatively modest goal of raising $25,000 several years ago, NNF is now attempting to bring in $250,000 to support the development of elite cross-country and nordic combined athletes.
A major ingredient in the evolution of the sport in this country has been a commitment to racing in Europe and training camps that bring together promising skiers at all levels of the pipeline.
This is what NNF raises money to support, and the organization has grown from a nearly dormant project to one of keys to the future success of our sport.
With just two days remaining in the annual fund drive, NNF is looking to hit an important $15,000 matching grant on the nordic combined side, and is within striking distance of the full funding goal of $125,000 for cross-country.
We all have to decide where to put our dollars. Some may be able to afford significant contributions at all levels, but others have to make choices.
The hope is that we don’t steal from Peter to pay Paul, and we can’t afford to ignore one level to support another. But the good news is that there are good options and every dollar helps wherever it goes.
It wasn’t that long ago that organized local clubs with elite programs were mainly a Scandinavian oddity, and regional organizations like NENSA and CXC did not exist.
The only choice was USSA, and for a myriad of reasons this was not appealing to many.
So with the kickoff to the 2013 season just days away, I encourage you to look at the options, and if possible make a contribution, be it to your club, your region, NNF, or to all three.