For 120 years, the Ski Club has been bringing people together through a shared passion…
Pre Covid – Program Director and Head Coach @ The Cross Collective
Post Covid – Full time grafter!
Sponsors – Volkl, Marker, Dalbello, Snowfit Revolutionz, Nurokor
Skier Cross is a fast-growing Olympic discipline that attracts both racers & freestyle skiers who compete along a racecourse full of twists, turns, rollers and often, huge jumps!
Jake Richardson is Head Coach for the Cross Collective & has coached a number of GB athletes & upcoming young athletes.
- Tell us about yourself
Jake formally, Jakey to everyone else! I started skiing in the mid ‘90s when the Salomon X-scream was hitting the headlines at the Birmingham ski show. It was love at first sight: It actually got me hooked into ski gear, skiing, and speed. I remember being too small to ski with the pro-link, I guess that’s what kept me interested in the sport… the thought that one day I’d get to ski one!
I swiftly progressed into the Norfolk race team, then the British Children’s team and the Home Nation’s squad. Then I moved to Colorado and spent three years in skiing and meeting some of the best people there. I am a coach today because of the experience I gained from the many coaches I had from ’02-’19.
After my ski career ended due to lack of funding, I worked at Snowfit Revolutionz. John had been one of my first sponsors, so it was a great match. I was a total ski geek on their shop floor selling and drilling up skis for 5-odd years and coaching privately for schools on my weeks off.
In 2017 I saw a gap in the market and started up The Cross Collective. To this day, we are still one of very few ski cross coaching clubs in the world.
- What is the Cross Collective & what does it do?
The Cross Collective (TXC) is predominantly a ski cross coaching academy, with a ski coaching ethos but whose core is based around fun. We operate in Crans Montana in Switzerland where we have established a fantastic relationship with the resort. We can train where, how and when we want – the resort really facilitates all our needs. And it’s Switzerland, which is beautiful, clean, and safe!
- Who do you work with to deliver your coaching?
Having come from an Alpine specific background, the one thing I lack is race experience in the ski cross gate. So, I make sure I employ people who fill that gap. Ex-World Cup and British Champion Pam Thorburn is a coaching regular, as is Laurence Willows who competed for several years for GB Snowsport. Talent scout and Eurosport commentator Ian Findlay has been known to make an appearance too, as has Ex Olympian turned luscious-locked podcast host extraordinaire Ed Drake! Getting the coaches correct is key and I’m grateful for all those who have remained loyal to TXC.
- Your ethos is about making coaching fun, especially for younger skiers. Tell us more about that approach & why it’s important to you?
I’ve learnt from experience. If you’re young and not having fun in your sport, or maybe your coaching or environment is too intense, it’s only a matter of time before another youngster drops out. Keeping the sport fun, engaging and varied is the key to our past success. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for intensity, but you can’t coach a child with the same work ethic as a FIS/ Europa Cup/ World Cup athlete. I was taught by a WC coach at 14, and it made me feel as if I was working a full-time job. It was only until I moved to the States when I realised how important it was to ski more than just slalom gates, and to ski with a damn smile on my face! Children are delicate, and they remember – it’s so important to me that we get it right when their minds are so spongy and new.
- You mentioned a large drop off rate for younger athletes, what are the main reasons behind this?
Firstly, financially the sport is very demanding. Kit costs a fortune, flights, lift passes, race entries, the list goes on. There is no doubt that this is the number-one reason for dropping out. But if you’re lucky to get funding or come from a family that can support you, drop-outs happen for different reasons: Coaches can push athletes to be point driven, to chase points around the world to get a better ranking. The short-term effect is great, in that you get a GB jacket (I’ll never forget my first one) but long term this becomes demoralizing. In Ski Cross you score good points in one race, and the next race you might qualify for Europa Cup… Cool, but do you have enough experience to race in this division, is the course too big, will you get injured? Not to mention how horrible it feels to travel across the continent, only to get knocked out in the first race. In my opinion, it’s best to gain experience in less aggressive courses/races such as the Swiss Open events, even the Swedish ones; feel what it’s like to get through the rounds, then make the jump up into FIS and EC when you are ready. Is there a reason why the Swiss and Swedish are the best in the world right now? Who knows? 😉
- How can GB skiers compete with the traditional Winter sport nations like Austria?
Ski cross is so new that we really can compete. The sport has only really been about for a decade (in the Olympics at least) which is why we are having success: We’re starting them young, alongside Austrians, Swedes, Swiss etc who are doing the same with kids, with the same experience. The only downside is we can’t be there 24/7, yet!
- How is the COVID-19 situation affecting your plans for this winter & your plans in general?
Covid has created in me alternate waves of brilliance and severe stress. I get to spend time with my two daughters which is the best, but at the same time I need to pay for the roof over our heads and as we stand today, we haven’t been able to get out on snow and have had to cancel our UK events. Since March I’ve started a few new ventures to diversify my income – a prosecco truck company called Blush Brothers, a tech production management team, and a property purchasing app!
- You were a competitive skier & now a coach – what’s the biggest lesson you learnt most that you pass on regularly to both athletes & parents?
It’s all in your head. Self-belief is just as important as anything else!
- If there are some key pieces of advice you could pass to parents of young ski athletes, what would you suggest?
Be patient – it is rare that winners stay winners throughout their careers. Our boy Dave Ryding didn’t start till late and look where he is now! If Dave wanted to be an overnight success he’d have gone a long time ago as it would have ruined him mentally. Stick at it, get the hours under your belt, enjoy the ride. Learn from your mistakes. A DNF isn’t a bad thing every once in a while.
- Who are the GB skier cross athletes to watch?
Ollie Davies is on the WC circuit and has come from a very strong Alpine background (Team Evolution). He’s young and strong, incredibly focused and has already shown the world he can be one of the fastest in qualifiers. I can’t omit Scott Johns. He was one of the original boys of 2017 that went to the Youth Olympics earlier this year for Team GB. Tommy Dade – don’t be fooled by his noodle hair or lanky legs, he will be a good one. US-based but British boy, Patty Young. Our youngsters (13-16 years old), Charlie Cooper, Lizzie ‘the Lizard’ Pragnell, Heidi Gibbs, Em Keen, Occy Steiger, Joel Marsh, Jakey Dade, Ollie Roberts… All our little ones are rippers!
- Where can people follow your progress & find out more about you & the Cross Collective?
Our Facebook page is the best way to keep on track. We’re also on Instagram and the website is the place to go to check out all of the camp dates, browse our galleries, and keep in the loop.
- Where is your favourite place to Ski?
Telluride, Colorado. Hands down the best place I’ve skied on Earth. Eldora, Colorado is a close second!
- Which ski discipline is your favourite (race, freeride, freestyle etc)?
To ski, freeride; to watch, ski cross. Freeride is a feeling I can’t compare to anything else. I’m too old and fragile to enjoy racing or freestyle like I used to!
- Lastly, Winter Insight is a new platform to link industry, trade & media across Winter Sports. Do you agree that linking consumers & industry can only be positive for the industry?
How can it be a negative? Especially during this mad time in the world, helping each other out by linking consumers and industries can only be good for all of us. Hats off for thinking outside of the box, and good luck with your new venture WI! Thanks for featuring us 🙂
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