By Fallon Sheffield
In the summer of 2022, the South Central Region introduced a schedule of “Collegiate Weekends” to help athletes stay connected to their ski community in a time where most normally do not have access to a lake. In order to keep these students skiing consistent over the summer, the SCR came together with a way to keep everyone involved during a time where skiing comes to a halt.
With the bulk of ski season taking place in the Fall semester, students are typically given only a week or two to prepare for the season, with the first tournament typically starting the first or second weekend of school. In this amount of time, they are expected to regain their momentum from the previous semester after a three to four month break. In addition to returning members, this is a nearly impossible window for brand new members to develop the proper form and technique to learn the sport in order to compete well in tournaments. From the beginning of school until the Collegiate National Championships, teams only have a month and a half to prepare their teams to compete against the best schools in the country.
The solution to this would be a collection of “Collegiate Summer Weekends,” an idea brought to the board and played out by Austin Kolodejcak, who constructed a plan for four different Texas ski sites to host a group of collegiate students.
Lakes of Katy (Katy, TX); $25/skier, hosted by the Kelm’s - 20 participants
Stevenson’s Ski Ranch (Conroe, TX); $35/skier, hosted by Austin Kolodejcak - 15 participants
Bent Creek (Sherman, TX); $50/skier, hosted by the Butterfield’s - 20 participants
Aquaplex (Buda, TX); $40/skier, hosted by the Hamilton’s - 25 participants
Each of these families graciously shared their homes, boats and site access in order to give these skiers the opportunity to keep up with their training. The weekends were comparable to tournaments, with a running order to keep track of sets and outdoor spaces set aside for tent camping. Days were filled with skiing from sun up to sun down, with skiers eagerly waiting on the dock bright and early, and holding on to the last bit of sunlight in the evenings. Sanctioned drivers drove their fellow skiers and others would offer up their coaching from the boat. Everyone pitched in on cooking to share large, family-style meals with their friends.
The AWSA season immediately followed the last collegiate weekend in June, which allowed the participating skiers the perfect Segway into summer tournaments. Twenty-eight of the 32 summer participants competed in AWSA tournaments over the summer. For 20 (or 71%) of these competitors, it was their first time EVER competing in an AWSA tournament. At the end of July, there were 17 collegiate summer skiers at SCR Regionals and 11 at AWSA Nationals in Maize, Kansas.
Participation within AWSA improved tremendously, proven by the high portion of summer participants who were present at tournaments. In addition to this, skier performance improved tremendously.
Avg. 21.85 added buoys // 55.5 highest // 1.5 lowest
Avg. 335 points // 1270 highest // 40 lowest
Avg. 27.8 // 52 highest // 10 lowest
What did it take?
Each weekend was hosted by a volunteer with site access who donated their lake, boat, and in some cases, houses. Skiers paid a small fee ranging from $25-$50 for the weekend based on what the host wanted to donate as far as boat hours, gas, meals, etc… with each lake being donated for the weekend. Many skiers owned personal equipment, but for those without, their respective teams brought equipment for their athletes to use.
Because of this project, there are now 20 new skiers that have been exposed to the AWSA community. A vast majority of people who were introduced to skiing in college never have never been apart of skiing outside of their collegiate teams and need to become aware of the opportunities they have after they graduate. The NCWSA introduces tons of new people to this sport and if we want to retain them, they MUST be introduced to the AWSA community so they can continue skiing after college. 100% of the participants from this summer said they are hooked for life and completely intend on furthering their skiing career, but many view graduation as a dead-end.
Summer skiers at AWSA South Central Regionals
The SCR would like to make this project ongoing in summers to come. Because of the success with the 2022 launch, there has been a proven benefit in the growth of AWSA participants as well as overall skiing ability. This could be a huge step towards retaining life-long members, as well as increasing skill-level and competitiveness across collegiate.
SCR Collegiate Alumni Competing in the 2022 South Central Regionals at Aquaplex in Buda, TX