couple of years ago we started doing tryout camps for the D and C Teams. One of the comments that we got right
away was, ‘I’ve never seen this girl or this guy,’ and that was from the people that were doing the evaluations.”
Keller says the previous practice of measuring the strength of the American juniors program by taking a few
athletes from each division to Whistler Cup and even fewer to the Trofeo Topolino did not provide enough depth.
“Calling who is going to make it at age 13 or 14 is just not going to happen,” he admitted.
Jon Nolting, USSA’s director of Sports Education, added that from 1994 to 2006, when athletes could presumably
have made USST criteria following participation, 25 percent of Topolino athletes qualified for the team. That
included some impressive names: Vonn, Mancuso, Schleper, Lalive, Stiegler, Weibrecht, Sullivan, Brandenburg.
On the flip side, nearly one-third had dropped out or were sub-elite performers by the end of their junior years.
“The remainder continued to compete at top levels regionally, with many becoming successful collegiate racers,”
said Nolting. “Other important factors in addition to race results contribute to future skill potential — athletes,
coaches and parents should not lose sight of these. This project allows the top skiers in the U.S. to be competitive
across a broader skill set and to get a unique assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.”
In fact, for U16 athletes, such factors as physical maturity, mass and even birth month can all contribute to early
successes, but those successes may not be a true validation of the athlete’s underlying skill or potential.
“The U16 project serves as a pivotal turning point for junior development in alpine skiing in the U.S.,” says alpine
coach and sport science expert Jennifer Stielow, “and provides the opportunity to gain feedback on the physical,
mental and skill development health of junior alpine skiers, allowing for more accurate programming in the future
while giving these athletes the opportunity to find their strengths and weaknesses.”
J3 athletes undergo physical testing at the Center of Excellence.
Isabella Wright charges on the slalom course at the U16
Assessment Project camp in Park City.
A new day dawns as the USSA takes a fresh
approach to talent identification and development
at the U16 National Assessment Project camp.