Coaching Snowboarding

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of coaching snowboarding,
I want to suggest that this page is for riders, as much as it is for coaches........ 

A coach is a rider and a rider should become a coach, of themselves at least.
Learning to fill the coaching rolls for themselves may be the most important thing an athlete can take away from being coached.

A high level athlete can learn very much about his or her own riding and abilities by watching, coaching and being involved in the development of others.

We must all work hard to break bad habits and to build good ones. While working to strengthen targeted weakness in basic skills and ability, we must work to push ourselves towards cultivating and maximizing our comfort zone,  as riders and as coaches.


Mike Jankowski (Head Coach of US Halfpipe Team) & Rick Bower (Technical Coach of US Halfpipe Team)

Very well, lets move on. In the effort to develop skills in coaching snowboarding, an individual will find that they fill many supporting roles for the riders they work with. Finding ways to share passion for the sport, encourage progression in skills, balance and health in lifestyle and provide a safe and productive environment for the riders. The coach must learn to cultivate their own coaching style. Whether it is support oriented, goal oriented, routine and structure based or simply cheerleading and group support, the progressing snowboarding coach must learn to develop many areas of their own abilities.

The Many Hats of the Snowboard Coach

Below I will point out and discuss some of the important roles of a snowboarding coach. Not all coaches are comfortable with all the roles, but the more well developed a coach can become in all Teaching, Support and Stuctural efforts the more effective they will be in aiding in the progression of snowboarding athletes.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Teacher - First off, the coach must be able to share their own personal passion for the activity with the student. The coach must enjoy the interaction with the rider, and thrive off of the process of progression and development. Secondly, a coach should have backgound and experience with the activity. A freestytle or a boardercross coach don't neccesarily have to have been a top level athlete in that event and activity, although it can help. Many of the best coaches in the world are not x-pros of the specific activity to be coached. However, they are all passionate fans of the sport and have talent in teaching athletes through support, observation of the rider and constructive feedback resulting in progress.

    Bud Keene- Shaun Whites Coach and runs BK PROGRESSION CAMPS

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Cheerleader - Yes, cheerleader. This means cheer when things are going their way, cheer for them to get up when they fall, cheer for them when they overcome a challenge and cheer for them sometimes just to let them know your there to support them. Of coarse, don't over cheer or they will stop appreciating it and think your a brown-noser(haha). Seriously though, it is incredible what postitive energy can do.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Motivator - Not only must we be able to motivate a rider to hit a jump or sign-up for a contest, we must also be able to motivate them to do push-ups or call a sponsor. One of the keys to progress in any environment in life is thinking ahead, making a plan, and sticking to it with willingness to execute the pieces of the plan that are not fun or may even be difficult. Avoiding procrastination and accepting the challenge of working for delayed gratification. This is hard to teach to teenagers, as we all know. As a coach we must try and find creative ways to share the concepts and encourage forward thinking action and focused effort from our athletes.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Observing and Critiquing - A quality coach must have a good eye and take time to observe before they start critiquing. Just being quiet and watching a rider, is the most important input that a coach can receive in formulating a game plan as to how to approach potential progression with any given athlete. Not only watching skills, but watching body language, posture, social skills and apparent ambition and motivational traits. Some riders need a push, some push themselves too hard. It is the coaches job to identify a riders strengths and weaknesses, athletically and personally. Then, formulate a plan to build on the individuals' skills and strengths. Just as important though, is taking time and effort to step back when the time is right, to work on improving the weak points and cultivating the fundamental and personal base of the athlete.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Constuctive Criticizer - A good coach is constantly dilerberating over different ideas and tips to share with a rider. Don't give a rider to much to think about, or they will not be able to focus on the activity. Just one idea or focus of adjustment at a time. Due to this the coach must be selective about what he or she actually shares with the athlete as well as the timing of the tip. Learning to be effective and timely with tips and suggestions to enhance the progress of the rider. Never overload a rider with tips, or beat a dead horse, by making a rider try over and over on a progression that is not working. The coach must learn to critique a rider in a way the sounds constructive and not make them feel like your telling them they suck. Even if the rider does suck, the coaches job is to guide them towards progression in ability through confidence building. Find something to point out that they are doing well. Then provide constuctive critism in an environment where the rider feels your respect for what they already do well, what they are capable of, and what they hope to acheive.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Physical Trainer - A quality coach has an idea of physical training routines to teach to riders. While snowboarding in many ways is a very individual and artistic expression, to reach towards potential as a snowboard artist, the rider must gather and care for their tools. Tools like strength, flexibility, nutrition and overall physical well being. It is an athletic sport. Don't let the image of some of the top pros fool you. Because they do work out, and stretch and take care of themselves to stay on top.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - First Aid Medic - Be ready for the falls and injuries. They will happen. Learn First Aid so you can help out in the heat of an injury. Be ready to call patrol when you need it. Most of the time we are on ski areas where, the Patrol is the primary medical support, but we should have first aid skills and a plan to contact Patrol, not if, but when we will need them. Here is a quick guide to follow in the case of an injury while snowboarding coaching.
    • Call patrol
    • Provide first aid and emotional support
    • Always remain calm and move anybody that is freaking out about a situation away from the injured party
    • Stabilize the area by closing off any source of traffic from above. Like if your in a jump landing, hollar to someone to close the jump
    • If the injury is bad, don't move them before patrol gets there.

    It is also important to watch out for kids that have hurt themselves and don't want to admit it. A rider hits their head or twists their knee in a bad landing, but they got up and shook it off. Now they are back at the top and about to drop in. Watch for these athletes. They need you to tell them to go down and take a rest, deal with the injury.


  • Coaching Snowboarding - Child and Sport Psycholigist- Learning about child psychology can help the coach to be aware of the social, emotional and hormonal factors that are pulling on children and teens. Sport pshychology is so important when coaching high level athletes. It is said that a high risk sport like snowboarding is 10% physical and 90% mental. A coach must challenge themselves to learn to teach each rider according to the riders own emotional and mental support needs. The coach will learn to get inside a riders head to help them find a more confident and productive approach to the activity. Sometimes just to help a rider appreciate the forward steps and progress made can be a major goal of a quality coach.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Rewarder - From time to time, have treats, like candy in your pocket, to use as goal crushing motivation. It works, believe me.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Equipment Support & Mechanic - A good coach will spend time encouraging riders to make sure that their equipment is in good shape and ready to go. Things like having appropriate outerwear and accesories, board tuning, binding set-up, boot fit, and having unfogged goggles with good lenses for the light conditions can all totally make or break a day on the hill. I myself nearly always have a backpack with me that has backup gloves, goggles and lenses, and hats in it. Along with a scraper for wax, a tape measure and a driver for bindings, a stone to smooth out burred up edges and my video camera.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Videographer and Photographer - Take pictures and shoot video. They can use photos for school, sponsorship resume efforts or for their family. Then watch the video with the rider and go over it with them. I can't stress how much this activity can help to clarify in a riders mind what they are doing on the hill. It can open thier eyes and mind to the difference between internal perspective, reality and potential. It will leave them with renewed drive and focus for specific adjustments to make in the next on snow effort.

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Feature Builder - Building and shoveling jumps, driving snowcats, throwing salt on a back country boot to help it set-up, can all be part of snowboarding coaching. How far are you willing to go for your athletes?

  • Coaching Snowboarding - Safety Police - Always surveying the environment looking for red flags is the idea here. Rocks, a poorly set up rail, a scetchy kink in the pipe wall or a messed up jump shape are all reason to put on your Safety Police hat and regulate. Either take your riders somewhere else, or even better help to close it off and or work to fix the problem. Just don't practice on something dangerous and wish you hadn't later. That is a bad feeling. Help to keep everyone in one piece. Your riders and their parents will thank you.