When it comes to competitive snowboarding in the Okanagan, if you want to go places the past five years has seen the competitive infrastructure set up for success.
Young snowboarders are working out with the Big White Free Ride team, leading into the Okanagan Development Team.
Both groups are based at Big White with the Okanagan Development Team in its sixth year of operation. It was established to promote and organize snowboarding events at a grassroots level and act as a springboard to provincial and national teams.
Coached by Matt Galina, the team has about 16 boarders from 13 to 18 years of age on it this year. They compete in different events around the province as the youngsters look to get their feet squarely on the board and see if competitive snowboarding is for them.
“When kids come to our program they know how to snowboard,” explained Matt. “They may not be the best but they possess the character and the traits of an athlete that is dedicated and wants to progress in their sport.”
Boarders as young as seven begin with the Big White Free Ride team and the majority of competitors on the development team started with the free riders.
For Galina, he’s looking for positive character traits in the athletes he selects for his team. Skill can be taught but the development team is looking for kids who are motivated to push forward in a competitive, yet fun, environment.
“We look for fundamentals and personalities and the coachability of the athletes,” he said.
Galina began with the Okanagan Development Team as an assistant coach and soon took over as the club’s head coach. He works closely with the younger team as well as coaches at the provincial and national level to make sure they are on the same page when it comes to development.
In the past years the development team has graduated some snowboarders onto higher levels. Jade Critchlow is now on Team B.C. and has been designated the Canadian national development team while her sister Tess is also on Team B.C.
Other boarders have also moved on, choosing other sports or simply to move away from the competitive side of the sport.
“There is always turnover,” he said. “There are athletes who no longer want to pursue the competitive side of snowboarding or we pass athletes to the next level. It’s always interesting each year.”
While snowboarding received the natural boost from Canada’s success at the Vancouver Olympics, Galina says there are not as many athletes as you might think.
He adds that participation amongst females is down from a number of years ago.
“As far as interest in competitive snowboarding we’re seeing a bit of a lull, especially on the women’s side of it,” he said. We’re trying to rack our brains on how to get more females out.”
The Okanagan Development Team will hold a selection camp in late spring and then another in the fall. If you are interested you can get more information on snowboarding at www.bcwnowboard.com.