Since the Aug. 30 departure of former head coach Justin Rouleau for Massachusetts, his alma mater, Harvard’s alpine skiers have been without direction. So just how have the skiers managed in the absence of a particular leader?
“If anything, we’ve had a problem with over-attendance because we have so many people on the team right now,” said senior women’s captain Susannah Dickerson. “There’s so much interest.”
A team that has barely had enough skiers to compete in the last few seasons boasts a roster of 16 this year, five women and 11 men. And while the team roster has grown, the overall commitment of team members has grown as well.
“Because there isn’t a coach, it almost feels like it’s so voluntary, and also you’re not just accountable to one coach—it’s like you’re accountable to all of your teammates,” freshman Justine Lescroart said. “I feel guilty when I skip practice, both for my own reasons because I know I’m not getting stronger, [but also] because there is kind of this feeling like it’s a team effort.
“We’re not all being dragged along by one person—we’re all kind of pulling ourselves along together.”
The leadership shown by Dickerson and the men’s captain, junior Eric Ode, also helped to ensure that incoming recruits weren’t overly affected by the loss of Rouleau.
“The whole way along I was getting just as many emails from Susannah and Eric as I had been from Justin,” Lescroart said. “I knew that Susannah and Eric were coming back and some of these other upperclassmen had things under control.”
Preparation is hardly easy. While most teams look to their coaches to provide an offseason and preseason training regimen, the Harvard team has had to call on outside connections to get prepared. Sophomore Matt Basilico got a little help from high places to set up a plan.
“The kind of structure of the workout was taken from a coach [Tom Sell], someone that coached both me and...our No. 1 skier from last year,” Basilico said. “And he’s now gone on to be the U.S. Ski Team head coach for the men’s World Cup, as well as the Olympics.”
With this workout plan and assistance from the Harvard Department of Athletics’ strength coaches, the team has high hopes for next season. Last year, the Crimson finished no higher than 10th in any of its meets. But with renewed dedication and an influx of interest, the team expects improvement in the 2006 campaign and for the future of Harvard alpine skiing.
“There’s no reason that we can’t be very competitive,” Basilico said. “I think this year, when we start putting up some really incredible numbers, that we’ll be able to bring in attention from recruits.
“This could actually be one of the best things to happen to our team,” he added.
While there is no timetable for the hiring of a coach, the team hopes a new head will be in place by the beginning of competition in January.
Whoever takes the reins will inherit a well prepared and enthusiastic unit.
“It’s always tough when you lose a coach,” Basilico said, “but in all honesty, it’s really become an opportunity for the team, and that’s the way we’re looking at it. We’ve got a slot that an ambitious coach could fill.”