© SkiJumpingUSA.com 2001-2017
Ideas & efforts to bring more people into the sport, and to keep skiers involved in the
sports of ski jumping and Nordic combined will be the focus of this page.
Explain Recruiting and Retention ... Why Are They Important?
What About Safety? Isn’t Ski Jumping Awfully Dangerous? scroll down
When Do Jumpers Hang ‘em Up? It Can Be a Lifetime Sport! scroll down
Recruiting and Retention ... Bringing in New Faces, Keeping Jumpers Jumping!
Ski jumping and Nordic combined are hugely popular in other snow-sports countries, but almost
invisible in North America. There are a lot of factors at play, but the challenge is two-fold. We
need to introduce the sport to a larger audience, and not just athletes, but families, fans, and
friends. And we need to create incentives for those who have learned and enjoyed the sport to
stay involved, continuing to ski as they move into the Masters classes, which are defined by age
in 10-year brackets. Seniors 20-29, Masters 1 30-39, Masters 2 40-49, etc., and jumpers use
whatever hill size matches their skill and comfort level. This year, there’s a new pre-Masters
class for jumpers 25-29. This should help keep jumpers in action as young adults.
Please visit the Masters Facebook page and JOIN this group to stay informed ... CLICK HERE
There’s been endless talk about why our numbers are small, both in terms of competitors and
fans, and what might be done about it. There are some concerted efforts underway to address
both ends of this problem, and we’ll be asking various folks to weigh in on what they are already
doing, what longer-term plans and ideas are being considered and implemented.
If anyone has all the answers, we haven’t met ‘em yet. But a lot of us think we have at least
some of the answers. HOWEVER ... we think it’s just as important to make sure we’re asking the
right questions. We hope we can help move these conversations along by getting as much
discussion and information as possible out into the open.
We’ll also be posting various resource materials, some of which we’ve developed and published
in the past, and some new things that are currently being developed by others.
Stay tuned ... this will be a permanent “work in progress.” We hope it’ll add value and promote
a lot of cross-communication among those who want to see our sport grow.
OH, NO ...
THE WEBMASTER IS GETTING UP ON HIS SOAPBOX AGAIN ...
The demographics of most sports are shaped like a pyramid. A big base of learners, occasional
participants, coaches, volunteers, parents, families, and just plain fans. On higher levels are
serious participants of different skill levels, leading up to semi-pro and professional levels in
some sports, or elite level organized leagues, college athletics, etc. At the top of a wide and
solid pyramid are the best of the best. The numbers, and visibility, lead to media coverage AND
sponsor interest, which are inextricably linked to EYEBALLS ... people paying attention to articles
THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF SKI JUMPING AND NORDIC COMBINED LOOK LIKE A TELEPHONE POLE!
Having a lot of people involved in, and aware of a sport at lower levels means there will be an
interested audience to follow the sport at top competitive levels, which can take the form of
watching it on TV or in person, making individual financial contributions to a club, a program, or
even an individual athlete. Sponsors are interested in getting exposure to an audience. No
audience, no sponsors. We MUST think long-term about building a pyramid!
Snow sports are biggest in New England, the upper midwest, and in the mountains of the west
(Rockies, Wasatch, Cascades, Sierras). Although historically there were jumping clubs and
facilities throughout all these regions, it’s now mostly confined to a small number of clubs in the
northeast, upper midwest, and two large resort areas in the west ... Steamboat Springs and Park
City. Many ski jumps in other parts of “snow country” were torn down after the sport declined in
numbers of participants and number of active clubs here in the USA.
We MUST find a way to focus on making our sport more visible IN PLACES WHERE PEOPLE ARE
ALREADY PARTICIPATING IN, AND INTERESTED IN, OTHER FORMS OF SNOW SPORT!!! That would
certainly involve growing our existing clubs, and perhaps bringing at least entry-level ski jumping
into places where OTHER forms of ski sport are happening.
How about building some “snow bumps” in downhill areas which already have things like terrain
gardens, with programs and facilities for non-traditional downhill pursuits (snowboarding,
freestyle, etc.)? And many of them also offer cross-country ... which is the other half of our
sister sport, Nordic combined! It would take some selling, but think about this ... it could
potentially lead to some summer programs on small jumps with plastic surfaces, and bring in
summer business! Picture summer leagues for all ages on small hills.
MAYBE CREATING A PYRAMID IS A STRETCH, BUT LET’S MAKE IT LOOK LIKE A CHRISTMAS TREE!
This past summer, some folks put together the most accurate census they could compile of the
number of active ski jumpers in the USA, and it indicated around 600. That would include
everybody who straps ‘em on, not just serious competitors. Our serious competitors are at the
top of the pole today, and they’ll be at the top of the Christmas tree in the future.
THE CHALLENGE IS EXPANDING THE BASE!
That means bringing in more people at the entry level ... new kids to try it out, even adults!
Families and friends coming to watch, and maybe to volunteer. Make if fun and welcoming, and
make it something that they’ll tell others about. And for those who have “climbed the pole” to
some level, then dropped out, find a way to bring ‘em back. And to keep people from dropping
out in the future. Make it exciting and enjoyable for them to keep flying through the air just for
fun! BY THE WAY ... the Masters Class National Championships are being held in Chicago in
January ... watch for more info!
Imagine if we could grow our base by a mere 10% per year for ten years ... that’s adding one new
person OR keeping one from walking away for each ten already involved. If your club has 20
competitors, bringing in ONE new person and keeping ONE from dropping out is 10% ... that
doesn’t seem terribly difficult, does it?
If we could do this for five years, we’d grow from 600 to 660, then 726, 799, 879, and 967. We’d
grow from 600 to almost a thousand in five years with 10 percent annual gain including both
recruitment and retention.
What would happen at 20%? Here are the figures ... 600, 720, 864, 1037, 1244, 1492.
If we keep playing to the same crowd, same families, same circles of friends, bringing in no more
than we lose through dropouts, we’ll remain a telephone pole. With growth comes excitement,
and enthusiasm, and NEW PEOPLE BRINGING IN OTHER NEW PEOPLE, and TALKING IT UP TO MORE
NEW PEOPLE! That means retention in another way; we’d get more coaches, volunteers, etc.
They’re ALL part of the base we need to expand! Think CHRISTMAS TREE!
GROW OR WITHER; THOSE ARE OUR TWO OPTIONS. FUTURE, OR NO FUTURE. GOTTA DECIDE.
Safety! But ... Isn’t Ski Jumping Awfully Dangerous?
Let’s think about this for a moment. The talent pool of youngsters in most other snow-sport
countries is undreamed of here, but in countries where it’s popular, there’s no shortage of kids,
facilities, coaching, and many levels of regular competition, so it’s a high-participation sport.
Are all the parents of all these kids in snow-sports countries around the world exposing their
hapless youngsters to terrible risks? NO!
PERCEPTION DOES NOT REFLECT REALITY when it comes to the dangers of ski jumping!
The International Ski Federation (FIS) is the governing body for all snow sports worldwide.
They meticulously track injuries for elite athletes in six disciplines. Ski jumping comes out as
the SECOND SAFEST of all, with only cross-country ranking as safer. What’s the most dangerous?
SNOWBOARDING!. READ the FIS REPORT (PDF)
Know many parents who refuse to let their kids try snowboarding? Didn’t think so! Parents
should be no more apprehensive about letting their kids try jumping than other snow sports.
SO ... WHAT IF YOUR KID WANTS TO TRY IT??? If your kid, or the son or daughter of a friend or
relative expresses an interest in ski jumping, look at it realistically. It is NOT the wild and crazy
sport that’s been ingrained in the American mind. See what jumping looks like at beginner level
... KID VIDEO Frightening? Didn’t think so!
If you live near a jumping facility, they’ll have coaches and a junior program. Kids start small ...
on jumps “no bigger than a breadbox.” Think about when you were a kid. When you got your
first pair of skis, and hadn’t even figured out yet how to turn or stop, didn’t you and the other
kids build up a little jump in someone’s sloped back yard and try to see how far you could jump?
Kids are HARD WIRED to do this ... and to want to do it! Start young, start small, start with
coaching and parental supervision. It’s a great sport, it takes years to perfect the skills, and
parental confidence will come along with seeing the development of their young athlete.
Ski jumping and Nordic combined will never be mass participation sports here in the USA, but I’d
like to think that in the future it might be just a bit easier to recruit kids to try it, and get THEIR
PARENTS to even consider it. It won’t be for everybody, but it’s rewarding and exciting for those
whose tiny taste of flight makes them want to continue. Thanks for your time in reading this.
Look at our Regional Clubs page via link above, to find out where you can see jumpers of all ages
in action. It’s amazing! In an effort to be honest, we must tell you ... if you hope to see
crashes, you’ll be really bored.
To read or print the full article ... CLICK HERE (PDF)
R E C R U I T I N G & R E T E N T I O N Building the base!