Coach Rearick not satisfied with season and takes look ahead
By the time the US Ski Team's men left Beaver Creek, seven races into a 45 race 2011-12 World Cup schedule, they had amassed three wins, five top five and 10 top 10 placings. Ten different men had accounted for 27 scoring results. It was a nice start to the season but at the end of the season just one more win had been added and the total podium count was eight. By mid-April head coach Sasha Rearick was exhausted from the post-season organizational effort to move the team forward.
“Last season we had some incredible highs and some low points, too,” he says. “Overall, we're not where we need to be. We had two guys (who could be) on podiums every weekend and the rest between 15 and 60 in the world. I'm not satisfied. We've got guys who can get there and should get there and we need to do a better job of providing what they need to get there.”
The “two guys” would be Ted Ligety and Bode Miller. Between them they accounted for all eight podium results the team scored over the season.
Although production fell off dramatically after December, the coach notes there was progress. “We started off strong at all levels all the way through mid December... and then I think we had too many things going on; too many athletes and programs that pulled our resourses in too many directions. At the end we were able to pull it all together and make some nice improvement. Most guys scored double what they had the year before, like (Tim) Jitloff and (Will) Brandenburg, guys like that demonstrated the progress.
Jitloff more than doubled his World Cup GS points from 2011 (15 to 75) Brandenburg scored seven Cup points in 2011 and 49 in 2012. Tommy Ford - in total points - went from 37 to 86 points. Tommy Biesemeyer, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Colby Granstrom and Wiley Maple got their first cup points. Promise, yes.
“We have got a lot of talent in different areas,” said coach Rearick, “which makes the challenge tough on our budgets. We have a good crop of 90's and '92's (19 to 22 years old), a batch of them, so it's not like we (can say) here's where we're good and we can put our energy there. There is a lot of talent in many areas. ... including the young guys.”
Young guys, by definition, are the unknown commodities. They also, says Rearick, are targeted for making that their impact on the far side of the 2014 Olympics at Sochi. Not that he's ruling out veterans. The criteria: Those who make the top 30 will be the World Cup team. Then “put experienced coaches with them.” But the point he is making is that those targeted to make their impact down the road and those who are scoring big points now need different approaches. Part of what Rearick has been up to in April is realigning the coaching staff.
The technical team coaching is familiar. Forest Carey and Mike Day will lead the team with Dane Spencer working with the GS guys and Josh Applegate with the slalom. “But they will train together,” says Rearick, “that's critical for attitude and push.”
“There's a lot of different needs in that group,” he says pointing out guys like Ligety and Miller have a whole different set of support needs than a Brandenburg or Ford.
An area of particular concern is the downhill team. Take the incomparable Bode Miller out of the equation and the top DH finish all season was 12th, scored three times, once by Travis Ganong (Kitzbuehel) and twice by Erik Fisher (both at Chamonix).
Thing is, it wasn't so much a team as an army. It was, says Rearick, “a lot of guys and limited resources.” The idea, now, is to form a true downhill team.
“Forest (Coach Carey) had 11 guys on that team. It did wonders for the dymanic of the group. ... but it didn't bring structure. We want a medal at the Olympics, so we need to move forward and as you get better you have to pay more attention to details.”
Enter Austrian bred coach Andreas Evers, a 17 season veteran coach with the Austrian federation. “He has tremendous experience and will bring an area of focus, a simple area of focus,” says Rearick. “Forest did an amazing job of turning the spirit around, and providing a tremendous amount of volume, but it came at expense of results. Now the focus will be on downhill specific skills.” Evers will be backed by TJ Lanning and Tommy Eckfledt. It will be a smaller team.
The larger B-team group, which was more or less attached to the NorAm circuit last season, will move to Europe full time, focused on the Europa Cup with World Cup starts mixed in. The idea is to build up their skill sets and get them on the podium on any given day. Charged with this unit is another Austrian import, Bernd Brunner. He will be “The fundamentals coach, to build a technical foundation base,” Rearick explains.
There are 17 young men qualified for try-outs. They won't all make the cut. “We are going to be really selective,” says the coach. He'd like to keep the numbers coming out of that camp between six and eight. “If there are nine, we will take that. If it's four. ... We have a real strong group of (those born in the years) '95 and '96. I was impressed with them. There is some good talent coming up from down below. We're not taking everybody. We're taking the guys with the best opportunity long term.” - Hank McKee
Bode Miller photo by Gepa
Sasha Rearick photo by Eric Schramm