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Ski Moms - The Coach Went South...
By:  Kaari Turk   (2003/10/05)


Canadian skiers are largely funded by the Bank of Mom and Dad. If you aren’t a ski racer or parent of one, you may wonder why it is that parents allow their children to spend hundreds of hours gliding on skis at their expense. Seems silly, almost as crazy as those racing suits they wear. Well XC Ottawa athletes asked their mothers to share their thoughts on having a ski racer in the family. Maybe the advice of these experienced Ski Moms will encourage parents to enroll their kids in a Jackrabbit or Junior racing program.

It is very common for the best talented coaches of young athletes to seek fame and fortune by crossing the border to our southern neighbour. And so did the coach who introduced and guided my two youngest sons, Arno and Peter, to pursue cross country skiing on a competitive level.

Dan Gilligan is a man of small stature, but by no means let that influence your first impression of him. Dan must have gently cajoled his family to take up cross country skiing ever since his youngest child could glide because everybody skied! This gentle guidance and of course, persistent urging, also led Arno and Peter to abandon their father's well-meaning, but probably not as proficient coaching, and turn to Dan Gilligan for more expert advice.

And so on Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings …… I would rise at the crack of dawn to ferry the two boys either to Dan's house or to an agreed-upon-meeting place for Dan to drive the "team" to the designated training site. The car would be packed with kids, two to three sets of skiis for each kid - rock skiis, classic skiis, skating skiis, lunches, clothing. The only disputes in the car packed full of skiis was not what to leave behind but what music to listen to while travelling.

The "team" usually consisted of his own offspring (although the youngest boy was often left sleeping in bed in the early years), Arno and Peter, and youngsters who had parked the road bicycles in the garage and decided to try cross country skiing to stay in shape.

Now you have to understand that we all lived in the banana belt - southern Ontario - Greater Toronto to be exact, albeit on the northern edge of Toronto. Anything north of Highway 7 was considered north of Toronto at that time.

Snow was not always abundant or dependable enough for Dan's liking in order to train his team. So it would be an hour and a half or even a two hour ride to Hardwood Hills, Duntroon or Horseshoe Valley to find snow. When after a while the team found the hills and valleys of these cross country areas becoming too "easy" or lacking in snow, they would often stray over to the downhill areas to make use of the results of their snow making equipment!

And so it was not entirely unexpected that one weekend Dan announced that he was going down south with the team because there was no snow in southern Ontario and the team needed to train for an upcoming race! Down south, across the border , to Buffalo! Now you all know that Buffalo gets dumped on by the lake effect snow and gets quite a bit of it as well. Why one time, I remember, Toronto even had to help out by sending down its unused snowmelting machines to help clear up Buffalo's snowfall! It was mid December and the team still hadn't even skied once.

That's why the coach went south……

I will always be grateful to Dan Gilligan for introducing my sons to competitive cross country skiing. His dedication, guidance and stamina for coaching and urging his "team" to strive and to believe in their own capabilities is to be commended. I don't know how he did it for so long….. my sons tell me he enjoyed it! Thank you Dan for going south…..

Interesting Reading. . .
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