PARK CITY, Utah (August 10, 2020) – Women’s Ski Jumping USA (WSJUSA) ran the first ever Fly Girls Camp in the Summer of 2014. At the time the camp included young female athletes with the goal of developing the pipeline for women’s ski jumping. These camps were a huge success, preparing athletes for, and catapulting them onto the junior national team and even national team.
In 2018, Fly Camp included both female and male ski jumpers for the first time, Fly Girls and Fly Guys. This has remained the model ever since, with a program focused on athletes between the ages of 13 and 16.
This year, conducting Fly Camp in a safe manner was a huge task. USA Nordic Sport Director Jed Hinkley began planning in March and didn’t stop until the camp was underway in July. “I would have days that I was sure we were going to cancel and others that I felt confident that we could pull it off,” says Hinkley. His motivation to make it happen was high, “I believe having camps and providing programming is important for the physical and mental health of our athletes, assuming it can be done safely.”
This effort for safety was led by Hinkley as well as USA Nordic Chief Medical Officer Andy Chen, who worked together to create plans for each athlete. These plans included quarantining outside of essential activities, temperature monitoring, and pre-camp testing. Hinkley was also in constant communication with parents, coaches, chaperones, and athletes. “What made it all possible was the support of parents and willingness of athletes to take the extra steps necessary,” says Hinkley.
This year 13 athletes participated, six girls and seven guys. These 13 athletes represented five different states: Alaska, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Fly Camp this year was one week shorter than last year, with 11 days in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and 10 days in Park City, Utah.
The 13 athletes split into two groups, girls in one condo and boys in another with their parent chaperones, Dan Brabec, Kristen Gundry, and Stacey Border (a huge thank you to the chaperones because they were amazing). Masks were required for any activities outside of the house and training, and athletes stayed socially distanced from all other training groups. This “bubble” protocol worked incredibly well, as all 13 athletes remained healthy the entire camp.
Sarah Hendrickson, 2013 World Champion ski jumper, and former USA Nordic ski jumper Trevor Edlund led this camp during the 21 days. Hendrickson has been a guest coach at Fly Camp for five years, though this was just her second year coaching the camp full time.
A normal day of Fly Camp included warming up at 7:30, ski jumping at 8:30 for two hours, then an afternoon full of games, physical training, and outdoor activities. “Fly Camp is great because it allows these young athletes to see what it’s like to train for six hours a day, pushing their physical and mental barriers,” says Hendrickson.
Access to consistent training isn’t fully available for some of these athletes, especially this Summer. The purpose of Fly Girls & Guys is to push the athlete’s barriers and give them consistent training and high level coaching for multiple weeks. Hendrickson and Edlund both have experience at the highest level of the sport, this is an asset they aimed to share with these athletes over the course of the three week camp.
When asked what the highlight of the camp was for Hendrickson, she said, “When you’ve been telling a kid what to do for a couple weeks, seeing them make that change and have that exciting moment of flight, that’s so rewarding.” Over the three week camp, all 13 athletes had exciting flights on hills ranging from Steamboat’s K68 all the way to Park City’s K120.
USA Nordic owes a huge thanks to Women’s Ski Jumping USA and the George and Dolores Eccles Foundation. Fly Girls & Guys is only possible because of the generous support of these two organizations.