|Craig and his father at Willoughby 40m jump in Aspen in ’64 at age 8.|
MIddlebury Ski Team XC, USST XC
Giving Thanks for Ski Jumping….and Supportive Parents
Thanksgiving comes at a wonderful time for skiers! It’s the unofficial start of winter for many of us in snow country. It foretells of the Christmas holiday too, and we have to start getting our Christmas presents obtained or our Christmas projects completed. Families come together, sharing stories of Thanksgivings past, as well as catching up on family members and their various exploits, challenges or personal circumstances.
And so it is with this mental framework that I share this story with you. I was seven years old when I came home late on a Wednesday afternoon. In Aspen we had a very special school district that, as a part of the public education, our winter Wednesday afternoons were spent on our alpine mountain right in town, just 6 blocks from the school. That included all teachers, students and staff. After alpine skiing, I happened upon the ski jump just west of Little Nell. There the young boys were jumping a 30 meter hill, overseen by the Phys Ed director from school. I was excited and intrigued, with that innocent bravado that every seven year-old possesses.
At the dinner table that night I announced to my mom, dad and sister, “I want to ski jump!” After a few minutes of talking around the subject, my dad said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to find you some jumping skis!” That weekend he found some old hickory skis with three groves on the running surface, and he cut them down to the right size. I remember going down to his office one evening and coating the bottoms with a turpentine and shellac concoction.
The rest of the story follows much along the same line. I was a good little athlete, and my mom and dad supported me throughout my adolescent years. They drove me to meets, fed me with hearty meals, stood on the side of the jumps as markers, organized “white elephant” fundraisers for the ski club, and my dad even built a custom trailer for the Aspen Ski Club with 20 individual ski compartments for hauling behind our cars each weekend.
I had a successful ski career in high school, college, and went on to 8 years on the US Ski team. Lots of hard work, discipline and supportive coaches along the way. My genetics, though, I owe to my parents, who were both successful and talented athletes in their own right. My dad was the center on the Oklahoma Sooners football team (when the padding and helmets were minimal at best in the 1930’s), and my mom was a tennis and softball standout in high school and college.
I can never thank my parents enough. Their support, their constant and undivided love, and their compassion held me up through all the tough times and the athletic disappointments, as well as in my triumphs. My dad is shown with me at age 9…and guess who took the picture, my mom!!
|USSA Chairman Dexter Paine presents Craig Ward with the
2008 Nordic Combined Domestic Coach of the Year Award.