To say that Matt Tomasko has experience working with kids is an understatement: For the past 30 years, he has been involved with alpine coaching, mountain bike camps and teaching physical education and music in the school system.
Tomasko is currently the executive director of LERT Programs (Lake Eldora Race Team), which includes the Eldora Mountain Ski and Snowboard Club and SMBA, or Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures, which he founded in 1993. He is a USSA Level 400 Alpine Coach, a PSIA trainer and children’s specialist.
As a native of Boulder, Colorado, Tomasko enjoys alpine and Telemark skiing, skimo, trail running, camping mountain biking and spending time with his family of five. He serves on the Just Go Harder Foundation for scholarship initiatives, the USSMA (United States Ski Mountaineering Association) and Rocky Mountain Division of USSA (age class committee). He also volunteers for the Special Olympics, Community Gardens and the Boulder Homeless Shelter.
As a passionate organizer for junior athlete-centered non-profits in Colorado, Tomasko promotes the education of healthy competition, which is the mission of the non-profit organization, Better & Faster Together. Here, he shares his 30 years of coaching and leadership experience by offering goals for athletes, parents and coaches on how to be successful—both on and off the slopes.
Q: An athlete like Mikaela Shriffin shares a lot about her process and how she achieves peak performance. What are some big-picture goals that athletes of all ages should think about regarding their performance?
A: Athletes of all age groups should focus on progression, the building blocks that set athletes up for success. They can do this by allowing ample practice time to work on elements pertaining to technique and tactics. Often times the race calendar can dictate performance metrics, but with young athletes, it takes years of proper practice and reinforcement of skills to apply in competition.
Mindfulness is a key component to athlete success. It’s critical for young skiers to execute drills properly and to perform the maneuvers in a dynamic environment so they can apply that in a race course.
Q: What are three take-aways that ski racing parents can incorporate in their own performance as a race supporter, as well as how to best support the performance of their athlete?
A: First, keep it fun for the athlete through all levels. Reinforce and recognize the athlete’s effort with the process and not always the result.
Also, be patient with the process. Ski racing is a journey. The journey is the ultimate goal and helps to shape the adult that the athlete becomes after years of hard work.
It’s important for parents to understand that in order for athletes to be successful, there’s important relationships to foster that include the coach and the parent, but the emphasis is to focus on the athlete. Trust the system and support both the athletes and the coaches. If parents do want to get involved, there are a lot of opportunities to participate through race officiating, volunteering at events, helping with fundraising and being a positive mentor to other parents in the program.
As a parent, be careful not to place too much emphasis on results. Results come with time, dedication, hard work and commitment. It’s important not to micromanage the athlete, instead allowing the athlete/coach relationship to flourish thus encouraging good communication and feedback down the road.
Q: How important is it for race coaches to look at their own performance—both on and off the hill? What are some key elements for coaches to implement in their communication with athletes?
A: Coaching is a dynamic process and professionals should always strive to try new ideas, to improve the progressions they work on, to collaborate with other coaches and mentor new coaches.
It’s critical that coaches come prepared with a game plan: Keep it simple, allow time for athletes to practice and reinforce the skill concept they are working on and create a learning environment through challenges, freeskiing and high-quality, all-mountain skiing.
A good coach is someone who coaches with heart and connects with the athletes. They are passionate about helping skiers be the best that they can be—and their enthusiasm is contagious. If coaches are passionate and enthusiastic, the athletes will be too.
Key communication is so important—it should be based around building a sense of team, camaraderie and spirit, working together as a community of learners, and working with the parents throughout the journey and the process.