Friday, August 15, 2008

Big upgrade for the Hailey Ski Team

Express Staff Writer

The 28-year-old Hailey Ski Team (HST) has made major changes in administration that includes the hiring of one of the U.S. Ski Team's top coaches.

He is Phil McNichol, who spent six seasons as the U.S. Ski Team (USST) men's alpine head coach before retiring after the 2007-08 winter ski season.

McNichol, 44, a Connecticut native who spent 12 years with the U.S. Ski Team, is the new HST director of development. He will continue to be based in Park City, Utah, home of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and USST.

In addition, former Holderness School ski coach Richard Smith from New Hampshire has been hired as HST head coach and program director. His full-time, year-round job starts Sept. 1. He and his wife will live in the valley.

Nina Fox and John Sweek, co-chairmen of the HST Executive Board of Directors, said the addition of McNichol and Smith for the 2008-09 season is a tremendous benefit to youth alpine and sports development in the Wood River Valley.

Fox said, "Phil has such a wealth of education and his accolades are huge. We plan on having him here in the valley at specific times during the winter, for four- to five-day stretches. He will be out on the mountain with the kids, and he wants to do some more community-based education."

McNichol and Smith will make their first public appearances in their new HST roles Friday, Sept. 19 during an open house presentation at a location to be determined. The next day, Sept. 20, McNichol will talk about his philosophy and plans during another public appearance that will include a video show, according to Fox.

McNichol's hiring led to Smith's hiring, suggesting a major step forward for HST.

Fox said, "Three years ago the Executive Board set several goals. Of top importance was hiring a program director. In the spring of 2008 we had an impressive pool of applicants including USST coaches and USSA development coaches.

"We knew that Phil was leaving the U.S. Ski Team and thought it would be a marriage of opportunity for the Hailey Ski Team and the Wood River Valley. We wanted to reach out to one of the best U.S. alpine ski coaches of our time.

"It was our idea that by Phil joining with the Hailey Ski Team as the director of development, we could begin to hire professional staff, explore community service options such as coaches' forums for athletes and parents.

"Phil's interest is to work with a small team, focused on high athletic development. He likes the idea that the Hailey Ski Team has a strong family environment, maintains small athlete-to-coach ratios and has access to world-class training.

"As director of development, Phil's first order of business and our aim was to go through our program director applicants. After much consideration, we chose Richard Smith, Eastern Region USSA development coach, as our program director. Richard is moving to Sun Valley with his family upon his return from Chile.

"We will continue with Phil and Richard to discuss presentation schedules for community forums for sport development in the valley, and clinics for the Sun Valley Ski School.

"Phil and Richard will continue to work in athlete education, and physical and mental preparedness. Having them is an opportunity to develop an endowment that will help Wood River Valley athletes 15 years and older to sustain alpine ski racing regardless of team affiliation."

Fox added, "It is the goal of the Hailey Ski Team to continue as a community asset with a clear mission. Keeping our numbers small, keeping current alpine training content, and hiring professional staff are values that will enable us to help each athlete reach their potential."

Most recently, Smith held the position of USSA Eastern regional development coach. Before that he had a long and successful run as the ski coach at Holderness School, a prep school in the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains.

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