BALLSTON SPA — Ballston Spa School District is known for their athletics, which is why it was so disappointing to district teacher Karen Smiley when the Alpine Ski team got cut five years ago. Smiley’s son was also disappointed as he was finally the right age to join the team. Now with the team reborn and entering their second season, Smiley has nothing but praise for the group of people that helped her make this team a reality again.
“Ballston spa had a team while back, they were a very competitive team and then it kind of dissolved for a few years. We were really excited to have the support of the administrators and the athletic director to get the team up and running again,” she explained.
Smiley laments though, she could not have rebuilt the team alone.
“Mitch Huff has been phenomenal, he really deserves all of the credit.,” Smiley said.
Along with help from Huff, Christine Phelps, Mike Barnum, and Tim Shelton wanted to see this team brought back to life.
“These parents have certainly done 10 times the leg work and have been very invested in the program. Certainly, at least from my perspective, not anything I could have even begun to do myself, so they really deserve all the credit,” Smiley enthused.
Funds have come from the school, for the essentials and the basics, and then a group of active volunteer parents and coaches that have done a lot to promote the team through fundraising, establishing a booster club. There was a fundraiser in the fall that was a golf outing and brought in a “good deal” of money. A basket raffle is planned in the next few weeks.
“It’s not a cheap sport, it’s an expensive sport. That’s why we’re grateful,” she said.
In Smiley’s opinion, their first season back, which was in January 2017, was a successful one. Now with their second season just beginning, Smiley feels like, “we have our feet underneath us more and we’ve got the kinks worked out from last season. We will be more competitive athletes this year and I only see that continuing in the years to come. We have a strong contingent of up and coming athletes who have some ski racing background I think that long term we’ll be a really competitive team.”
Mitch Huff, a ski coach at Gore, who was also a ski racer in college, with a son on the Ballston Spa team, said the feedback they received last year was all positive. Smiley was also a competitive skier. Last season the team had a couple of kids at sectionals and they have high hopes for this season, as well.
“Generally, all of our athletes are really good skiers. We’re a young team so we have a strong contingent of middle school students so we’re hoping that the longevity will be there for our team,” Smiley explained.
As far as coaching goes, Huff explained that the transition between skier and coach, “is a pretty simple transition, with me being a ski racer i’m very familiar with the sport. I had some good coaches along the way that led me down the path to coaching.”
“Skiing is one of those unique sports because it involves so much more than just an athletic field behind the school. You’re going to ski mountains and there is a lot of equipment. Ski racing is not something that anyone can just walk on and learn,” Smiley said of the sport.
“The best part of coaching is sharing your experiences and knowledge with these young athletes,” Huff said.
For information on when the team has their ski matches, visit the Sports at a Glance page.