kids and teenagers. As instructors we may
be tempted to make factual comments
about a student’s growth (or lack thereof)
in relation to learning to ski or snowboard,
but keep in mind they are probably aware
of it and possibly very sensitive. Be careful
how you address the adolescent’s ever-changing composition.
By simply being aware of differing
developmental stages you can be more
careful not to create sensitive situations.
This awareness will also help you customize
your lesson to fit the individual needs of the
group when you have students the same
age but at different developmental stages.
The accompanying chart is from a Long
Term Development Plan model developed
by Dr. Balyi and used by the United States
Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA).
Although this chart looks at the long-term development of athletes, there are
great things we can take away from it
to help our students learn to ski and
snowboard, and keep their development
moving forward. For instance, if you have
a student who is considerably taller than
the others in his age group, watch his
movements. Are they clumsy? Does he
look “new” in his body? Whether students
are at their PHV or are almost through it,
there are a couple things you can do to
help them develop as riders and skiers.
Teaching Techniques for
Early and Late Bloomers
Challenges with coordination, balance,
strength, and stamina are all things teens
going through puberty might be dealing
with. You can teach these students to
maintain – or obtain – better balance in
their new body by encouraging subtle, gross
movements to align the body skeletally
for balance and support. Using smaller
technical movements may not be as easy
for them. Moguls, tight trees, or freestyle
features like big jumps and kinked handrails
are not advisable, especially if they stumble
while using handrails just walking down
stairs. Use your judgment.
Stamina can be improved throughout
their growth spurt and even during their
PHV by encouraging them to make more
turns, take longer runs, and even hike
the halfpipe. All of these activities can
help them increase their endurance. If
they are coordinated in balance and seem
comfortable in their early bloomer body,
then playing to their strength is a great
approach, as strength is the next window
of trainability after their rate of growth has
slowed down. Explosive ollies and nollies
are a fun addition to any lesson. Teaching
students how to get the timing of their
release of energy through their strength will
be important. Show them how to turn power
into an energetic rebound of the board.
Don’t hold back from challenging late
bloomers with more technical fine motor
skills. Teach them finer ankle and foot
movements to adjust pressure distribution
along the edge of their board at different
times in a turn. Show them how to combo
multiple tricks on a box or rail, and go crazy
with the ground tricks. Explore making
quick agile pivots around pinecones and
other obstacles; be playful and have fun
You may discover through trial-and-error
what students at different developmental
levels are capable of. It doesn’t hurt to have a
subtle conversation with their parents before
the lesson to learn when the student’s growth
spurt happened. Was it recent? Was it a year
and a half ago? Keep in mind that some kids
may have multiple spurts of growth. The
parents usually know because they’re the
ones buying new clothes for their kids every
time they grow.
I hope you take some of this information and apply it to your kids lessons
as needed. Celebrate awkwardness as your
opportunity to help someone out during
a very odd time in their life. We all went
through it and some of us still might be
awkward. Don’t overthink it - it’s having
fun that counts.
Eric Rolls is awkwardly having fun during his
second term on the AASI Snowboard Team.
Rolls is the ski and snowboard school training
manager for Canyons Resort Park City, UT.
He is a USSA-certified coach who has enjoyed
many years helping awkwardly clumsy teenagers compete in snowboarding events with
other awkwardly clumsy teenagers.
This figure illustrates the windows of optimal trainability for males and females. Timing will vary,
based upon the student’s onset of Peak Height Velocity. The boxes represent sensitive periods subject
to chronological age. The circles represent sensitive periods that are on a moving scale — related to
the onset of PHV and growth.
Rate of Growth
Under5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20+
Strength 1& 2
Rate of Growth
Physical, Mental – Cognitive, Emotional Development
Optimal Windows of Trainability (Balyi and Way, 2005)