Kindersparks & Superstars
Kindersparks is a program for kids ages 5-10 offered on weekends. Students can do it one time or multiple times. Kids will have bibs with their names on them, and the parents are often there watching.
The parents may want to talk with you after the lesson.
It is critical to know how many kids are in your group and keep track of them so none wander off and get lost. If kids need to change groups, or to be taken inside for a bathroom break, communicate clearly with your partner instructor so everyone knows what is happening.
Superstars is another program for kids, it meets weekend mornings for six weeks. You will have the same group for whole time so you will get to know the kids. Both Kindersparks and Superstars have at least two instructors per group to team teach.
Both instructors must be very attentive and play a major role working with the children. You have to communicate well with each other and the children. Anticipate what all the children around you may need, not just the one you are looking at. Are they upset, bored, need extra help, or are not paying attention. Concentrate on their performance and shape their performance by saying, "Yes, that is it, great job" as soon as they get it. This should be fun for you and the kids.
Each instructor will have an assignment. If you are loading the carpets or rope tow, you should have your skis off, and use insulated leather work gloves or glove guards if helping them load the rope. If some of the children are progressing faster than the others, assign different tasks to keep the lesson fun. Each group will have a number, color, and/or name, if you need to move a child up or down.
Know how many are in your group, and tell them not to leave the group. Call them by their names and ask them if they are cold or if their boots hurt. Children often don't realize their hands, feet, or face are cold, so check them if you think there is a problem.
Using the carpet
Help children walk on and off the wonder carpets if necessary. Know where the emergency stop button is, and keep the proper spacing, especially the first time up so the instructor on top can help each one exit and line up. The snow may be slow or fast, so you may have to add speed or slow them down.
You may have to physically interact with the students to help them move, get into position, and not fall; this is a hands on job! Every minute you are looking for how you can help one of the kids.
Provide a gradual push on the back of their hips if the snow is slow, and be sure to aim them in the right direction. Use tip ties if necessary, and Ski Rings help keep their hands in the right position.
Check the bottom of the skis if they are not sliding; there may be ice forming that needs to be scraped off. Use the other ski as a scraper; this may have to be done several times until the skis get cold.
Using the rope
One instructor can load the rope and the other will help them exit. Have your skis off and support each child and the rope as necessary to get them going. This means standing behind them as
1- They get next to the rope and point both skis uphill
2- Slowly grip the rope
3- Catch them if they grip too fast to keep them from falling forward
4- Push them on the back of their hips if necessary
5- Lift the rope up or to the side to keep them up if they try to sit down or lean on the rope
Games for beginners
It is very hard for young kids to change their natural moves of leaning back, turning their shoulders, and leaning inside their turns. It will take a lot of creative games to help them find an athletic stance, gliding wedges, and turning with their feet.
Before using the carpet
1- Have them bounce like a bunny or a ball on their toes. Be sure they feel the weight on their toes, and their chest over their toes. The ankles need to flex not just the knees or waist.
2- Have them lean forward to put their nose forward and feel their legs press into the front of the boots, so they are bending their ankles not their waist. Give a lot of feedback and you may have to help them. Then go back to the start position and lean back. Rock back and forward like a rocking chair, push into the back of the boots then the front by flexing their ankles.
3- Have them imaging that you are coming at them with a soccer ball and could go to either side of them, have them stand like they would in soccer. Then have them move from foot to foot slowly then fast.
4- Play follow the leader, walk straight, in circles, and figures eights. They may need to do one ski at a time.
5- Have races on each ski one at a time, then on both skis.
6- Turn in little circles in both directions without stepping on the front or back of the skis.
7- Try making a slice of pizza by stepping out the back of each ski. They may have to do one ski several times in a row. You may have to help them, or have them do it in just boots. Sit on the snow if necessary to try it. Even there you may have to help them, point the big toes at each other and push the heels out. The bigger the slice the slower they go.
8- Do a straight run standing on the toes with the chest over the toes.
On the carpet
1- Always practice the move statically before trying it in motion. If they can't do it statically they won't do it in motion. The snow could be slow or fast on the carpet. If fast start in a wedge, if it is slow keep the skis parallel. Watch as they get on a slope, they will lean back. Provide verbal feedback right away: stand on your toes, chest over toes, look ahead, hands up.
2- Bounce on their big toes while in motion, like a bunny, ball, on a trampoline, or a bed. Be sure their ankles are flexing not just their knees or waist. Do a specific number of bounces then count who can do the most bounces in one run.
3- If there are cones, ski rings, or brushes, set them in a line down the hill and have the kids ski next to them and jump every time they pass a cone.
4- Do a run of being small (touch their boots) then tall. Be sure the ankles are flexing.
5- If there are old race gates or using your ski poles, hold them out like a limbo pole for the kids to ski under.
6- In a gliding wedge(a small slice of pizza with speed) flex forward with the ankles and push into the front of the boots. Then rock back to the start. Do a specific number.
7- If it is fast, have the kids try different size slices of pizza. Then see if they can stop with a big slice of pizza and not lean back.
8- Ski straight to one cone then see who can stop before the next cone. Then who can make the shortest stop? Play red light green light, or Simon says. They need a lot of time getting comfortable sliding downhill in a good position before trying to turn.
On the rope if they are ready
1- In their good position, ski with a small slice of pizza for five seconds to get speed, then press on one big toe for one second to turn, then go straight for five seconds, then push on the other toe. You can put a cone on each side so they know to push on that toe when they ski past the cone.
2- With same small pizza to start (called a gliding wedge) try pointing both big toes just a tiny little bit one way, then back to the bottom of the hill, then point the big toes in the other direction to make turns. It is another way to turn. They need a lot of speed and very slight turns.
3- If there are cones, ski around the cones. Every time they have a new focus like turning they may start to lean back, so be sure they stand on the toes with their chest over their toes.
At any time go back and do boot work at the bottom to build skills. Have them take skis off and try making a slice of pizza, side stepping, and herringbone without skis. Put skis on and try again.
More experienced kids
Some kids will have experience, so you can start on hills they have been skiing. But before going very far up the hill be sure they can turn and stop on an easier slope. You may have to reorganize groups, and some kids may learn much faster than others even if they start in the right group.
Most kids will be leaning back in a wedge and either banking or rotating. Work on their athletic stance on the flat, and remind them every time before they take off to get into their athletic stance. Weight on the balls of the feet, and chest over the toes.
Near the bottom on a gentle slope; do some gliding wedge games for bouncing and rocking forward at the ankles. Then touch the top of their boots and up. Do wedge change ups(go from small wedge to a wider wedge and repeat). A ski ring can help to keep their hands in the right position.
On a gentle slope, in an athletic stance, do a gliding wedge with speed, and make slight turns. They can point their big toes or push on a big toe. The skis often start match parallel.
Look for these problems
1- Leaning back at the ankles, knees, waist or all three.
2- A wedge that is too wide
3- Turning too soon before they have speed
4- Turning to far across the hill
5- Rushing to turn too quick in the other direction
Any of these can cause turning with the shoulders rather than the feet( called rotation) and leaning inside the turn(called banking).
If they are skiing across the hill (called a traverse) and trying to turn downhill, which is the top part of a turn, they will be even more likely to rotate and bank.
When they try to push on their big toe to turn, watch that they are
1- Not moving their knee in verse flexing their ankle forward like they are kneeling down
2- Flexing their knee rather than their ankle
3- Moving their hip to the side which takes the ski off edge
4- Pushing like they are pressing on a gas pedal which opens the ankle rather than closes it.
Combine push and turn
Some cannot turn either way by pushing on a big toe or pointing it. Try to combine pushing on the big toe and pointing it to turn. Or try the reverse order, point the turn first then push on it.
Different size turns
1- Make a specific number of turns. If they can do 6, have them do 3 bigger ones in the same distance.
2- Do 3 small turns, then 3 big in the same run. Reverse it and do the big turns first before the small ones.
Turns to a stop
After making a set of turns, try turning to a stop in each direction. Touch the hand to the knee when they push on their big toe. Bounce on the big toe until the end of the turn.
Be careful not to go too high until the kids can make good turns to a stop. Going to the high speed chair could be too high and steep near the top so they may regress to leaning back, rotating, and banking.
Change the pace of working on turning by developing their side stepping, skating, and herringbone. Skating can be done near the bottom of a gentle slope. Then they can herringbone back uphill which will help with their ankle flexing.
Using the chair
Be sure to show and tell the children how to use the chair, making sure they hold on during the ride up and sit back.
Matching skis parallel
The skis usually match to become parallel spontaneously. To help the matching add a very early weight transfer to start every turn, or add a down motion to finish and up to start so it adds rhythm and timing. The pole swing and touch can be added. Then uphill christies to ski on steeper slopes.
If kids are having trouble getting out of the wedge, one of the elements already worked on must be a problem. An alternative approach is to stand in a wedge across a hill and
1- Push on the ball of the downhill ski
2- Touch the hand to the downhill ski
3- Turn the uphill ski to match the downhill ski
4- Then do it from a shallow traverse
5- Make steeper traverses, and repeat in the other direction before linking
Make three big turns then three small turns.
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