With all of the Winter Olympic excitement this week and opening ceremonies the night before, there couldn’t have been a better year or weekend to have AJ Kitt come to coach and motivate the Boyne Highland’s Flyers team.
My daughter enjoyed this opportunity with her team immensely and quite frankly, so did I. During the morning training, AJ spent time with the kids on the slopes and then we had lunch together while AJ shared his story and journey of being on 4 Olympic teams, 4 World Championship teams and eleven World Cup Seasons.
AJ is such a down to earth, personable guy that if we hadn’t read his biography before his day with the Boyne Flyers, we would have not known just how much of an impressive racing career AJ really had. AJ Kitt was the first American male athlete to compete in four Olympics (1988, 1992, 1994 and 1998.) He spent a decade on the World Cup Tour with a total of 12 podium appearances with 21 top ten finishes. Looking at the history, I think it would be safe to say that AJ was a top skier before Bode Miller and Ted Ligety.
AJ started skiing when he was two years old at the Swain Ski Center in New York where his parents were ski instructors. He encouraged our Flyer’s that great racers can come from Midwest ski areas and he could share this from first hand experience. As a Midwest skiing family, we appreciated this portion of his talk, especially with the persona that successful racers and skiers grow up in areas like Aspen, Vail or Squaw Valley.
AJ kindly finished up our lunch with the kids by having a Q&A session. There were great questions asked by both the parents and kids. Of course, the parents wanted to know how this level of competitive racing is funded (no surprise there, right?) The kids asked him about being nervous or scared before a race or what was the hardest race course AJ had skied and what was his off season training schedule was like. The cutest question from one of our Flyers was, “because your job was to train year round, did you have to live with your parents?” Of course, we had a good laugh.
The afternoon consisted of more training on the slopes with AJ and then a time of photographs and autographs for the kids.
My daughter learned a lot from this experience. AJ emphasized practice and going the extra mile. But, the most valuable lesson? AJ learned from his parents and passed this memorable pointer on to our group of aspiring young skiers and racers:
Have fun, make it fun and keep doing it as long as it’s still fun.
Thank you, AJ Kitt and Boyne Flyers coaches for a great day!