Adaptive Sports Sun Peaks: where volunteer work is play

The ASSP team poses in November 2016. File photo.

After a successful winter last year, Adaptive Sports Sun Peaks has once again seen immense growth and demand for their program offerings. Program manager Jenny Hawes is preparing for another busy season and wants to add 25 more volunteer coaches to their roster. 

“There’s different options,” she said. “If someone comes to us from the community who already has their ski pass we will train them up to be an instructor and their level of commitment is whatever they want it to be as required, as needed, as available.” 

But having a season pass isn’t a requirement to get involved. Hawes explained ASSP has 27 season passes to give to volunteers who commit to 100 hours of volunteering. 

“This provides more incentive for people to commit on a more permanent basis. We really need those volunteers to help with our local programming. We run two, five-week programs for our local students, so 100 hours amounts to 12 to 13 weekend day commitments.”

This season the organization is switching to an online booking system which will allow instructors to use an app to sign up for lessons when they have availability and have more autonomy over their scheduling. 

“The instructors will get alerts when a new student has signed up for a lesson they’ll all have the alert so they can choose to sign up or not sign up for the lesson,” explained Hawes. “It’s going to add to the efficiency of our scheduling immensely.”

For veteran volunteer Lisa Bentz her journey with ASSP started in 2008 when she became involved as a visually impaired skier.

“I decided to join as a volunteer after having to take early retirement due to complications of  end stage retinal disease,” she said. “I felt I could assist in expanding ASSP (regarding) blind skiing,  policy creation, developing workshops for instructors interested in working with blind skiers… and ended up completing my own CADS level one instructors certificate.”

Bentz said what keeps her coming back is the accomplishments of both students and instructors, the instructor training and the team approach to lessons. 

“I never tire  of the sound of the kids and parents voices full of joy and awe as they ski down the mountain and experience the freedom they never thought they could. Personally I never  dreamed I’d be able to get back to skiing at the level I do and it’s thanks to the ASSP program and dedicated volunteer instructors.”

As requests for lessons for visitors have increased Hawes said the program is implementing a coaching pool this year to avoid instructor burnout with incoming lesson requests. 

“We have to change our approach,  we’re going to have a reserve pool of instructors who are dedicated to providing lesson support as those special requests come in. That will be new this year,” she said. 

When looking for new instructors to come on board, Hawes said, they look for people with some confidence on the mountain, but you don’t need to be an expert to volunteer. 

“If they can ski a blue run and are willing to commit to our program, then we will put the time and effort in to train them,” she said.

New volunteers will be required to attend a Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance ski improvement session and the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing level one course runs the weekend of Dec. 13 to 15. There is also an orientation session at the end of November. 

Hawes said they would like to have 50 coaches for the season and mentioned there are also opportunities for volunteers to work in the office to help with administrative duties and the program is looking to hire a part-time assistant co-ordinator. 

“If  our attitudes determine the quality of our lives, then it’s the  positive thinking which runs through ASSP that inspires students, families and instructors to bring their “A” game to the table,” said Bentz.

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