Culture and progression.

It’s what every business, every team, every athlete strives for. Without it, the path becomes less clear, the outcomes less predictable, and the road bumpy. When there’s a positive growth-oriented culture in place, the necessary leadership direction crystallizes.

Creating a positive culture in any workplace is much easier said than done. And when you have it, cultivate and maintain it, a take a step further.

This is the fortunate position in which former World Cup racer Mike Janyk finds himself as he settles into the role of executive director for the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. 

Janyk spent the previous five years as the program director of the Grouse-Tyee Ski Club, wearing down the tread on his tires during a 120km daily commute on the Sea to Sky highway … but coming out the other end having developed and refined his approach to running a club and ensuring consistent growth is attained.

The creative-minded 39-year-old commented that his experience and time with Grouse-Tyee was exceptional, with personal and club growth attained over the five years. Janyk pointed towards a creative culture within B.C.’s largest ski club — located in North Vancouver — where all members played a role in the successes behind a “top-shelf” coaching leadership team.

Implementing a slogan “Dare to Care” with the Grouse-Tyee club, Jaynk’s focus was to inspire young skiers to “develop confidence, physical literacy and exceptional skills” all under the overarching focus of building “skiers for life” a core component of Alpine Canada’s long term athlete development plan. 

“I don’t think I can take the slogan with me so we’ll need to come up with a new name,” Janyk said with a chuckle. Now with a much shorter commute, he has returned to his home club in Whistler, coming full circle back to where it all started in his ski racing journey.  

“I have to pinch myself a little,” Janyk admitted. “I’m humbled by it … and stoked and excited on the other side of it too.”

Holistic development

The 14-year national team skier, three-time Olympian and world championship medallist with 27 World Cup top 10s in slalom to his credit, Janyk is well versed in the high performance pathway for elite skiers. But his approach leans towards holistic development and creating programs and leadership which applies to every club member, at all levels.

“Of course we need to keep a focus on high performance pathway and strive for excellence but I want all members to develop themselves,” he said. “Helping all of our athletes tap into the emotions around performance and working on mindfulness and body awareness and those kind of things.”

When Janyk took over the reigns of the Whistler club in mid May, he inherited a well-oiled machine from interim leader Bob Armstrong, who managed the club for nearly a year after Mark Tilston – Mike’s brother-in-law – took over the role as men’s head coach with the Canadian ski team after leading the club for many years.

Now as the face of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club – one of the most recognized ski clubs in North America – Janyk intends to use his experiences to develop the next generation of athletes, with a focus on physical literacy, confidence building and superior skiing skills at the core.

Since retiring from World Cup ski racing in 2014, Janyk has been involved in a diverse range of activities connected to the sport, including the Mike & Manny Foundation, a funding and skier development initiative, alongside his former teammate Manny Osborne-Paradis. The highlight of the program was an annual four-day ski camp with all expenses covered for 10 to 15 young ski racers from across Canada.

“I have a technical eye for the sport, so that helps,” Janyk said. “I know what it took for me, and for my teammates—the work ethic—and so I can help guide a lot better, because I have an understanding of what it takes.”

Coaching Culture Hotbed

Janyk quickly discovered a robust coaching system in B.C., which was organized, strategic and collaborative. Attributes that work well with his personality. 

When Janyk took on the role with Grouse-Tyee, he was unsure of the system set up for coaches and the nuances of coach development but soon learned of the collaborative and forward-thinking system which challenged him personally to refine his approach. 

According to Janyk, coaches in the province take pride in their professional development and role in guiding youth skiers. “B.C. is a real hotbed of coaching,” he said.

Janyk’s vision of the sport and its direction should be aligned with Alpine Canada, who announced this week its five-year strategic plan labelled “Made for Canada – The Future for Ski Racing in Canada,” with the goal of progressing into a top 5 alpine nation at major events (i.e. Olympic Games) as well as continuing its dominance in ski cross and para-alpine.

Alpine Canada CEO Therese Brisson, now with 10 months at the helm, said the strategic plan identifies earlier talent identification, increased fan experiences “that excite Canadians”, a stronger brand presence with a broader audience … and increased excellence in coaching, member services and safe sport.

“In a year that we celebrated 100 years of ski racing, we took the opportunity to rethink our strategy to ensure it best meets the needs of our athletes and carves a path towards a better future for the broader ski community,” Brisson said. “The plan articulates the vision, priorities, and commitments needed to be a world-leading ski racing nation and achieve our dual mission to increase podium performances and inspire growth in participation and fans.”

Part of the strategy is to continue to “develop a pipeline of national team caliber Canadian coaches”.

At the grassroots level, Janyk – now a development level certified and performance level trained Alpine Canada coach – is clear about what he envisions as the pathway for the sport and how to guide not only young skiers and coaches but also general members towards a goal, with purpose.

Sounds like a great “skier for life” journey.

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