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Chicks with Stix: The Olympians coaching girls. For free.

chicks with stix
With coach Katie Blamey at the Chicks with Stix session

 

By NATALIA HAWK

Last Sunday was the worst snow day I’ve seen this season. Grey skies and snow made for low visibility, and blustering winds meant that most of the lifts were closed. My friends and I sat in our car in the carpark, gazing miserably outside, willing ourselves to venture out into the cold. It was completely silent as we assessed our options.

“Perhaps we could just stay in the car,” someone eventually suggested.

“Or drive home,” another said.

“Or go and sit in the bar,” someone else added.

But I had previous commitments that I had to uphold – regardless of how terrible the weather was. So I bundled up, covering literally every square millimetre of skin that had previously been exposed to the snow, and dragged myself through the weather to get to my meeting place at Blue Cow.

As soon as I got there – there they were. About 50 girls, aged between 12 and 45, all ready in their ski gear and all super-pumped to get out on the mountain – despite the weather.

They were all there to take part in the Chicks with Stix program – a seriously amazing initiative started by Lorraine Lock and Zoe Jaboor. Both are keen skiers, with Zoe being one of the country’s most proficient freestyle skiers. She’s also a ski coach and qualified judge in moguls, aerials and half-pipe, so spends much of her time travelling between the South and North Hemispheres, watching people go off huge jumps and bumps.

A few years ago, the two of them noticed that there just weren’t enough girls getting involved in competitive skiing and snowboarding. And they understood why. After all, both are largely male-dominated sports. The environment for training, progressing and competing at a grassroots level isn’t particularly supportive towards females.

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So Zoe and Lorraine decided to start a series of weekend workshops that would help female skiers and boarders progress their skills, learn some new tricks and meet some girls that liked to do the same things they did. They rounded up as many coaches as they could find, brought some sponsors and ambassadors on board, and there you have it – Chicks with Stix was born.

Chicks with Stix
The Chicks with Stix coaches.

Here’s the thing. The company is non-for-profit. All the workshops are free – you pay zero dollars for three to six hours with a world-class coach. Chicks with Stix get zero funding from government agencies or sporting bodies, so all coaches and admin staff also do their work for free. Their sponsors provide them only with prizes to hand out to participants at the end of each session; coaches occasionally also get a free helmet or a pair of goggles thrown their way.

Despite the lack of funding, the program has gone from happening only in Mt Buller to expanding out to include Thredbo, Perisher, Baw Baw and Hotham. A roster of various high profile coaches attend different sessions at different resorts – some are Olympians, some are World Cup champions, others are FWT and X-Games winners.

I was lucky enough to be in a group with both Zoe Jaboor and Katie Blamey as my coaches. Katie Blamey is a moguls champion and has spent years and years coaching skiers – even running camps in Colorado for teenagers during the summer.

They didn’t waste two seconds complaining about the weather. We went straight to Perisher, where we got on a T-bar and went right up to the top of the mountain.

I’m an intermediate skier. Fine with going down a hill, but not so fine with doing tricks or jumps. I tried to ski backwards once and my boyfriend at the time laughed so hard that he cried.

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By the end of the Chicks with Stix session, I could do a 180 jump (when you start facing a jump, jump over it and then end up facing the other way), I could do short mogul-style turns, I could ‘pop’ off a jump and I could ski an entire run backwards. Without falling over.

And so could the eight other girls in the session – thanks to the careful guidance and constant encouragement from the coaches.

Chicks with Stix
The girls in the session. I’m on the far right!

It was the most I’ve ever learned about skiing in such a short period of time. And it was the most I’ve ever attempted to do. I’ve always been too scared to actually attempt anything besides actually just getting down the mountain – but in that kind of supportive environment, where all the girls clapped if you landed a half-decent 180, I actually wanted to try everything and push myself out of my comfort zone.

Zoe explained to me that when it comes to skiing, girls are slower in their development than boys – just because they tend to overthink things. Boys will see a jump, go over it and think about it when they land, whereas girls will overanalyse every bit of the jump before it actually happens.

“Girls are different to boys, but big mountains, mogul bumps, the half-pipe, aerial kickers and ski x burns and jumps don’t differentiate,” she said. “It’s ‘one-size fits all’ and it can be daunting. We aim to ease the pain and believe that in a friendly group scenario you can easily push yourself a little more.”

And push ourselves, we did. Along with a lot of laughs and a lot of chats with other amazing girls who are living seriously incredible lives. I got to know a lovely girl who manages the Perisher ski lifts, and another who has been instructing skiers in Japan for the last three years. Another worked in HR at a university; two more were high school students.

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I’ve been smiling for days because I had such a beautiful time. Nothing makes me happier than spending time with other incredible girls, doing something incredibly fun and uplifting. And I loved the opportunity to meet those who absolutely excel in the sport – especially since they’re nurturing other girls for nothing, monetary-wise, in return.

I’ve written this post because I want to get the word out about such a fantastic initiative for young girls. Because I want the coaches to get some recognition for putting so much effort in. And because I would really love if some other sports introduced a similar program for young girls, who are finding it difficult to find a mentor, or develop their skills, or just meet other girls who are interested in the same thing.

Sporting opportunities for girls have absolutely increased over the last few years. But it’s programs like this that take it to the next level.

Thanks so much for having me, Chicks with Stix. If you’d like to take part, click here to see their events for the rest of the year. Also, click here to like them on Facebook and here for Twitter.

Check out some of the pictures from the day:

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NB: This is not a sponsored post – I asked to join the session and chose to write about it because of how much I loved it.

And in other sports news…

Sally Pearson has won a silver medal in 100m hurdles at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Pearson had a difficult preparation leading up to Moscow, tearing her hamstring twice and at times thinking of quitting the sport.

Laura Geitz has been named captain of the Australian netball team. She is the first Queenslander to captain the Diamonds in over a decade. Former captain Liz Ellis said that Laura was a standout for the role and highlighted Laura’s leadership in the Firebirds ANZ championship grand final performance. Her first role as captain will be to lead the national team in a five-test series against New Zealand next month. Stand by for an interview with Laura soon!

In a world first, 19-year-old Jessica Fox has become the only woman paddler to win both K1 and C1 gold medals at the World Cup in Slovenia. A woman has never achieved this before, but Britain’s Dave Florence has achieved it in the men’s competition. Fox expressed her excitement at the result but also took the opportunity to point out the inequality between male and female sport, in that there are three Olympic slalom events for men, whereas there is only one for women. In an article published in the Australian, Jess said: “It hits home because it means there’s not enough opportunities for women in our sport.”

The Southern Stars were two points ahead in the women’s race for the Ashes trophy after a 27-run win against England in the first Ashes One Day International at Lord’s on Wednesday. Erin Osborne, Australian spin bowler, was named player of the match. However, England has now levelled out the series with a 51-run win in the second One Day International.

The Opals have qualified for the basketball world championships after beating New Zealand 2-0 in the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships last weekend.

Votes have opened for the I Support Women In Sport have opened – they’re the awards that recognise the achievements of Aussie female footballers. Stephanie Catley, Kyah Simon and Ellyse Perry have all been nominated for awards. You can vote here.

And on a charity note – on the 10th October in Sydney, 1500 people will get together in an attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for The World’s Longest Yoga Chain. And it’s all being done in partnership with Cancer Council NSW, to raise awareness and money for people affected by breast cancer. Click here for more info and to sign up.

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