Outpeople: George Bryant nurtures teen skiers in life-long sport
Wed., Feb. 17, 2016
George Bryant was lured into coaching Spokane Nordic’s Junior Racing Team 11 years ago when his two children became interested in competitive cross-country skiing.
He’s continued as the team’s head coach even after his son and daughter have advanced to college and beyond because of his interest and the rewards in nurturing the athletic development of teenagers from other families.
Four of the 16 boys and girls on this season’s team have qualified in regional races for the Junior National Championships next month in Cable, Wisconsin.
“Most of the kids will be in track after that, taking a break from ski racing, but basically we train for cross-country skiing year-round,” Bryant said. “In summer, it involves getting together two-to-four times a week for roller skiing, hiking, biking and other activities that keep them physically active.”
George Momany was Spokane Nordic Ski Association president when the club tapped Bryant to be coach. He said Bryant is recognized at national competitions for his connection and management style with teens.
“I can’t heap enough praise on him for what he does,” Momany said.
As a student at University of Puget Sound four decades ago, Bryant was on the skiing team as well as on the university rowing team, a sport he pursued for 30 years.
The finish carpenter found an easy transition to leading youths in an international sport that’s not recognized by high school athletic departments.
“There was a need, that was the initial attraction,” he said, noting that the club based at Mount Spokane had families with kids eager to train, sweat and commit themselves to being better skiers.
“To be able to take my passion for skiing and help kids along the way is immensely enjoyable and rewarding.”
The team itself is the engine that does most of the hard work, he said. “The way they cajole each other into being active and working harder is fun to watch,” he said.
Throughout the season at Mount Spokane State Park, cross-country skiers get to see the ease and efficiency in the way the team members kick, glide, corner and skate around the trail system. Often, Bryant is tucked in among them, given away only by his world-class mustache.
“I don’t feel 60 years old when I’m out there with the kids,” he said.
“That’s the best thing about sharing the gift of this sport,” he said, noting that Nordic skiing isn’t a sport kids will outgrown as they age.
“They’ll be able to enjoy this at whatever pace they choose for the rest of their lives.”
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