2018 Bill Koch League Leadership Award: Anna Schulz, Craftsbury Outdoor Center

Anna Schulz grew up with skis on her feet. She learned to ski on her great-grandparents old farmland in Johnson, VT with her brothers, cousins and family in the back fields and woods around their home. Anna was in the New England ski world early on and joined the Bill Koch Youth Ski League when her parents worked at the Trapp Family Lodge. “My first BKL festival was at Trapps when I was in 6th grade, and while I don’t remember much about it, I remember that I had a killer outfit!”

Anna in another killer outfit at the 2018 BKL Festival (photo: Audrey Mangan)

From then on, Anna was hooked on skiing and continued as a junior skier in the Craftsbury Outdoor Center program with with Pepa Miloucheva, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center Head Coach. Anna ski raced while at college at Harvard University, and then after graduating volunteered for AmeriCorps. In 2011, she headed out to Bend Oregon to coach at the Mt. Bachelor Education Foundation, to return in 2013 to earn her Master’s Degree from UVM. It was then in 2015, that she headed back to Craftsbury as the Head Bill Koch League and Junior Coach, where she has been for the past 3 years.

Anna is the embodiment of the Bill Koch League and is one of those torch bearers of the philosophy of the league. While working for a club with a strong development and racing program, Anna sticks to the BKL philosophy to ensure that the Craftsbury Outdoor Center BKL skiers are getting enough play time on skis, fun, multi-sport development and learning about living an outdoor, active lifestyle. In the past few years, there is been growth in participation, enthusiasm  and community around her programming because of her leadership. That is why NENSA is pleased to announce that Anna is this year’s recipient of NENSA’s Bill Koch League Leadership Award.

Nordic skiing teaches so many life lessons, and great youth sports coaches think beyond a race, or a practice. Anna does this by not focusing not on wins and losses but on the core values and principles we want our kids to take from sports. Craftsbury Outdoor Center Assistant Junior/BKL Coach Audrey Mangan, said “stop by the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on any given winter day and you will see hoards of kids in green spandex zooming around the trails. Some are as young as six years old and have likely been there all day, starting with BKL practice in the morning followed by another few hours of building jumps with their friends after lunch. This is skiing at its most magical, and Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club head BKL/junior coach Anna Schulz is the mastermind behind it. There is quite possibly nothing Anna loves more than showing kids how to have fun being active outside, and that enthusiasm has created something special in Craftsbury starting with her BKL programs and carrying through the junior race team. Anna’s skiers are happy, caring, and confident skiers; that they are often quite fast is almost secondary.”

Audrey is a 1/3 of the “dream team” coaching squad along with Jake Barton at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and as assistant coaches for both the BKL and Junior skiers they are all a part of the success of those programs. “Anna gives the kids so much more than just the joy of skiing—which is a lot in itself—keeping it fun and rewarding.  She also interweaves such life skills as the importance of good communication, teamwork, sportsmanship, being on time, taking care of your equipment, and volunteering… Craftsbury is lucky to have her along with the rest of her terrific “Coach Squad”.” Judy Geer, Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

Jake Barton, Craftsbury Outdoor Center Assistant Junior/BKL Coach, says I have known Anna for most of my life. She is an amazing person and, even if she wasn’t a great coach, our young athletes would still have tons to learn from her. But, she is a great coach. I have been privileged to work with Anna at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center for the past 2 years. In that time, I have seen our BKL and junior programs thrive because of the environment that she has shaped. I have seen kids come out of her programs who are self confident, empathetic, well rounded and appropriately sassy. Anna’s tireless support and commitment to these kids has helped them grow into better people with the tools to pursue a lifetime of skiing.”

Anna organizing the final event of the BKL season, an all club, goofy relay (photo from Audrey Mangan)

Kids and parents alike see the impact that Anna has had on their young skiers and community. The NEVT BKL District Chair and parent of skiers in the Craftsbury program, Victoria Von Hessert said that “Anna meets our kids where they are in their lives not just as skiers, but as kids.  She encourages them and supports them, and at the same time sets a high standard for good sportsmanship, being a good teammate, and having a good work ethic. They know that she believes in them and she helps them feel empowered, not just in their skiing, but in the other activities we do all year at the Center.  We feel so blessed to have Anna and her coaching team as the positive – and fun – adult role models our kids need. It’s this kind of coaching that has helped our kids love the sport.”

Anna models the behavior she wants to see in her skiers, and uses skiing, practice and racing to teach lifelong lessons through sport. When asked about her favorite part of her job she said, that “ seeing kids try something new, come up short, and go back for more. When we have stormy winter days and build jumps, I love watching the kids who totally eat it, come up smiling, and try again until they nail it. I love seeing kids try racing, finish last, and come back to try again. Kids can just have this incredible fearlessness and resilience, and skiing seems to both bring that out and cement it into their consciousness.”

“No matter if it’s a cold wet run up Elmore Mountain in early May, a bluebird 20 degree day skiing Ruthie’s in February, or an agility obstacle course in the Fall, Anna makes skiing and training a fun adventure.  Anna personifies enthusiasm, camaraderie, intelligence and fun and we feel so fortunate that Callie and Jack have her as a coach. We couldn’t ask for a better role model to bring out the best in our kids’ racing as well as their personal development.” Meredith and Chris Young, former New England District Chairs and parents of skiers in the Craftsbury Outdoor Center program.

2018 New England wax team, left to right, Steve McCarthy, Anna Schulz, Jake Barton, Colin Rogers, Justin Beckwith. (photo: Amie Smith)

The New England Nordic Ski Community is fortunate to have Anna on the ground working with Bill Koch ages, but also in the development pipeline with our junior skiers. “Anna is a  ambassador to our community- her varied skill sets make her an asset on any team she joins. Her work with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center ranges from creating inclusive BKL programming to facilitating high level race support for some of the top junior skiers in the country.  In 2018 Anna was an outstanding member of the New England wax staff at the Junior Nationals in Soldier Hollow – she wore many hats with ease, including coach, wax tester, applicator and generally created a positive atmosphere for her four male counterparts in the wax trailers.  Although Anna is receiving her award as a BKL coach it is truly the sum of the parts that makes her contributions so powerful. Thanks ANNA!” Justin Beckwith, Competitive Program Director, NENSA.

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