”We are capable of doing whatever we want to do.”
This time the path leads us towards Domžale (SLO). More precisely, SSK Sam-Ihan (Ski Jumping club). There’s a Summer Ski Jumping Camp, where Jure Šinkovec trains the young hopes who might make the front pages someday. Jure is a lot of things. Former ski jumper. Olympian. Masseuse. Ski jumping coach. AFP licensed personal trainer. Big fighter. But mostly, he has a big heart.
Firstly, we encountered the kids. Some of them have been training for 6 years, others less. They gladly told us who do they look up to (and yes, Jure is one of the heroes). We were provided with a variety of answers – from Tilen Bartol to Peter Prevc, but Robert Kranjec has always been the ultimate legend. When asked, what is the hardest part of the camp, most of them mentioned either take off or the inrun position. However, they all agreed on the favourite part – jumping. Then we spoke to Jure.
Tell me a bit about this camp, how did it all start?
This is the third year we’ve organized the camp, it was started by Gaj Trček. Each year we do it differently. We’ve noticed that children often stop coming back when there’s a break between both parts of the camp. It mostly happens with the youngest, because they are away from jumping for too long, they don’t see their friends during summer and they lose contact, they lose focus. With our way of working we’re trying to keep that focus and consequently, keep the kids as well. We always strive for progress. At the same time, the purpose of this camp is to get new members.
Can you see the effect?
I have to say, last year we did a great job and got a great feedback. We had various activities and there were also two coaches. There was a lot of interest this year, but we only got a few new members. Applications also depend on the success of the athletes who jump in the World Cup. Everybody checks their results, what’s their name, where they come from. Currently, there’s interest because of Tilen (Bartol) and Jernej (Damjan). There’s good progress in the older group, coached by David Krapež. He also has a National Champ, Teo Igor Herbstritt. It’s all about patience and looking for new challenges when it comes to younger kids. You have to find a balance between playing and taking it seriously.
How is with the age?
The group is for kids from 6 – 13 years. We also had a 5-year old boy but it didn’t work out. From 6 – 10 there’s just animation, which means they don’t compete. They jump for badges or certificates. There’s no rush, the charm is in keeping them. The kids from 10 – 13jump for real. They were jumping on a HS 25 for two years, next two years there’s HS 40. After that, they become part of the older group and get a new coach – David (Krapež).
Do Tilen and Jernej jump in, do they help you motivate the youngsters?
Actually, at first, I wanted to name the camp after them. Then I was thinking about naming it after me, but in the end, we decided to give it a normal name.
What does ”normal” name mean?
Summer ski jumping camp SSK Sam-Ihan.
Alright, Tilen and Jernej.
Right. Well, they both helped in the second week of the first part of the camp. We were jumping together, Tilen shared some stories, spoke about his successes and his starts. He explained the technique, what’s important when it comes to inrun position, taking off, flying and landing. Nutrition is also important, so he talked about that as well. Same with Jernej, but his approach was slightly different – he spoke from experience and from the parental point of view. There was also Ema Klinec with two coaches and last but not least, we had a visit from Robert Kranjec.
So everyone presented the part they are best at?
Exactly. Tilen explained the inrun position, Jernej is really good at take-off and described how it feels. For Robi… we already know where he belongs.
Sounds interesting and successful.
Yes. That first month was really good, effective. I think they don’t realize just yet how much they memorized, but subconsciously you know and later on, when you get an association, you think ”Right, I heard these words before, I remember…” I believe we did good work.
The second part of the camp is not that intense, we just start preparing for the competitions in autumn.
When does the camp start?
The camp starts with summer vacation, more precisely – the end of June. This year we started June 26th till July 12th, then we had a break for a bit more than one month and now we continue till the end of August. Personally, I think that one month away from this is too much, but at the same time we can’t take this away from them. When they are older, aged 15-16, they’ll only get 2-3 weeks off. Parents have adjusted as well, they encourage them.
Are these the same members? Do you see the progress because of these camps? I assume the regular members also train here during the year.
Yes, regular members stay the same and we’re trying to gain new ones with this ski jumping camp. Recognition of the club and gaining new members also depend on good results in the international competitions. Regular members train throughout the whole year.
When the World Cup competitions end, it’s no end for the kids.
They actually train to be in the World Cup someday.
Of course! Our goal is for them to jump for the Slovenian national team one day, but at the same time we are aware that there is still a lot of learning and patience ahead of that.
You never run out of work.
Surely not. My work is divided into two categories:
An animation group, consisting of members from 6-10 years and a medium group from 10-13 years.
With the animation group, we work on physical development – adaptation, knowledge and awareness of the body, we face difficult situations and also solve them. We pay a lot of attention to jumping: the basics of jumping, take off, flying, landing and sliding in the outrun.
In the middle group, we are building on what we have learned. There is a bit more emphasis on fitness training and some additions to jumping training.
You have to pay attention to kids, you can’t ignore the fact that we all change. Especially when you don’t see a person for a long time – that’s when you really see the difference. But we also have video analysis, you need it when it comes to kids because their verbal communication is not that developed yet. You can see who works at home, who is training and stretching even when I’m not looking.
Yes, I noticed that earlier, as a coach you feel the flexibility and body response.
Of course. I can say that in my sports career I have learned and won control over my body to some extent. Now I gradually pass the knowledge, experience and ideas on the youngest.
But you have to constantly work on it because these are kids and their focus changes with the speed of light. You have to keep them focused and dedicated, right?
Of course. To me, the biggest challenge is to present them ski jumping as an adrenaline-fueled and safe sport, but more often the accident happens elsewhere, not on the jump In addition, compared to other winter sports, this sport is financially less costly. However, in addition to what is written, our greatest interest is to keep as many permanent members as possible and gain new ones.
You can’t be too fast or too strict otherwise they get scared. I also got a lot of help from Gaj (Trček), he really has a way with kids. I try to do my best, I also read so I learn how to work with them. I don’t want to lose them.
But I also teach them to be happy for their teammates. No rivalry. If you’re happy for others, you’ll jump well and they will also be grateful. It pays back.
How about the parents, are they their biggest supporters?
They are. More so with every day. They see how this sport affects the kids. Although they don’t know ski jumping that well, at least not in the detail. Yet. It takes time and involvement. When there’s a competition we can really use a hand. I have to be at the top of the ski jump all day and wait for the kids. It’s useful when parents help with waxing the skis etc., otherwise, it’s a mess (laugh). I just point them in the right direction, they grab something, do something, anything, just to get their kids up the inrun on time. Come up, wear a bib, bring goggles, shoes on – that’s it.
Little Eddie the Eagle (laugh).
In the first part of the camp, we organised a movie night, sleeping under the stars. We watched Eddie the Eagle and laughing was guaranteed. The kids had a thousand questions, some were logical, others not so much (laugh). They were reminded of the importance of participating and not winning and that no obstacle is too high.
“Love is in the air” is our motto and since 2010 these words have also taken on a physical shape. At that time, former president Peter Korošec and coach Simon Podreberšek began running a club that aimed to act with love and make a breakthrough, becoming competitive with other Slovenian clubs. Not only there’s love and success, but we are also also getting better day by day.
Currently, the biggest contributors are Tilen and Jernej, who train under the Ski Association. Our goal is to get new members which also represents the biggest challenge for our coaches. It shows when you have a really good athlete. Like with Peter Prevc – there was so much interest that they couldn’t take in new members in Kranj, they were full.
Summer is tricky. There’s 40°C outside and these kids have to jump in suits, meanwhile, their friends hang out together, they go swimming. That’s why they start losing interest.
It’s a challenge when it comes to kids, they are so young, they don’t see the effect in the long run and they might not want it as badly. They’re not ready to give up on something. When you’re older, you slowly form your own opinion and you know what you want – at that point you would do anything for your passion and dream to come true.
Absolutely. There are cons, but there are also pros. This is the kind of sport where your body is ready for everything. We are capable of doing whatever we want to do. Our motor skills are highly developed. The reason lies in balance, agility and coordination training which we start at an early age. Additionally, there’s a lot of core stabilization exercises, children are gradually learning about strength training and they also get to know speed and jumps through play. For this reason, they are capable of mastering different types of trainings and sports, such as volleyball, football, tennis, acrobatics, badminton, rollerblading… Trainings such as coordination and others make the exercises easier to understand.
But you also have to be careful, you have to focus on prevention too so you can prevent the possible injuries. If you manage to combine all this you’ll be looking at a great athlete in a couple of years.
Speaking of development – you have to start when they’re young. It’s children who develop the most, the fastest. However, each child can respond to given tasks differently, just like us. How do you know that a specific exercise is equally appropriate for everyone?
Children are progressing year by year, we are all aware of this. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that age-appropriate training is properly implemented during the growing-up period. Sometimes the trainings are equal for everyone, in other cases, they are tailored to the individual and we think that there’s more good in it than bad.
For the time being, we are troubled by mobility, as we see that movement, in general, is a very neglected activity nowadays. I definitely recommend it, but I also can’t stress enough that it must be implemented correctly. The first thing you need is to learn so you can work on it later.
Everyone can have some health problems that can be a challenge when performing certain exercises. Your body structure and shape may differ. As a result, you can’t do the exercises the same way like the rest. But you could do them in a different, easier and personalized way and you could still be part of this sport. All of this would be possible if we had more than one person paying attention to us, coaching us. They would treat us individually, they would know who you are, where you come from, what’s your condition, how to approach you. Perhaps it’s harder to start with children but I think it could be very useful with the older groups. Kids often compare themselves to others, they think ”if he can do it, so can I”, they want to repeat after their peers and come closer to the best of them. However, this can result in using excessive force, overreacting and pushing yourself to the very limit which can, in the long run, lead to injuries. Before you know it, you’re 18 and you just came from the back and knee surgery. Do you think this ”trend” could change (even with ski jumpers) if an individual had their own coach or if there were more individual trainings than group ones? Or if at least there were different types of coaches? Of course, there’s always that crucial argument – money. But still – if there was an option, would you believe in change, in progress?
That’s true. At first it might seem like another expense but I am convinced it’s also an investment. Anyone who is only a little involved in sports is aware that sooner or later there’ll be an injury or two as we’re not indestructible. But why sooner rather than later? The anatomy itself is not the easiest thing, doctors study and practice for years and after that, they’re still learning, every day. It’s not only about the physical part, but there’s also the psyche. And nutrition. So many areas and it’s difficult to cover them all just by yourself. We all try to do our best, you want the best for your athletes and it works to some extent. It’s not a bad idea, some nations already have personal trainers. And it also means satisfaction and peace for the athlete, knowing he got the best care and it was all for his benefit. Yes, I believe there would be progress, but firstly we should test this theory.
Okay, how about talent? You can’t miss it when you look at your group, but we both know that talent isn’t everything.
Exactly, you can rely on your talent to some extent, but if you don’t understand that you also have to work on it, then you won’t go far. Talent doesn’t disappear but you have to maintain it, you have to put effort.
Do these kids adjust to your methods, you probably need a lot of patience?
Quite a lot. Each child adjusts to their coach differently. The ability and tasks of the coach are shown in teaching them good from the bad which applies to all areas, as well as praising the children, but also criticising them when necessary. You need to show the children’s side but at the same time maturity, consistency, organisation, diversity, playfulness and ingenuity. The challenge is always present.
Currently, we are doing really well, from children and their parents to the entire professional team.
No surprise, when you’re older you know what you want, in which direction you want to go. As a child you have no idea what is going on in your body and mind, you need someone to guide you when you wander around headlessly (laugh).
I agree. My job is to help them, be their guide, motivate them and also train them.
I think the breaks between both parts of the camp are good for children. Perhaps they may not see it that way now and don’t even need to but the older you get, the more you appreciate your days off. No matter how passionate you are about something – everyone needs a break. You have to ”miss” that passion so you can come back rested and ready for new challenges. If you don’t take a break, it’s over.
I agree completely. You have to divert your mind. When I was injured, when I was in rehab, I needed a retreat. That’s when I started doing massage. This was my solution in a given situation, but of course, everyone finds a suitable activity for themselves.
I spoke to kids earlier. They love the camp and they love you as well. Is the feeling mutual? (laugh)
Of course (laugh). I love working with children. They can be exhausting, but who isn’t (laugh).
The camp ended on August 30th. We would like to thank Jure for his time and patience and good luck with the training in the future!