From Captain to Coach: Continuing What He Started on the Slopes

Marist College offers a variety of both varsity and club sports, and this mix includes the Club Ski Team. The team participates in the McBrine Division of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA). Marist competes in both slalom and giant slalom races. The team will be coached this year by a Marist College Class of 2018 alumnus, Joe Kopp.  

Kopp was elected coach only a few short months ago. Previously, he was on this race team himself as a student. He was the captain of the team his final two years of racing, and in 2017, during his junior season, he even won the Captain of the Year award. After graduating earlier in 2018 with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences, the school and team decided it was in their best interest to bring Kopp back as coach.

“Land practices have already begun and the team is excited for yet another season,” said Kopp. The first time the team will meet on the snow is during tryouts, scheduled for the last weekend in the fall semester. The team then races over the first five weekends of the spring semester. Saturdays will consist of slalom races, while racers will compete in giant slalom on Sundays.  

Two years removed from his award-winning season, Kopp’s focus now shifts from racer to coach. “My duty this year will be to oversee the captains we have assigned to each team.” There are two individual teams, the male team and the female team, each with two captains respectively. Each team will have 10 racers competing. Kopp will be responsible for guiding these two talented teams into the race season ready to compete. Although this will be his first year coaching at Marist — and coaching in general — this is nothing new to him.

Kopp started skiing when he was in the second grade, affording him roughly 15 years worth of experience on the slopes. He and the team are hoping all of that time and experience on skis will help progress the program even further.

Chemistry has already been established within the team and with Kopp, and the returning team members know the atmosphere and what to expect. Since Kopp has prior racing experience with the returning members, he is familiar with most of the faces that will surround him.

Kopp manages to balance his new full time job in New York City with his coaching responsibilities through his own personal organizational skills. “I have good time management skills. I’m always on my cell phone, and I always multitask. I keep a tight calendar.” When the racing season begins in January, he will be committed to leaving work early on Fridays to make the commute to Poughkeepsie, in order to make the races. Although he cannot be at all practices leading up to the racing season, Kopp is constantly assigning tasks and providing guidance to the captains, as well as ensuring that his messages are received by all the racers. “The ski team couldn’t function without a coach and captains. That is why strong leadership is needed.”

“Coach Joe has fantastic leadership. He is always on top of what needs to be done,” said Bridget Kelly, a racer in her fourth year on the team and first year as one of the four co-captains. Kelly acknowledged the fact that Kopp has been captain for the previous two years, which means that he knows firsthand the potential of this team. He is aware of what needs to be done to push this team to the limit and make sure they are once again a top competitor in the division.  

The Marist Club Ski Team’s annual costume race during Coach Kopp’s Captain of the Year season in 2017. Photo courtesy of Joe Kopp. 

Coach Kopp has actively tried to expand the team. He has made it a goal to recruit the best talent at Marist. He wants to make the team as competitive, while also as fun, as possible. Kelly and the team believe this is something he has already done in the past and will continue to do this season. “The whole team feels comfortable around him. We all feel confident about what he says to us.”

Both Kelly and Kopp believe this season will be one for the books. They believe their team will be competitive, but at the same time, fun. The combined potential of both the returning racers and the new recruits is very promising.

The ski team may not get much attention around campus, but maybe it should. Kopp and his team appear eager for a great season ahead. And with the former racer and Captain of the Year award recipient at the helm, the possibilities for this team are endless. 

Edited by Meaghan Roche & Will Bjarnar


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