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Stories of Everyday Covid Champions
A series of lively interviews of skiers from across Southern Ontario District to engage, inspire and tell the story of Nordic skiing during a global pandemic.
In this episode, we look for a coaches perspective. Time to check in with Georgian Nordic’s Peter Wiltmann. Peter has been volunteer coaching for more than 20 years. He is a Heinz Neiderhauser Outstanding Coaching Award recipient, a trusted friend, and a relentless optimist. We caught up with Peter in Dillon, Ontario, in the heart of the 30,000 Islands region, in the world’s largest freshwater archipelago.
Peter, I am so stoked for this interview! You have been a huge inspiration and positive force for so many athletes and coaches alike. What have you been up to this season?
Skiing a lot, wherever there is snow or not.
What can you tell us about coaching Georgian Nordic in pandemic times? What has it been like? Can you share with us some of the highs and lows?
We had a great start in May, with a new coach running with all, communicating with the local high school team coach, we were making progress and looking forward to work through this time of distancing. So far all that is going well, the good winter conditions surely help. University skiers were showing up over the summer and are still in touch with some team members. This helps the social aspect greatly, even if we do not have team sessions. All of this can only last so long, so we shall see what the next season brings, we are hopeful.
Peter and Dorte Wiltmann
A mutual friend of ours, Katja Mathys, sent a picture of what looked to be the whole town of Parry Sound taking to the ice of Georgian Bay for a skate. Did you get out the old blades and get in on the action? Are you concerned that Parry Sounder’s may have found something more enjoyable than Nordic skiing?
No, I should have though. Parry Sounders always prefer skating on ice and playing some shinny, the ski club was abandoned for most of it, lol, Peter is always last to figure out that everyone was on the ice. It was blue ice, it looked amazing. It sure drew the crowds, unlike in Dillon where we had no crowds and a bit of snow on the ice. Kept skiing on a thin snow cover for two weeks, crust type skiing was quite unusual by itself in early February.
I can’t help but notice that when it comes to practical and creative solutions, nobody can match your ingenuity. What exactly does MID mean? What is the strangest thing in your wax shed?
MID stands for Made in Dillon. It was a lot of fun over the years to build such practical things like wax benches, forms, klister warmers, waxing machine, flex tester, and mid groomers 4′ wide up to 12′ wide. We actually would have had money to buy some of these things, but I rather bought more racing skis for the team fleet instead, one pair at a time. MID groomers were more appreciated outside our area, since they did not know where these rather simplistic but well working implements were made. What others may perceive as strange may be all the fishing rods and wooden dowels I keep to fix ski poles with, there is always a diameter I might need. Some repaired rock skis stick around until needed. They end up with initials from former glory days, signatures of our skiers past and present who have donated them to be used for someone else. So really, none of this is strange to me at all.
What advice do you have for other coaches out there that may be struggling with the changes the pandemic has brought to our routines?
Trust what you do, follow your process, and pay attention to what your athletes need in times when they will make more independent decisions. The pandemic has allowed us to focus more on training, and making it the most important aspect. They will love the sport for life if you are doing a good job.
You’re known for your prolific use of social media. There aren’t too many days I don’t see an Instagram post from you. What impact has this had on your relationship with the athletes you work with? Should we be preparing for your debut on Tik Tok?
Great question, and I am not sure. The impact of social media is a mystery I find worthwhile exploring further. In hopes that it may bring kids together, as a local team but also interact with same age skiers from other towns, skiers they met at races and camps. Trying to show movements that look fun, motivate them to go beyond what they are used to. I will continue to think of this as “social video analysis” without the technical pressure of a camera presence having an influence on their technique. It may not replace the technical work, but it seems to not bother them too much when Peter starts taking shots. Sure I get the odd rolling eye, so I hit delete, no question. It may just help them communicate to me how they feel about a certain exercise, or a certain move. I hope video gives them the connection to sport they would otherwise not have. Developing athletes need to know what they do is appreciated and is not being used in comparison to elite athletes’ movements.
No on Tiktok, I have not even looked at how to get on that.
I happen to know your son’s Victor and Konrad well. Is Konrad still your favorite?
I love both of them equally, with all their differences they have, of course. Both are still skiing, I am grateful they are both healthy and doing ok.
How do I rate as an interviewer? I have no idea what I am doing.
When the kids tell me a session was ok, it was probably just ok. If they use the word fun with a smile, ya that response keeps me in the game. So you as an interviewer ? You rate as fun, Bryan, I am smiling. Thank you for the questions.