PRINCE GEORGE, B. C. — Andrew Casey didn’t understand how much money could talk until he took on a nordic ski coaching gig in Prince George, B.C.
“B.C. has a lot of money so the money being put into sport really does make a big difference in the availability of the sport to people, but also the results that can be achieved with money,” Casey told The Western Star from his home in Prince George last week.
“They’re getting huge sponsorships up here that back in Newfoundland would have been tenfold of what the annual budget was, so it makes it a lot easier to coach when there is financial backing.”
The 26-year-old Corner Brook native became the first full-time cross-country ski coach in the history of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club — the largest nordic ski club in British Columbia — back in July.
With Casey’s hiring, the club is shifting its focus to raise the profile of the programs offered through the club at the new-and-improved Otway Nordic Centre. Casey is expected to revive the racing program that has fallen under the radar at Caledonia for years and to give older elite skiers an opportunity to take their sport to the highest obtainable level, but he is also there to guide the recreational skiers who are more interested in the health benefits of hitting the trails more so than those aspiring to be an Olympian.
He will also provide ski instruction to members of the Caledonia biathlon team, which has a volunteer coach training the athletes in marksmanship.
Of course his vast experience is expected to go a long way in helping guide volunteer coaches and parents of skiers in the younger group find comfort on the trails.
“To essentially make sure they are coaching the kids the way they should be so they’re getting skill development so when they do come through I’m not having to teach them things they should have been taught when they are seven when they are 14,” he said of his plan of attack.
It’s an exciting time for Casey with British Columbia set to put out the welcome mat for the 2015 Canada Winter Games. The Otway Nordic Ski Club will be the venue for both cross-country skiing and biathlon.
Casey, who served a two-year stint as head coach of the Newfoundland and Labrador cross-country squad after a spending two years as a high-performance racer at the national training centre in Thunder Bay, Ont, competed in cross-country skiing at the Games in Bathurst/Cambellton, N.B. in 2003 and in Whitehorse, Yukon in 2007.
He is looking forward to seeing how his athletes compete on the national stage, and he’s already seeing how the Games will leave a lasting legacy for the club with a new trail network being built and an international biathlon range in progress. He likes how things are taking shape at the club since he arrived and believes it will only get better with time.
“There is a lot of money going into the club right now with the Canada Winter Games in 2015 up here,” he said.
Life has been great so far for him and his wife Erica (Pritchett) Casey, who won’t be returning home for the holidays this year because of the financial challenge that would come with two return flights from coast to coast.
They will make the most of it in Prince George for the holiday season, a second straight year he wasn’t able to come home for the holidays after opting last year to spend the holidays with his wife’s family in Alberta.
Oh, and it’s not hard for him to break out a chuckle when asked about skiing on the west coast when compared to growing up as an elite athlete in his home province. His first day on skis this winter goes back to Oct. 21. He’s not sure what he would have been doing if he was still home in October, but Casey knows for sure he wouldn’t have been thinking about a day on the trails.
“Last night for me personally was my 35th day skiing and I could have had more days,” he said.
“If people want to ski they need snow, right?” he said.