In the lead up to the 2015/16 winter sports season, the Whistler Question is paying tribute to the coaches that are helping raise Whistler’s next generation of professional athletes.
The definition of a true local in Whistler is always an ongoing debate, but Whistlerites don’t come more genuine than Drew Hetherington.
Son of former Whistler Heliskiing owner John Hetherington, the 33-year-old has grown up in this winter wonderland and went through many of the ski programs that he’s coached. After many years as an instructor for Whistler Blackcomb Snow School, he went on to coach steep clinics at Extremely Canadian, lead the BC Provincial Ski Cross team for four years and captains the youngest U12 initiates entering the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC).
The Question: Having grown up in Whistler, what was it like having so many ski development programs available to you?
Drew Hetherington: You were never bored; you always had something to do. As I was growing up we had the racing programs, but moguls and freestyle were beginning to make a big push. I actually ended my racing career early when I was 12. They built (Meadow Park Sports Centre) around that time so I played hockey for 10 years. But I always skied on the side and kept that going.
Q: When did you know you wanted to get into coaching?
DH: When I was offered a coaching job seven years ago. I was really keen because it was something I didn’t really get a chance to get into as a kid because I sought out another sport. The last seven years have been a really big learning experience, doing that part of skiing I wasn’t doing earlier. Working the J4 program under Denis Ebacher, he was a good mentor and really inspired me to be a coach and take the job beyond the hours with the kids on the hill. He was the biggest advocate of doing research, doing your due diligence and being a student of the sport.
Q: What’s your favourite part about coaching the U12 age group at WMSC?
DH: The best part is seeing change, whether it happens slowly or quickly. When you see the kids grasp a new concept or new manoeuvre, or even a new attitude or daily habit, that’s probably the most rewarding. In U12 we try to set the basics, in U14 they take those basics and accelerate them through to more racing scenarios. With us it’s still a bit of freeskiing, terrain adaption and fluidity. Basically my job is to get the kids to a very solid, but basic (skiing) position.
Q: How far have the ski programs in Whistler come since you went through them as a kid?
DH: It’s a lot bigger, that’s for sure. Coaches are being used not just for their teaching and skiing skills, but also for things that apply off the hill, whether coaches have a background in kinesiology or concussion management/testing, can run dryland fitness programs or work out a year-long training program. It’s not just a nine to five kind of job, there’s a lot more that happens.