What are the next steps?

So this year has so far proved to be very interesting with the number of summer races taking place, both indoor and outdoor and seeing how the attendance at the races has worked. There have been many races across the regions, nationally and also including the Beck races.

What happens next year? Well this year are the regional level we have been looking at how we can continue to offer value for money while at the same time making sure that the racers continue to have fun, which at the end of the day is the most important thing. The kids, young and old, need to enjoy what they are doing otherwise they will not progress and take part in the future. It does sadden me to see some that are forced to take part because a parent insists it is good for them, or is trying to live their dream through them! But it is also a challenge to take that enthusiasm that exists and translate that into someone that is racing.

Within ERSA there is still a lot we can do and hopefully with the feedback from people we can continue to adapt. There is always room for improvement and making sure we keep the focus about what the regional racing is about and where it should lead, but also ensuring that the racers continue to have a good time. Tied in with this though is the need to look at alternative or additional events which give people the opportunity to try something else, and we are starting to see more and more alternative events taking place. In the coming years racing will continue to have more challenges from other snowsports.

However one of the challenges we face is what happens beyond the regional level. For a relative newcomer it can be a bit confusing, do you focus on Club Nationals, Grand Prix, Indoor, Outdoor, the Becks series, Celtic Cups, ESSKIA. When I first started taking Craig to the national races there was a clear distinction and focus about the progression. There used to be much more focus on the BARTS points and competitiveness among some of the racers, but over the past couple of years this is not the case. Yes racers are keen to see what their points are but there are more important aspects to each race. In the past we used to go all over the country to the different races and a lot of people did that, but this past couple of years have noticed that doesn’t happen quite so much. A lot is certainly to do with the economic climate especially as there are now so many choices available and people do not generally have to travel so far now.

From a national standpoint though we need to have a consistent view of the aim and focus of each type of race, yes I know that is easier said than done, but it would help especially when talking to new people about the progression. A typical question I’ve had is ‘should I go to the Beck races or not, what is the difference and how does it tie in with the other races …’. Those races have proved to be very successful and popular and the feedback has generally been good from racers and parents alike, not perfect but certainly something different. So they add to the choice racers can make.

One area which I think would be good to change and needs tackling in the future is the GP and and Celtic Cups. Very similar types of races, aimed at a similar level, yet run as very separate races. Six GPs and six Celtic Cups. Why not amalgamate the two series and make one English / Welsh GP series? You wouldn’t run the twelve races but a reduced number, maybe six or eight, but you could certainly have a much better focused series. Both series are currently aimed at a certain level of racer and there are only a limited number out there, so why not make better use of the available racers? I’ve been told this will never happen as SSE and SSW want their own series, fair enough, but times are changing and I wonder if they really have had the serious discussions about taking that approach. SSE certainly already go to a lot of effort to avoid clashing the GP series with the Celtic Cups! Combining the two events would be much better for the sport long term, but we’ll see what happens on that front. Certainly next year they remain separate and take up twelve of the weekends. It would be good and provide a good top level focus for the summer racing, but spread thinly!

The challenge we then have is getting the regional racers to move up that next step to the Club Nationals. Do they go for the challenge, the points, to gain recognition, as prep for a GP/Champs, to build a different set of social friends etc. Also need to promote more to racers about the chances to qualify for national teams and demonstrate what can be achieved.

What I’ve not covered is the actual format of the racing, is it right, what could be done to improve it and make it more fun? Do we need more team events such as the Inter Regional, which is always a good exciting event, or continue to focus on the individual aspect? In recent weeks I have been requesting feedback from ERSA races about the race formats and what we can do to improve them (http://www.ersa.co.uk/2010_ersa_season_so_far_feedback) and so far have had some very good feedback, which will publish soon. But it is always good to get feedback from the horses mouth!

Improving the perception of the races, the focus, the aims is not something that is easy to do and will take some time but definitely needs doing. It’s at all levels but do find it a challenge getting people to move from that regional side up to the next step!

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