Alpine Canada is excited to announce that Phil McNichol is joining the organization as High Performance Director of the Alpine Team. The role is critically important to Alpine Canada’s goal of becoming a top-three ski nation by 2026.
McNichol, who grew up in Washington, CT, comes to Alpine Canada after an illustrious career focused on athlete development.
We caught up with him to learn more about his goals and vision for his role with the Canadian Alpine Ski Teams.
Q: During your time with the U.S. Men’s Alpine Team, you coached the team to 42 World Cup victories, four World Championship titles and an Olympic gold medal. What are the key factors that led to those successes?
PM: I was lucky during my time with the U.S. Men. The outcomes and victories took over 10 years to achieve. I was fortunate to be involved from the beginning of the process through to the final stages and see the athletes achieve great success. Key aspects to my past program are: a team culture based in self belief, hard work, a truly supportive environment, winning at every level, accountability, and a functional multilevel program.
Q: After leaving the U.S. Team, you worked with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation as the Athletic Director where you guided the evolution and athletic development for the entire alpine program. In your view, what are the important elements of an effective development pipeline?
PM: After leaving the U.S. Team, I started my own winter sports consulting company and had the pleasure to work in coach development and program development around the U.S. and the world. At the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), I was responsible for their alpine program as well as all five competitive snow sliding sports, which included more than 700 athletes and 250 staff. I have found that effective development pipelines require addressing the complete needs of the people we call athletes. Quality coaching is critical, as is the need to teach the process of building athletes from all aspects, not just the sport specific elements. Much of this path or pipeline is the time to build the foundation and not rush to competition and selection too early.
Q:What do you think is needed to reach Alpine Canada’s goal of becoming a top-three ski nation by 2026?
PM: At this time, this goal is purely aspirational and a timeline cannot be placed on this until a plan is built and the resources required are available. We are not at a place today to truly move this statement into a true goal category. We are in a time of extreme challenge to adjust programming within our limited resources and support maximum productivity from the athletes on the World Cup Teams. Our goals will be simple: be better, work smarter, dig deeper and reach the podium. This will all have to be done within our very limited means and we will have to find a method to work with our provincial partners to field programs together so athletes have a path to the World Cup.
Q: What should our athletes and coaches expect from you?
PM: They can expect an honest and direct approach to reach high performance. This is sport and accountability is the method to success.
Q: What are your goals for this summer and next season? What do you hope to implement rapidly in the short term?
PM: My first step is to hit pause and execute a complete reset of our program. We cannot continue to operate outside our resource level. This is going to be difficult as we are already well below fielding a complete national team structure which reaches down into the provinces and elevates athletes to the world stage. However, we must be creative and pull the country together to find solutions to build a better pathway. Canada knows how to do more with less and succeed as the underdog. We do not need to be big to be great. With this said, we do need to figure out how to service and support more of the amazing talent coming up in this country.
Q: What do you hope to see at the development level?
PM: I hope that I can be successful in bringing our Provincial and Territorial Sport Organizations together with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team to address the development issue. At present we do not have a clear and substantial development system and this has to change.
Q: Any parting thoughts?
PM: I hope we can all come through this devastating world health crisis healthy and secure in a normal world soon. This will force everyone to come together and support each other for the greater good. The ski racing world in Canada is facing its own challenge at this time. Resources are extremely thin and it is very difficult to field the teams required for success. The entire Canadian ski racing and ski industry community needs to come together and work collectively to find new solutions and rebuild the sport we all love.