University of Alberta Coach Helps Olympians Pursue Excellence
While those in the field of education are used to giving of themselves in order to help their students pursue their goals, one coach has taken his role to an Olympic level. Les Parsons, cross-country skiing coach at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, is now in Sochi for his fifth Olympic Winter Games.
If you had asked him back in 1987, when he began coaching about 20 kids just as a volunteer, if he intended to coach professionally and end up at the olympics, his answer would have been “no”. However, in 1998, one of those kids, cross-country skier Beckie Scott, was on her way to Nagano and wanted his support. Though Beckie finished near last place at those Olympics, Parsons did what a good coach does: he cheered her on and encouraged her not to give up.
“As a coach, I think I’m a glorified cheerleader—and that’s what I think a good coach is,” Parsons says. Attesting to this fact, four years later, at Salt Lake City, Beckie Scott won Olympic gold in cross-country skiing. In 2006, she came away with silver. Parsons remarks, “You can finish last in one Olympics and win gold in the next if you really want to do it!”
Other athletes Parsons has coached include Morwenna Lane (Canadian biathlon team), Patricia Holmen (Canadian junior skier and cross-country runner), and Conrad “Tigger” Johnson (Canadian Paralympic runner). Then, when coaching in Quebec for seven years, he met Alex Harvey, who placed 4th and 5th in Vancouver in 2010, and who is now in Sochi. Though Parsons is not officially part of Team Canada, as Alex’s club coach, he’s there to offer support and encouragement.
Asked for his favourite piece of advice that he’s received over the years, Parsons quotes Camrose Lutheran College professor Garry Gibson, whom he credits with getting him into coaching in the first place.“Remember, he told me, you’re not coaching cross-country skiing; you’re coaching people who cross-country ski. And that’s stuck with me.”
Schools Mentioned: University of Alberta