Photo C/O Kelly Dunham
McMaster’s newest team is gearing up for a huge month. The first Ontario University Athletics championship is quickly creeping up on the horizon and will take place Feb. 2 for the Nordic skiing team. The team is led by Head Coach Soren Meeuwisse and is comprised of six women and six men.
Nordic skiing does not get a lot of coverage in comparison to other sports, but it is truly a great test of skill. Something which may not be very well known is that nordic skiing is actually the same as cross country skiing even though they have different names.
More than just a coach, Meeuwisse is a fifth-year kinesiology student that also competes for the team. It should also come as no surprise that Meeuwisse is leading the team in competitions, as she has experience competing at the national level, albeit for cycling. Meeuwisse placed second in each race she competed in at the most recent Ontario cup.
The fact that Meeuwisse is still a student means she has a peer-to-peer relationship with the team. Her understanding of the challenges a student-athlete may face allows her to connect with her athletes on a level of more than just teaching them to be better athletes.
“I’m a varsity athlete student mentor tutor type position. I’m a very focused student as well and I like to show many different student-athletes how they can balance their athletic pursuits with their academic pursuits, and really just find the joy in both of those,” said Meeuwisse.
Meeuwisse also takes an individualistic approach to her coaching, focusing on her athletes’ strengths and weaknesses to get them to be the best they can be. This is both due to her expertise from her degree in kinesiology and her experience competing at one of the highest levels for cycling.
”It’s been really cool applying all my kinesiology knowledge and also with my specific expertise of working with elite-level athletes [. . . ] and not just portraying myself on the athletes. Really getting to know them their mental and physical capacities and creating a training plan and environment that accommodates those people as individuals,” Meeuwisse noted.
One of the most important things Meeuwisse emphasized was to not be intimidated by the team. Meeuwisse tries to encourage a welcoming and fun team culture. The team welcomes all types of athletes with all types of experience. More experienced athletes can try out for the racing team, but those without as much experience or time are encouraged to join the training team, with the potential of moving on to the racing team later. The lack of snow also doesn’t slow the team down — when the weather is warm, they roller-ski on the road.
“As of now, we want anyone who has any ski experience to feel open to coming and reaching out to the team to be involved. We have both a racing team and a training team,” Meuwisse said.
Although the team is new, they show a great deal of promise. During the third Ontario cup, which took place Dec. 18 and 19, four athletes from the women’s team placed in the top ten during the ten-kilometre interval start skate. For a team that is comprised of skiers with all different types of experience, the fact that two thirds of their women’s team placed in the top ten shows that Mac’s newest squad has a great deal in-store.