Maddie Phaneuf: The Joy of Coaching

S4 Ep5 - Maddie Phaneuf
Tom Kelly: [00:00:00] Maddie Phaneuf, thanks for joining us on Heartbeat. Looks like a nice day behind you in the window.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:00:06] Thanks for having me. Yeah. It's okay here in Lake Placid so far. Can't complain.

Tom Kelly: [00:00:14] We're going to talk about your background, but you've been living in Lake Placid for a while. The Olympic Village, a nice place to live if you're interested in sport.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:00:25] Absolutely. You can't get much better than this.

Tom Kelly: [00:00:28] What's your fall been like there?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:00:31] Right [00:00:30] now it's been a little slower than the summer, which is nice. So we get a little bit of a breather. We did have some snowfall recently, which got us all itching for the winter season to come, but it all melted at the moment, so we're kind of waiting for some more snow before Thanksgiving.

Tom Kelly: [00:00:52] Yeah, that's typical November in the Adirondacks. We had you on the podcast a couple of years ago, [00:01:00] and I really appreciated that opportunity to learn more about you. For folks that maybe missed that or just getting to know you, give us a little 411 on your background and how you eventually made your way to the Adirondacks and got into biathlon.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:01:14] Yeah. So I moved to the Adirondacks when I was eight. My family spent the first chunk of my life down in South Carolina. So complete opposite of the northeast. I began cross-country skiing at a young age, [00:01:30] got into biathlon with the Polar Bear Biathlon Club when I was 15. That was my first introduction, and I quickly fell in love with the sport and kept getting after it and trying to make Junior Worlds and all of those youth and junior type races. Then I lived up in Fort Kent, Maine, briefly with the former Maine Winter Sports Center, trained up there and quickly gained more skill in the sport [00:02:00] and was recognized by the national team. After I had placed fourth at my first Youth Junior World Championships, which were also in Maine at Presque Isle. So I was on the national team probably eight to 10 years or so, raced internationally on the IBU Cup circuit, multiple Youth Junior World Championships, World Cups, World Championships and I was on the 2018 Olympic [00:02:30] team.

Tom Kelly: [00:02:30] Let's go back to the Polar Bear Club. Tell me about that.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:02:35] Yeah, the Polar Bear club ... it's a very tight knit community in Old Forge. Um, when I first moved there and was growing up, I just have this memory of the whole town being very supportive of the ski culture. And we had a school bus that would take kids directly from school straight to the mountain to go alpine skiing or cross country skiing. [00:03:00] There's a saying within the club, once you're a polar bear, you're always a polar bear. So I keep that true to my heart. I love the community in Old Forge, and I love the Polar Bear Ski Club and the biathlon program there. I grew up just being introduced to it once a week within the ski club. Carl Closner was in charge back then, and he still is. And he's very dedicated to the club. And we wouldn't be. I wouldn't be where I am without his support. [00:03:30] It's a small, small club, but a lot of passion and love there.

Tom Kelly: [00:03:37] Growing up as an athlete, I don't know if you had any thoughts that ultimately you would move into coaching, but you did a few years ago moving into your third season now heading the program at NYSEF. But what was the motivation for you after you retired as an athlete to move into coaching?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:03:53] It's funny because I remember never having [00:04:00] a thought of, oh, I'm not interested in coaching. Like when I would think about my career as an athlete and when I would retire, kind of what I wanted to do with my life. My first thought wasn't coaching. I very much was kind of like, oh, I think that's something that I don't want to do, actually. But I think my first taste with kind of coaching a little bit, I would help the Polar Bear Ski Club a couple times because my mom is the coach for the Bill Koch program [00:04:30] there. And when I was an athlete, I would go down and help with some sessions now and then during the holidays. And then my first real taste of kind of more coaching was ... I did a NANA Nordic program. I don't know if you've heard of that, but it's basically a volunteer based program to go up to rural communities in Alaska and bring a skiing program to them for a week or so. So that was my first real taste, and I loved [00:05:00] it. I loved working with those kids. It was so fun and different. And so when I was retiring, or kind of in that in-between limbo of not quite sure what I wanted to do with racing or moving on, I was still here in Lake Placid and um, the the former head coach, Shane McDowell, was looking for some extra support with the biathlon program. And so since I was around and I wasn't fully training, but I also wasn't working, I [00:05:30] figured I would just help and kind of see if I liked it, and then that just kind of turned into me staying with the club and being their first true head biathlon coach, and I've been loving it ever since.

Tom Kelly: [00:05:42] Let's talk more about that program to Alaska. I read about your trip up there. I think that was maybe about three seasons ago. You went up to the Juneau area. How pivotal was that in kind of experiencing that giving back to kids, and particularly in a state where [00:06:00] skiing is such a big thing. But how pivotal was that trip for you and kind of saying, hey, this is something I want to do?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:06:08] Yeah. So actually there were two different trips that I've done, so I have gone to … up in Noorvik, which is kind of near Kotzebue, which is north of the Arctic Circle, and that was probably about four or so years ago. And that was with NANA Nordic Ski. And that was when we [00:06:30] visited these rural communities and brought skiing there. The other trip I had done was in Juneau, and that was about three seasons ago, and that was different. Basically the club there in Juneau, since they're remote enough where they don't have road access to other towns, they had to fly to their ski races and that kind of stuff. They like to bring in guest coaches every season, and I got [00:07:00] asked to come join for a weekend just to kind of give my own expertise and bring in a fresh face and new ideas for the kids. And that was really fun. I really enjoyed the Juneau community up there, and I think they're doing a great job with the resources that they have. And I have heard that they're bringing biathlon there, which is very exciting. And I think when I was there, they all were in the talks of bringing biathlon and they seemed very excited about the sport. And so it will be interesting to kind of see [00:07:30] how it grows in their community.

Tom Kelly: [00:07:31] Yeah, that's pretty cool. I know you are definitely a disciple of biathlon as you go around the country, and we're going to talk later about some of the introductory programs you're involved with. Now let's talk about your day to day role. I know that there probably is no such thing as a day to day routine, but as you get into the season, kind of take us through the things that you're doing in your role with ISAF.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:07:55] Yeah. So nice. It's unique because it's kind [00:08:00] of like an elite program that you can join. A lot of our kids are also in public school and skiing with their local high school team. And we also work really closely with Northwood School, which is a private high school here in Lake Placid. We basically have a Nordic program with their school, but they use the NYSEF coaches to coach the athletes. And so basically, I kind of am working with a wide range of athletes because we also have a [00:08:30] relationship with Paul Smith's College. So I'm kind of doing everything. I feel like I work with all ages, which is really fun for me. Um, but I would say my kind of day to day routine, it varies, obviously, between summer and winter, but let's just say it's the winter coming up. So I'll talk about that. Um, with the Northwood athletes, they have the opportunity to train in the mornings, and then they do their high school in the afternoons into the early evening. And so I'm usually at the venue [00:09:00] in the morning with those athletes training them. And that can just be, you know, doing some slow fire shooting at the beginning of the session and then going into their ski session with combos and then in the middle of the day, I kind of have a break from in-person sessions. And so that time is dedicated to fueling myself and then also just doing some computer work, um, and any other sort of like meetings that I might have. And then the afternoon is for those public school athletes. [00:09:30] So they get out of school around 2:30 or 3:00, and then we meet directly after school and kind of do the same sort of workout that the Northwood athletes may have done. But just later in the afternoon, with a different group of kids, basically, and the Paul Smith's college athletes just kind of fit in there. We either work with them on the same days, or we have a separate day specifically for the college group.

Tom Kelly: [00:09:52] Looking at the younger kids, and I know your focus is biathlon. At what age are you generally getting the younger athletes [00:10:00] into the sport of biathlon, teaching them to shoot and getting them to understand the idiosyncrasies of those two uniquely different activities that comprise biathlon?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:10:11] Yeah. So NYSSEF also has a program called the Devo Program, which is basically the Bill Koch League. So anyone 12-13 and under. So we have in the past we would have it as an add on. So you could pay for the cross-country program and then [00:10:30] additionally biathlon. But I kind of argued that we should combine the two and not force kids to kind of choose between cross-country or biathlon at that young of an age. So now it's integrated with our cross-country program. And so the kids obviously aren't forced to learn how to shoot air rifles, but they're given the opportunity and the encouragement to at least give it a try. And so with our youngest kids, so that age group is between like [00:11:00] seven and 12. And so with that group, I'm really just kind of introducing them to the sport, teaching them about rifle safety, um, giving them the chance to get familiar with the rifle and familiar with shooting targets. And once they get slightly older and that kind of 10 to 12 age range is when they usually get a little bit more excited and kind of want to learn more about breathing and trigger and that kind of stuff. And so it's really fun. We [00:11:30] have a wide range of abilities and kids, um, but yeah, once they get older in that 12 range is when I kind of shift them into the 22, if they're really dedicated about biathlon and want to continue pursuing it.

Tom Kelly: [00:11:43] Maddie, I love the concept of you rolling biathlon and cross-country into one program to give all kids the opportunity. Any counsel that you would give to other club programs around the country as to why that's so important for the sport.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:11:59] I [00:12:00] just feel like sometimes in the US, especially with other sports where athletes tend to peak at a younger age, like gymnastics, for instance, a lot of parents just love to push only one sport on their kid and kind of are pushing them to this excellence at a young age. And I think that is kind of a recipe for disaster in the sense of burnout. A lot of times maybe they'll find success, but then they'll kind of have some resentment towards that sport and not want to [00:12:30] come back to it at an older age. And so, I mean, I grew up doing everything. I played soccer, cross country, ran cross country, did biathlon, cross-country skiing, track, um, music, all that kind of stuff. And so I think. Integrating biathlon within the already growing cross-country program is important because you're not taking those kids away from cross-country, because obviously we need fast skiers to be good biathletes, but it's really just kind of sprinkling [00:13:00] biathlon within those already created programs so that the kids can just, you know, at least have their eyes open to the other possibilities within the Nordic sports community. So similarly to ski jumping, for instance, you could do the same thing with ski jumping, have it kind of integrated in the already created cross-country program so that the kids can learn how to ski, jump on really small jumps and see if that's something that they're interested in. And same with biathlon.

Tom Kelly: [00:13:28] Given that you are all in [00:13:30] these programs together with ski jumping, Nordic combined, cross-country, biathlon, are you and the other coaches talking strategically about this to try to build more well-rounded athletes and and give the younger kids more of an opportunity to explore? I mean, there's very few places like Lake Placid where you could really do this and have such a potpourri of opportunity.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:13:53] Yeah, yeah, I think the conversation has totally shifted in the last couple of years since, I mean, I'm not 100% [00:14:00] sure how it was navigated before I came on a few years ago, but since I've been involved, it seems like myself and the staff that I work with are very much on the same page on okay, we have this group of athletes who are interested in cross-country skiing, ski jumping, biathlon. How can we just create one cohesive group where they're all working together, they're all growing up together, they're supporting each other, they're trying new things. And so, yeah, our [00:14:30] conversations have very much been on how to unify our program as a whole and not create these separate pockets of the sport. When we're all kind of striving for the same thing. We want athletes to be involved in Nordic skiing, and all of these sports have a common ground biathlon. Has Nordic skiing involved Nordic combined? Is Nordic skiing involved? Obviously cross-country has Nordic skiing. So we're kind of trying to figure out how we can get all of these athletes kind of all in the same bubble and not [00:15:00] feel like their sport is significantly different, if that makes sense.

Tom Kelly: [00:15:04] Yeah, it totally makes sense. So Lake Placid has this amazing Olympic heritage going back, of course, to the 1980 games. And the facility usage over time has been significant. And now with the World University Games a year ago, these tremendous upgrades in the venues, you've been around Lake Placid for a little bit, and it seems that the sports are really kind of [00:15:30] showing a new freshness and vibrancy. Talk about the venue upgrades and how that's really helping your program there.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:15:38] Yeah, totally. It's been really awesome to see, because I've been coming up to Lake Placid since I was eight years old, so for about 20 years. So I remember, you know, racing at the old 1980 venue at Mount Van Hoevenberg. And then once I was training with the national team, mostly using the roller ski loop at the ski jumping facilities, [00:16:00] and now having the brand new Mount Van Hoevenberg roller ski loop with 30 point range is incredible. And yeah, it's really awesome to see that instead. Like you can if you Google old Olympic venues. There's so many around the globe that are just crumbling and aren't being used anymore, and I think there was a brief period of time where Lake Placid honestly could have gone that direction. I think there was a moment, as we know, where they [00:16:30] had the opportunity to host World Cups, but they kind of just went the other direction. And so I think they kind of realized finally, which is awesome, that, oh, we can still be a world class venue and invite athletes from all over the world to come see Lake Placid and experience this former Olympic venue. Why not put the money into upgrading these facilities and making it an amazing world stage, but also an amazing facility for not only our local [00:17:00] athletes here in Lake Placid to use, but national team athletes and also different national teams from all over the world. So it is truly, really awesome to see. And I'm obviously very personally happy to have a program that gets to use the facilities every, every day. Yeah.

Tom Kelly: [00:17:20] So you're seeing like parents of kids and kids. There's a kind of a newfound enthusiasm now in Lake Placid.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:17:28] Yeah, totally. And I think the World [00:17:30] University Games also helped that, because it was one of the first times, at least in my memory, of having truly that many different sports happening in Lake Placid at the same time. Obviously, they've had usually bobsled and luge, and skeleton has a World Cup here at the Van Ho Sliding Center most winters, but they had the ski jumping World Cup here as well last year for the first time, I think either ever or in many [00:18:00] years.

Tom Kelly: [00:18:00] Long time.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:18:01] Yeah. Long time. And so I think having that World Cup and then World University games and really using all of the different facilities here in Lake Placid and in the surrounding areas, um, really made a huge difference and kind of opened the eyes to the local community on. Oh, right. Like, we do have these amazing facilities that we can send our kids to and become great athletes one day. Um, so yeah, I think those [00:18:30] events really help the community and kind of open the eyes to those athletes of like, oh yeah, I, I could be a great biathlete or a great ski jumper or bobsled athlete or whatever it is that they hope and dream.

Tom Kelly: [00:18:44] I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about mental health and sport, which is something that I think, fortunately, more and more people are starting to recognize that it's something that really has to be managed to to support athletes. First off, can you tell your story coming out of Pyeongchang and how [00:19:00] this impacted you as an athlete? And then we'll segue into you as a coach and watching for this in kids today, but walk us through your situation that occurred after Pyeongchang.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:19:10] Yeah. So for anyone who isn't isn't aware of what my story is with the Olympics, I was named as the alternate for US Biathlon in 2018 for the Olympics in Pyeongchang. And so I fully went into it not expecting to race. I was basically the backup [00:19:30] in case somebody else got sick or injured. I was performing pretty well during that week. And so the coaches decided last minute, oh, let's put you in the individual race. We want to see you have an opportunity to race here at the Olympics. I was beyond excited, was telling all my friends and family. And then the day of the race, I woke up with a slightly scratchy throat. And if you don't know, World Cup athletes are very, very in tune with their body. And so [00:20:00] the tiniest scratch of a throat or tickle in the throat, that kind of throws your radar off like, oh no, my body's fighting something. I need to be aware of that. And so I just started chugging tea and trying to stay healthy for the race that evening. But then the race got delayed till the next day. And so since that got delayed, I spoke with my doctor and they were like, well, we have the resources. Let's, let's just see and make sure it's nothing serious. And then it turned out that I had strep. And so it was serious. They [00:20:30] the coaches decided to take me out of the race. I was devastated and hurt and felt like I could have still raced, but that was their decision.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:20:39] And so during that, I also ended up getting a flu virus on top of strep. And so I was horribly sick and laid up in bed for the rest of the time at the village. So it was devastating for me. I didn't really notice it while I was there, but I was definitely falling into like a deep depression. [00:21:00] Um, and when I flew home, I didn't continue the season that year because I was just sick, and the coaches preferred that. I just went home and rested and just took care of myself. So I flew home and I just have a memory of me just kind of like being in my bed and not wanting to see anyone. And so that was kind of my first real taste of like, true depression, where I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to talk to anybody. It was really, [00:21:30] really difficult for me because all of like, Old Forge is so supportive and they love me and I love them. And I knew that I needed to give back and like, kind of have a party for the town. So I have a memory of talking to my parents, just like, okay, I know we have this party that I planned. I just don't know how I'm going to make it through without crying like I can't. I can't imagine talking about the Olympics without sobbing right now. So I had to, like, figure out a game plan for the party, [00:22:00] which, thinking back on it, like during the moment, I was like, oh, this is so normal.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:22:05] But now that I'm like, like so much better, I'm like, that was so not normal. And it's like, obviously it's okay. Like I was hurting and my mental health was in shambles. But like, I think and it took me a long time to kind of realize that I needed more professional help. And I couldn't get through it by myself. Um, but basically [00:22:30] it took about a year and a year went by and I was like, oh, I'm like, still crying myself to sleep over what happened at the Olympics. Like, maybe I should go talk to somebody like a therapist. So I started my therapy journey. I overcame at least, like we really targeted just the Olympic experience for me and how much trauma there was around that. And me putting so much blame on myself [00:23:00] for getting sick and that kind of stuff. Um, so once I went through that, I felt so much better. I could get through training. And then I had one of my best seasons on the team. And then it honestly came to a surprise for me. Like, I had a really amazing season. I performed the best that I had in many years, and I started the following training season. Like the Pre-Olympic season with the team out in Bend, had an amazing training camp, and [00:23:30] then I came home and my body just kind of shut down, like I couldn't get out of bed.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:23:35] I had no interest in training. I like couldn't train. And it was my first like I would say, it was worse than how I felt after the Olympics. Like I physically felt like I could not move out of my bed and I was like, okay, this is a problem. I need to figure this out. And like, thankfully, the the coaches, like Armin, was so supportive of [00:24:00] my mental health and did anything he could to help me and like reassured me that it was okay that I was missing sessions. We would figure it out like I needed to work on my own health. Before coming back to the team. And so I was really thankful for him and Lowell and the whole crew that were just like. Like, you do what you need to do. We're going to be here for you. Like, just keep us in the loop. We're not going to try to pressure you. And so, yeah, that summer, I really spent a majority of it trying to just figure my own life [00:24:30] out and like, how to feel better. And when it came down to it, I just needed to take a break. And so my intention was just to take a break from the season because I truly felt like the pressure internally of the Olympics coming up again that winter. And I don't even think like I think it was very subconscious, like I personally wasn't thinking that I was going to be affected by the Olympic season again.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:24:57] I was kind of like, oh, I'm like fully devoted [00:25:00] to training and like, I'm going to make the team and I'm not going to be an alternate this time. Like I was really just excited to, like, work my ass off. But I think subconsciously there was still some trauma left in there, and my body was kind of screaming at me that we needed to just stop and take a break. And it was like, I don't want to do this again. So yeah, I went to therapy again, got on antidepressants, and then I unexpectedly quit biathlon [00:25:30] and announced my retirement. And then, like I think that it's funny, it might sound silly and some people don't believe in like spirituality or anything, but I truly felt like the universe was kind of giving me all the signs that it was time for me to be done. And it just kind of handed me this coaching opportunity at the perfect time, because as soon as I announced that I was retiring, like a week later, the head coach with F stepped away and they were like, really needing somebody to [00:26:00] take over the biathlon position. And they offered me the job like immediately. And so it was kind of like a really weird, like string of events. Um, but it all worked out great. Obviously everything happens for a reason. Um, and I know I'm going on and on, but you also mentioned, like, how do I see or like how do I use my own mental health experience with my athletes? And I think the biggest thing that I've learned, just through my experience of having many different coaches throughout my life [00:26:30] and having my own experience, it's really important to value athletes as humans first and not just, you know, result producing machines.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:26:41] And so I truly try to come to my own athletes with respect and honesty and openness, and I'm always the first to tell them, like, hey, like I'm an open book. If you ever have any questions, I'm happy to talk to you. Like I'm sure I've been through the wringer, like I've been through everything. Um, and [00:27:00] so yeah, I can, I definitely am. I try to be a very open coach and just, um, like someone that they can always kind of rely on. But yeah, it definitely can be kind of hard to notice signs or like, sometimes, like every person is different. And if they're struggling you might not really notice. And so it's kind of like just being a consistent person for that athlete or, or you know, it could be anyone in your life, a friend, coworker, athlete that you're working [00:27:30] with, just being a consistent person where they can they know they can trust you and they know they can talk to you at any time. I think is kind of like the biggest, the biggest thing you can do, really.

Tom Kelly: [00:27:42] One of the things you said here that really stood out to me was to treat people or treat athletes first as humans, not as athletes to treat them as humans. I know that we as a society probably still have a long ways to go, but over the last few years there have been, I [00:28:00] think, some eye opening things for fans, be that Mikaela Shiffrin, Simone Biles, there's countless other examples. Do you have a sense that society as a whole, that sport fandom, is starting to look at athletes more first as humans and secondly as athletes, and maybe cutting them a break when they don't perform up to the standards that we as fans might expect.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:28:25] Yeah, I think there's been a huge shift in the last four [00:28:30] plus years or so. I think, um, especially like not only with sports and athletes, but just like mental health in general, I think there's been a huge shift, which has been amazing because before I just felt like and even with my own experience, it felt like athletes were these superhumans who could go through anything and were expected to go through anything and still perform. And it was kind of like especially, I mean, maybe less so with biathlon. I'm [00:29:00] thinking, you know, people who like in the US, for instance, football and baseball and hockey, those kinds of sports, basketball are way more huge. And I think there's way more of a fan base with those. And I think it's really easy to kind of fans have this like ownership over an athlete in a sense of like, oh, well, I root for them and they need to perform for me because I'm passionate about this sport or whatever it is. And so I think in the past, maybe there wasn't as much, um, what's the word? There [00:29:30] wasn't as much compassion for athletes, and it was kind of just expected that they were supposed to do their job and not talk about anything else, do anything else. All they were, all they were meant to be were performers. And I think there's been a major shift. And thankfully it's because of these huge stars like Simone Biles, Mikaela Shiffrin, um, that tennis player Naomi Osaka.

Speaker3: [00:29:55] Yeah.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:29:56] Yeah. Like all those. And you know, they're females, [00:30:00] which is awesome. I'm sure there are some male like Michael Phelps I know was a huge advocate for mental health as well. Um, so I think there has been a major shift and it's really awesome to see. And I hope that that just continues. And it doesn't, you know, go back to what it used to be like.

Tom Kelly: [00:30:16] One final question on this topic. What advice would you have for parents of young athletes in this area?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:30:23] That's a hard question, because I just remember when I was in high school and maybe [00:30:30] it's different now. I feel like when I was in high school and obviously I struggled in high school as well. The last thing I wanted to do was tell my parents anything about what I was going through. Maybe that was just my own personal relationship, because I have a much better relationship with them now and tell them everything. Um, but I think as a parent, it's mostly important just to keep like an extra eye in a sense of like, you don't need to constantly always ask your child, like, how are you doing? How are you doing? Um, but I think [00:31:00] it's important just to like, notice their patterns. And if something seems a little off, like just notice it at first and maybe ask them or at least give them the opportunity to be like, hey, like you do know that my door is always open. I'm happy to talk to you about anything. And if I'm not the person you want to talk to, like I'm totally happy to help you find someone else that you want to talk to. Like, I think that's the main thing is just not expecting your child to want to necessarily open up to to you because they might not feel totally comfortable. [00:31:30] But if you notice something, at least give them the resources to know that it's okay to talk to somebody else, for instance.

Tom Kelly: [00:31:37] Maddie, we're going to take a short break and we'll be right back on Heartbeat.

Tom Kelly: And we're back with Matty Phaneuf on Heartbeat. And Maddie you've actually three years into coaching. You've actually been traveling the world enhancing your education. Tell us a little bit about the International Biathlon Union's international coaching program that you've been involved with. And [00:32:00] I, I should say, one of only a handful of Americans who've ever done this.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:32:04] Yeah, I've had an amazing opportunity with the EBU. They have this pretty much brand new. I think this is only their second year having it. They call it the EBU Academy and it's essentially a variety of course levels to educate course or sorry, educate coaches from all over the globe on kind of basically uniforming a [00:32:30] sense of how to coach athletes or kind of what knowledge is needed to be a good biathlon coach. And so they have a basic level, which is only like, I think, a week long course. And that's kind of for young kids like the bill coach age. Then they have the first level course, which is what I'm in. And that is a year long program, partially online curriculum and partially in person. And the in-person sessions, we have three week long sessions. [00:33:00] And so the first week was in Hochfilzen, Austria, this early May and then the second week we just completed last month in October in Östersund, Sweden. And then our final week will be in. I have no idea how to say the name. I think it's, it's, it's somewhere in Poland.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:33:23] It's in Poland. We'll do a week there and that's where we'll get our certificates and we'll do our final exam [00:33:30] or whatever for our first level course. Then they also have, I believe, second and third level. And so basically the second and third level are similar to the first level. I think the same sort of setup like it's a year long, partially online, partially in person, but basically you're just learning more in depth on ski technique, knowledge, training plan creations, nutrition, like all that kind of stuff. Anything that might have to do with biathlon and, and professional sports. [00:34:00] Um, so yeah, it's been an honor to be a part of the program. With the first level, they only choose 20 total participants from around the world. And so we have 20 coaches from 19 different countries. And that's just been a really awesome opportunity to not only learn from the instructors at each in-person session, but also from the other coaches and their own experiences with, with their cultures and and their backgrounds.

Tom Kelly: [00:35:45] I [00:35:30] would assume that many of those other coaches are, such as yourself, former athletes. Is that the case?

Speaker3: [00:35:53] I would say.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:35:53] At least in my course, I think we have 20, and I would say maybe [00:36:00] five of them are former athletes, at least former like recent athletes or current. There's a couple that are still currently racing that are also in the course.

Tom Kelly: [00:36:10] Cool. Talk a little bit more about the benefits that you get from just the interchange with coaches from all of these different nations.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:36:19] Yeah, it's it's actually really interesting because I feel like obviously coming from a sport like biathlon and a lot of these, these coaches, having been involved [00:36:30] in the sport when they were young or even recent years, we all kind of have a similar tie. Obviously we all understand the sport. We all are in it for the same sort of reasons. We love love the sport, we're passionate about it. We're obviously coaching because we want to give back to the community and want to continue growing the sport for next generations. And so it's cool because we all kind of have this similar bond and we can kind of connect over that. And the other [00:37:00] thing that I find really interesting is learning how coaching in different cultures is so different. Like for instance, I would have never known that in Finland, for instance, this coach was saying that the athletes there are fully expected to kind of ask questions and probe like why they're doing a certain thing. But for athletes who are maybe more in like Ukraine or like Moldova [00:37:30] area, those kind of places, it's very much more like authoritarian type coaching, and they're not really expected to ask why they're doing a thing. They're just expected to follow what the coach informs. And so it's kind of interesting to be like, oh, yeah, like I come from this culture and it would be totally rude to ask the coach a question because that's how the culture is there. But in Finland, for instance, like, it would be totally weird to just solely follow the coach without any questions at all. And so it's like it's been really interesting just [00:38:00] to learn more about the culture behind different coaches and their backgrounds. And obviously we're kind of all on the same page with like curriculum wise and like, oh yeah, ski technique should look this way. And shooting technique is more like this, but it's more like the philosophy behind coaching and that kind of like the theory and stuff, which I find more interesting.

Speaker3: [00:38:22] You I think.

Tom Kelly: [00:38:23] The philosophy is always evolving too. I mean, I look at in this country and I'll just kind of pick one area, but the [00:38:30] the authority and authoritarianism, if that's the word that, that's becoming a little bit less in favor now than maybe it used to be.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:38:41] Yeah. And I would say especially in the US, I think that we're leaning less towards authoritarian type coaching and more towards kind of like a more openness type coaching, where we ask the athletes to answer, like to kind of find the answers through their own experience and [00:39:00] come with us with questions. I do think, I mean, I have a memory when I was a kid where it's like, oh, you just follow what the coach tells you. Like you don't really ask questions that much. But I think as you get older and maybe the times are changing a little bit, where at least in biathlon, a lot of the coaches that I work closely with are very much more in the realm of, you know, having the athletes ask questions, wanting them to understand why we're doing things a certain way, which also makes me, as a coach, want [00:39:30] to expand my own knowledge so that when an athlete comes to me and asks like, oh, you said I need to put my elbow this direction, like, why is that? And then I have to be like, oh, well, it's because of this. Instead of just being like, um, well, that's how I was taught. So that's how I'm teaching you. So that's kind of another reason why I want to kind of expand my knowledge and education as much as I can.

Tom Kelly: [00:39:52] At the same time, you're also expanding your knowledge on sport officiating. I think you have a level one, level two [00:40:00] officials license now in a referees license. Where do you stand with that, and how is that a byproduct of this training?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:40:08] Yeah. So actually it was like I don't know if the word is pre product. I did the official course. And so when I first got into coaching that first season, that following spring, I was like, okay, I'm definitely going to continue coaching and in order originally I, I only got my official license, partly because [00:40:30] I knew that working with ISF and being at Mount Van Hoevenberg, I'm sure they would need volunteers and want support for future races, so I thought that'd be a great idea. And then also within biathlon, I believe there's different levels for clubs and you can become like silver or gold if you have a certain number of officials like within your club. So I partly did it for the club and then also for events happening in Lake Placid. And then I wasn't really planning or expecting to get my international referees license with [00:41:00] the IBU, but Sara Studebaker Hall reached out to me after the officials course and asked if I had any interest in studying for the exam, since I think they normally ask or ask officials to have five years of officiating or something before they apply to be IRS.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:41:19] But she said, since I have a history with athletics and competing on the world stage, she was like, okay, I know you have the knowledge and you just did your official exam. If you're [00:41:30] interested, you can try it or attempt the test. And so I studied for it and I decided just to take the test, not really sure what I in my mind I was like, what's the harm in having more tools in my tool belt sort of thing? I had no idea if I was going to, you know, keep coaching or it's just another path that's open for me. So I did that and I passed thankfully. So yeah, I technically am an L1 L2 official and I have my license. I personally [00:42:00] have not used either of those yet with any competitions because I've been so busy coaching. I was a little bummed because I had the opportunity to go out to Utah this coming winter for the World Cup to help with that event, but it overlaps with one of my competitions here with my club that I have to attend, so there'll be future opportunities.

Tom Kelly: [00:42:23] There'll be plenty. I want to talk about women in coaching, women in officiating. Both US biathlon and also the IBU [00:42:30] have great initiatives here to get more women involved in coaching, in officiating. Talk about that a little bit, what your experience has been and encouragement that you can give to other women here in America to get involved as a coach, get involved as a race official.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:42:44] Yeah. So I'll say something very briefly for when I was growing up, and I was a kid in elementary school, and I first heard about biathlon, the club at the time was Only Kids That Hunted, and they were all boys. And I remember [00:43:00] thinking, okay, so biathlon is for boys and it's for people who like hunting. That was my knowledge of biathlon and which is so wrong and not not what's what's accurate at all. And so since then, obviously I, you know, no, it's not just for boys and not for just people who enjoy hunting. But as I got older and was competing more and more. And just kind of, you know, becoming a woman and an adult, kind of looking around the world and really, truly realizing, [00:43:30] like what the patriarchy is and like how instilled it is in our society that men have these positions of power where women don't necessarily. And in a sport like biathlon, it's very male heavy. You look around at the World Cup and there's almost no women at the scopes. As a coach, there's maybe a couple. There's almost no women wax technicians out there. And even within the US, biathlon, like when I was on the team, we [00:44:00] didn't really have any women staff members on trips. It was maybe the masseuse was a woman every now and then or like a physician, like a doctor. We had a team doctor who was a woman. So kind of just opening my eyes to not only within biathlon, but just the entire world and how male dominated it is in these, in these roles where women are or where people are making decisions like coaching or officiating. I [00:44:30] just kind of became more interested in taking up more space and being a woman in those roles.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:44:40] It feels really awesome, but also scary to be one of the only women like at the table. And I really, truly encourage more women to kind of, um, take up more space and, and push the boundary into coaching or officiating and, and being in spaces where men are. Um, [00:45:00] especially if you like, enjoy biathlon, like since we're talking about biathlon, if you enjoy biathlon, are passionate about the sport, are retiring and aren't quite sure if you want to get into coaching or not. Like I think the best thing is just to try, because for me, I think one of the leading like one of the one of the reasons why I think I stuck with coaching after the first season was the amount of praise I got from parents and from athletes being [00:45:30] like, I've never had a female coach and I've learned so much from you and I and you know so much about the sport, and it's obvious that my athlete or like my kid is learning a lot from you. And so even just those little supportive phrases from people in the community, I don't think I realized it until now that I'm like, oh, I think that was a driving factor into why I stuck around, because it's like, okay, there are so many men who know less than I do who are in these roles, like, why shouldn't I be at the table [00:46:00] and bringing my own perspective that I know is valuable and can also lead more women to be involved and hopefully grow in our sport? I think that was kind of long winded and maybe it didn't make sense, but hopefully it did.

Tom Kelly: [00:46:16] It makes complete sense. I'm going to touch on it again in a minute. But as we as we wrap up and thank you so much for your time here today, Maddie, I want to touch on the US Biathlon new try it laser program that John Farra is putting in place around the country. [00:46:30] You're very involved with that. Tell us about that program and how it's going to help get more kids into the sport.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:46:36] Yeah. So the US Biathlon had applied for this grant through the IBU. That's called, I believe, Biathlon for All. And basically the IBU wants to double the amount of biathlon participants around the world. And so John Farra has been the main lead for this program. And he was working on ... I don't know if they had the grant last year or if it was just [00:47:00] him trying to get more US participants involved in biathlon, and then it delved into this Biathlon for All program. But basically we were granted, I believe, ten laser rifles from the IBU and that increases our own US Biathlon fleet to 20 total laser rifles. And our goal is to promote biathlon in all over the country, [00:47:30] primarily in spaces that already have Nordic programs. And so we're really targeting, you know, big Nordic events. For instance, this winter will be at the Bill Koch Festival here in New England, will be at several different types of races out in Utah and the West. I believe we're sending some rifles up to Alaska. And so if you're listening and you are a volunteer, an official, a coach, [00:48:00] anyone involved in Nordic skiing or biathlon in the country and are interested in bringing biathlon to your local community or ski club, please email and that will go directly to me and John Farra. We can coordinate with you guys on sending some laser rifles to your community. We can also bring US Biathlon support if needed, and we're [00:48:30] basically just trying to get kids who are already involved in skiing the chance to try biathlon, get introduced to the sport, and then hopefully kind of get that little drop of excitement in their brain about potentially, you know, becoming more involved in biathlon in the future. We're not trying to steal athletes from cross-country skiing. We're simply just trying to get people educated on biathlon more excited and the opportunity to kind of shoot a laser rifle and kind of see what biathlon is all about.

Tom Kelly: [00:48:59] Basically, [00:49:00] I'm going to put this in the show notes, but just as a reminder, what's the email address again?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:49:05] Try it. So

Speaker3: [00:49:11] Okay.

Tom Kelly: [00:49:11] Very simple. Maddie, thank you so much for your time. We're going to wrap it up with just a few simple, fun questions as we did a couple of years ago. We're moving from summer into winter. But what is your favorite summer outdoor activity in the Adirondacks?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:49:27] I would say mountain biking. There are endless [00:49:30] trails here to mountain bike and it is very fun.

Tom Kelly: [00:49:33] What's a big ride that you did this summer?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:49:37] Um, honestly, the summer I did not get on my mountain bike as much as I had wanted to, but there's a trailhead just down the road from my house called Craig-wood, and they have a brand new flow trail there, which is very fun to bike on. I'm not hitting the major jumps by all means, but it's nice and flowy.

Tom Kelly: [00:49:57] Love those trails. How about a favorite winter activity [00:50:00] outside of skiing and biathlon?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:50:03] It's funny because I don't know if I do anything in the winter that doesn't involve skiing or biathlon, so I guess I would say watching different sports in the area. Like for instance, I went to the ski jumping World Cup last year, which was amazing. Tons of Polish fans.

Speaker3: [00:50:20] Oh, isn't.

Tom Kelly: [00:50:21] That amazing to see them come together?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:50:23] Yeah, it was incredible.

Speaker3: [00:50:25] Love that.

Tom Kelly: [00:50:25] Have you gone off one of the jumps yet?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:50:28] No, maybe. I don't know if I [00:50:30] will.

Speaker3: [00:50:30] You should give it a try. Maybe the little.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:50:33] Tiny, tiny, tiny one.

Tom Kelly: [00:50:35] Looking back on your career as an athlete, what's what's an interesting positive memory that you have from your career as an athlete? Be that an event, an experience, a pizza, whatever.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:50:47] I think honestly, being at the World Championships in 2017 when Lowell won the gold medal and also Susan [00:51:00] won silver, that was kind of like ... obviously it had nothing to do with me necessarily, but it was such an amazing opportunity to be there and see the team just like fully excited for each other and just like, I don't know, there was just so much energy and it was so cool to kind of see us biathlon just like, succeed at the highest level. So I think that was probably one of the most from my memory, like a positive, exciting experience that I got to be a part of. [00:51:30]

Tom Kelly: [00:51:30] That's a really good one. And that really ignited a I would say that the current wave of interest is still playing off of that, that those medals seven years ago now. Yeah.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:51:40] Oh, it's weird that it was seven years ago. That seems.

Tom Kelly: [00:51:42] I know that's crazy, isn't it? Are you still playing your musical instruments?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:51:48] I recently picked up a piano off the side of the road this past summer. Or last summer, maybe. So I am dabbling back in the piano, which I've played [00:52:00] since I was eight, so that's been very nostalgic and fun to get back into.

Tom Kelly: [00:52:06] So tell me about the physical aspect of picking the piano up off the side of the road.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:52:13] So it actually came from the former Cascade Ski Center down the road. I don't know if anyone if you are from the Adirondacks. It's a very historical ski area. They were closing down and they had their piano in the parking [00:52:30] lot with a free sign, and I drove by it probably three times just thinking like, man, there's a free piano right there. Like you can't come across ... like it was a nice piano. And so I just briefly mentioned it to my boyfriend's parents. And his parents were like, you need to go pick it up right now. And so we got the tractor because it's only like, you know, if you're in the tractor, it's like a five minute drive down the road. So my boyfriend's dad got in [00:53:00] the tractor. I got in my car, we met at the parking lot and we loaded it up into the like onto the tractor's forks. And then he strapped it onto the tractor and drove it down the road back to our house. So it was definitely an ordeal, but it's safely back in our home, and I'm very happy to have a piece of the Cascade Ski Center in my house.

Tom Kelly: [00:53:23] Did you get it tuned?

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:53:26] Not yet. What does it matter too much?

Tom Kelly: [00:53:29] No. [00:53:30] That is just such a great story. Last one, last question. Most satisfying moment as a coach.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:53:38] That's a good question. I think the most satisfying I mean ... there's so many satisfying moments. I feel like I can't just pick one. But I think in general, the most satisfying type of moment is when an athlete finally figure something out that we've been working on for a while. So maybe it's like a constant reminder [00:54:00] to think about your trigger squeeze or changing a part of your your shooting position. And they finally nailed it. And like, hit all their targets and you can just see that they're like so excited that they, like, figured it out and solved the problem. That's probably the most exciting and satisfying part of being a coach is just seeing the athletes improve and succeed.

Tom Kelly: [00:54:20] Yeah, I love that. Just a final one. This is more a comment. Maddie, you seem like you've found your real direction in the sport.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:54:28] Thanks. I really appreciate [00:54:30] that. I also feel like I am doing what I love. Yeah.

Tom Kelly: [00:54:35] Great. Maddie Phaneuf thanks for joining us on Heartbeat. Good luck this season with all your kids.

Maddie Phaneuf: [00:54:40] Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Heartbeat: US Biathlon Podcast (c) US Biathlon