To join most training groups such as those offered by the Sisu Foundation, the Loppet Foundation, Vakava Masters, etc... all you need to do is fill out a form and pay the dues. Vakava Racing doesn't work that way. So how does it work and why?
Vakava Racing has a limited number of members that it can handle. Our team is basically lay- led with two volunteer coaches that are also members themselves so we can't simply hire more coaches and form multiple groups. We're not set up for that. Our coaches can only handle so many people and workouts get too unwieldy with too many people. Most people can't show up every week so we allow a few more members than is workable for a given workout session. We would like to see other groups like ours form and high level masters racing expand. We love competition (that's why we race!) and it would be great to have other teams like ours to compete against.
Members are obtained mainly through word of mouth. Each year we lose a few members as they move away or become too busy to train/race and they focus on other things. We look for replacements from those who have expressed an interest by talking to Ahvo or one of our coaches or by looking around the ski community for people we notice racing a lot and approach them to see if they might be interested. We then ask the prospective member to come to a few workouts with us to see if they are a good fit.
Criteria for Membership
Since we can only handle a limited number of members, we want ensure new members are a good fit for the team. We use the following criteria to assess prospective members.
The most important criteria is attitude. We want people who are excited and motivated to train and race and ski their best in the long term. It can be hard to fit training into a busy life and if members aren't motivated to show up and work hard, then those that do lose out. We need a critical mass at workouts and races to get a benefit from being on the team. Since we're all working adults/parents, we have busy lives. Each year we have a few members that decide to focus on other things and they leave the team. Sometimes they're able to come back in a year or two when they have more time. Sometimes they stay on despite not being able to make a lot of workouts because they don't want to give up racing even though they can't put in as much time as they'd like. As long as they're excited to come and committed to racing in the long term, we're excited to have them and know they'll be back at it when time allows. If that kind of commitment is not there, then one of the less intense training groups is a better fit.
We need our members to be within a certain speed range and ability. If the range is too great, workouts become unmanageable for the coaches and ineffective for everyone. The most benefit is gained when we can push each other. Not much benefit is gained, whether you are the fastest member or the slowest member, if you end up doing the workouts basically alone. We not only look at current speed, but also what we think a member's potential speed is. After all, one of the goals of the team is to help people improve and the best way to do that is to train with people who are faster than you. So if we think a someone has good potential even if they aren't that fast right now, they may still be a good fit. And of course we're always looking for people who can challenge our fastest current members. (Our members tend to be Elite or Wave 1 Birkie skiers, to give you a benchmark.) We'd like master's racing to stay a healthy part of the ski community and if we can encourage a few more people to race more and get faster, then we've accomplished something.
We try to have a range of ages and have most of the age groups covered, but the 30's is the hardest to keep filled since that's prime family starting time. So far we've been filling that slot mainly by having our younger members get older! Hopefully they'll be able to stay with it through the busy years. We also shoot for gender equity and we do pretty well there. In the general racing ski community women are about 20-25% but we've got about 40%. We're always on the lookout for a few more good women.
Appreciation of Good Beer
Ok, so we're not real strict on this one, but it's a plus. We have several members who home brew beer and throw the occasional party (aka. Brew-Ski) and members are encouraged to come. We also like to enjoy a beer at other team functions such as our training camps, after races and occasionally after a work out as well. We train hard, race hard, and like to have a good time together.
If you're interested in joining the team, talk to one of the coaches, current members, or Ahvo. We don't always have a spot available but we try to work new people in as possible.