In an exclusive interview with Scott Fraser, the recipient of the Coach Of The Year 2023 award, we delve into the unique qualities that distinguish him as a coach, exploring his background, coaching philosophies and core beliefs.

Scott’s journey to winning the ‘Children’s Coach Of The Year’ award was filled with genuine surprise and overwhelming emotion. Initially nominated among outstanding peers at the National Snow Show, Scott, having seen the calibre of fellow nominees, was thrilled just to be recognised. Despite his obvious abilities as a coach, Scott’s humility is such that not only did he not expect to win the Children’s category but also the overall Coach Of The Year; a prestigious honour presented by Chemmy Alcott and Snowsport England CEO, Maggie Still.

Reflecting on the unexpected win, Scott shared, “I knew the format of the awards from previous years, but never in a million years did I think I would win that! There were some incredible coaches I was up against.”

While the Coach Of The Year accolade marks a pinnacle in Scott’s Snowsport career, it doesn’t signal a moment to rest on laurels. Throughout his time in Snowsport, Scott has encountered adversity, showcasing remarkable resilience, taking leaps of faith, and occasionally benefiting from strokes of luck.

“For me, it has always been about fun. If you’re not enjoying Snowsport, something isn’t right. Fun is the most important thing, no matter what you do in Snowsport—you should be having fun.”

Scott’s passion for Snowsport traces back to his youth as an 8 year old at Hillend in Scotland, where opportunities to ski were hard to come by due to limited places being handed out by the council. Thanks to a stroke of luck facilitated by ‘Aunty Liz’, who worked for the Pentland Hills Ranger Service, Scott finally got his chance and became captivated by the “unbridled joy and exhilaration” of speeding down slopes. With his Aunty Liz’s ability to also find him day passes, Scott would take the Number 4 bus from Edinburgh and travel the 40 minutes just to get to the chance to ski again. Scott still to this day goes back to Aunty Liz to let her know of his successes, whether it be passing a course, achieving a new qualification or now winning national accolades!

As Scott grew older he was able to enjoy his first trip abroad through a work contact with whom he went to Verbier. Having grown up in a single-parent family with the school ski trip not being feasible, this was a huge moment. From here Scott ‘got the bug’ and began travelling annually to different resorts.

While serving in the military, Snowsport took a backseat after he met his wife and they welcomed their daughter. That was until Scott took part in the RAF Ski Championships some 11 years later. Representing his base, RAF Boulmer, at the RAF Ski Championships, Scott not only excelled on the slopes but also assumed responsibilities for team organisation. This phase reignited his passion for Snowsport, sparking the idea of turning it into a career.

As his military tenure concluded, Scott seized the opportunity to retrain as a skiing coach. With funding allowances available, an online search led him to a Level 1 course that fell just within the budget. An enthusiastic conversation with superiors secured his request, and from that moment, Scott embarked on a coaching career that he has never looked back from.

Training initially in Castleford, before then shadowing on the then council-run slope in Silksworth, Scott got his ski instructing licence and began working there as an instructor in February 2014. Whilst taking his usual Thursday evening lessons, he was asked to go and work with the Tigers Club; a role he continued as they amalgamated with the Ravens Club to make RTR .

With the passion for coaching now well established and his career taking off, it felt the right time to attempt the Level 2 award. Knowing that further on-snow development was needed, he headed for Morzine, and attempted the course, but on that occasion didn’t pass. Where some would make the decision to go back home and stick as a Level 1, Scott was undeterred. He was simply too passionate about improving himself and continuing to enjoy his own coaching journey. He knuckled down, got back on it and went to Zermatt to try again.

Then adversity really hit. The week before his assessment, a broken leg followed by a helicopter rescue off the mountain, led to 10 months without being able to get back on his skis.

Many would think it wasn’t meant to be, but instead, Scott chose to see this as a life-changing experience. Upon realising he may never make it back on skis, let alone to Zermatt, Scott set out to give himself the best possible chance of making it happen. “I wanted to make sure I gave myself the best chance to enjoy skiing again, whatever the odds”. Fully determined, Scott set about his lengthy rehab.

Over a year later, fully healthy and wanting to build his confidence, Scott took the chance to have a week on-snow with Interski under the guidance of James Crompton, who proved pivotal for the rest of Scott’s Snowsport journey. After a successful week of rebuilding his confidence and taking on the long turns that he was doing when his leg break happened, Scott knew that he was going back for the Level 2.

“You go down your pathway, you turn left, you turn right, you get a setback and it knocks you off of your feet. But I’m of the mantra that you get back on the skis, take a few steps back and find your new route forward, then just keep going”.

When thinking about his ethos as a coach, Scott goes back to the beginnings of his military profession and the wise words of Group Captain Plunkett. “When you go through your career, just concentrate on being the best you can be. Don’t chase awards or status, just be the best you can, do your best, and the rest will follow”. This mantra isn’t just what Scott lives by as a coach for himself, but what he instils in the young people he coaches.

It’s fair to say Scott has the case studies to back this up too. A father and daughter began being coached by Scott some time ago and have continued their development and enjoyment of skiing with him. With no particular focus on winning races, just taking part for the fun of taking part. Knowing that the daughter had the ability to go on and compete well, Scott had a quiet word with the father, saying “I can guarantee if we keep her going, because of her dedication, come rain or shine, and because she skis with a smile on her face and enjoys it, podiums will come”. Sure enough, Scott made sure the coaching she received was fun, the enthusiasm for development and progression was maintained and as predicted, the podium placings then followed.

 

This isn’t an isolated case by any stretch of the imagination. It is often said at Silksworth, “You’ll hear Scott before you see him”. By his own admission, “You’ll hear me cheering and celebrating someone’s successes during their lessons.” Scott’s passion for coaching shines through as he talks about seeing incremental improvements in people’s ability on the slopes. “Seeing them develop is one thing, but seeing them develop week after week, with a smile on their face. Knowing what we are both working on to improve someone and sharing that moment where it all comes together really ticks my boxes and gives me a real buzz”.

When you’ve got a coach like that, who invests so much personal satisfaction in your enjoyment of the sport, not just your technical development, you really can’t go far wrong. Scott really is the embodiment of our vision, he “inspires participation in Snowsport at every level”.

When it comes to his own learning pathway,  Scott feels ready to take on his Level 3 and Level 4 coaching courses, “I want to carry on learning, carry on enjoying myself. Then who knows, more time on snow maybe? Some 1:1 out on the Alps maybe?!”.

“Winning this award has given me a real boost. I knew my training stood me in good stead and my career outside of Snowsport has lots of transferable skills. But there was always part of me that thought I was just a ski punter having a go at coaching. Now I feel totally different. The fact someone took the time out to nominate me is mind-blowing and I am incredibly grateful to them”.

As for his tips on being a great coach “Listen, observe and learn. Every coach can teach you something that will make you a better coach. I’ve learnt so much from coaches, Andy Jerram for example, seeing how he explains what a skier needs in a way that connects with that skier is really inspiring to me”. Scott would also like to say a huge thankyou to the many people who’ve helped him along the way on his Snowsport journey (too many to name individually). But special mention to Dave Chapman who first asked him to get involved with coaching and to Nigel Thompson for the outstanding mentorship.

If you’ve been inspired by Scott’s story and think that you’d like to take your own steps toward becoming a coach or achieving the next level on your coaching journey, check out our website with lots of useful information, our Sport80 page where you can book on to courses or email coaching@snowsportengland.org.uk