Meet Ski Paradise Guest Coach Jennifer LaPoint
Ski Paradise has been host to water ski hall of famer and guest coach Jennifer LaPoint every January for the past decade. As one of the most prolific women’s slalom skiers on the pro tour in the mid-80s and 90’s, LaPoint set numerous world records and enjoyed 30 career pro victories. In addition to her skills on the water, LaPoint was a significant advocate for women’s skiing, founding Women of Water Skiing in 1992, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching women to ski through free clinics across the country. Known for her “let’s get to business” approach to slalom instruction, LaPoint’s students appreciate her candor and enthusiasm for helping them reach their goals.
When did you first fall in love with skiing?
I learned at age 5 and skied in my first tournament at 6, but I really fell in love at age 10 when I finally learned to cross the wakes like an expert and realized it was so easy and not scary when you lean hard and don't hesitate ... like slicing through butter. I felt I had a peek behind the curtain and starting beating other skiers by several passes for my age... the rest is history.
What did it mean to you to be inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame?
Even if you have won many titles (Jen retired with 30 pro titles, 60 podiums, and three world records), you still feel like you could have been even better and won more. I think it's the nature of a champion always to be climbing to the top. So being put in the HOF is the ultimate validation that you have made it to the top. My dad was never a guy to use a lot of words of affirmation, but when he heard my speech at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony he told me, "that was amazing." It was the best feeling ever!
What's been your most memorable tournament experience to date?
Breaking the world record in Ft. Worth Texas at the largest cash prize to that date on ESPN. At the time, there were about 10,000 people on the beach watching in a stadium like setting. I got to feel like the best in the world for a moment, and it was the realization of a lifelong dream. WATERSKI magazine had dubbed me "Jennifer Who" because I was from West Virginia and skied on a river, so no one knew what I was capable of. Also, most world records are set at small, private lakes at record events with not many spectators. This was a world record in pro competition in front of the world for everyone to see.
As an athlete that's returned to an elite level after a water ski injury, what advice do you have for skiers who are going through the same thing?
Take it one day at a time. You can do more than you think you can but being patient is the hard part. After my broken tib/fib skiing accident in 1998, I was off the water almost two years and was terrified to get hurt again. I had just to keep going back to the lake and peeling the fear away like an onion, layer after layer. Also, I had to check my ego at the door. It was hard to start over redeveloping my skills with my new body. It takes a while to get your subconscious to stop being afraid after getting your conscious mind over it. I am finding that I am still getting better 20 years later. It is a journey but one worth taking. Skiing at any level is better than never skiing again because I can't be as good before my injury.
What do you love the most about coaching?
I love to coach and see people learn to love something I love so much, and know that I am sharing with them something that will make them so happy and bring so much joy and fun to their lives in the future. I especially like to teach women because they are so "teachable" and for the most part have only been taught by their husbands or other men. They usually are very intimidated, thinking they aren't good and are embarrassed by their skills or their bodies. But when they have a good women coach that can relate to them and how women learn, it is a joy to see them succeed. I believe all women can ski great and run the course with the right coach. Many times, the most improved skiers at Ski Paradise are the ladies.
How long have you been guest coaching at Ski Paradise and what do you love about the setup in Acapulco?
I have been coaching for about ten years At Ski Paradise. I love the whole experience. I just can't think of anything I would want a vacation to do better: gourmet food, 5-star accommodations, romantic, lots of laughs, great exercise doing something fun to earn all those drinks and calories, perfect unbelievably predictable weather, spectacular views and lifelong friends. My husband and I have made lifelong friends with the other guests.
Care to share any memorable stories from trips to Ski Paradise?
There have been so many laughs that it's hard to narrow it down to a few stories. Two years ago, we all just spontaneously had a dance party at the pool with conga lines, and even the shy accountant in the group was up dancing. Another standout moment was a super bowl party that was hosted at an amazing 10-million dollar neighboring villa. Then there was the time we had a handicapped ski competition at the end of the week, and this gal who had just learned to ski the course beat all of the experienced men. And of course, the baby turtle races are always entertaining.
What do you want your students to know about your coaching philosophy?
As in any sport, it is better to have a lesson from a pro coach rather than hacking away at it for a lifetime. Most students are amazed at what they can do when they get good coaching. Of course, not all coaches are created equal. Just because someone is an expert at the sport does not mean they can explain how to do it. I feel that it's important to understand why you are supposed to do a specific movement before you can do it. Also, if you know the big picture of what you are doing, you can take that info home and keep improving. My students can usually coach how to do it right when they leave, even if they haven't mastered it themselves or their fitness is holding them back.
~ Jennifer LaPoint