The view from the summit looks pretty good to former Phoenix Nordic skier and coach Bryan Fish. In May, Fish was named the Continental Cup coach for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.
As one of only four coaches on the U.S. Ski Team staff, his responsibilities will be to coach at national level camps, provide coaching and race support at international development races and support the education and implementation of a national development pipeline.
“I am primarily in the U.S. for the summer months where I help coach at national level junior and elite camps,” explained Fish of his new position. “I will provide race support at many European development events in the fall and winter months. I will help coach and organize events such as Junior World Championships, Under 23 World Championships and OPA (an elite racing series in central Europe).”
Fish was a two-time participant for UW-Green Bay at the NCAA Championships, placing 16th in the 20 kilometer freestyle and 25th in the 10 kilometer classic in the 1997 NCAA Championships in Craftsbury, VT. Fish then coached (while employed at nearby FEECO, Inc. in research and development) the Phoenix from 1998 to 2006 when the team produced some of its top race results in program history. Laura Anderson ‘01 still holds the top all-time finish for the women, placing 9th in the 15 kilometer freestyle at the 2001 NCAA Championship and Josh Tesch ’00 placed 13th in the 10 kilometer freestyle at the 2000 NCAA Championship in Heber City, UT. They were bested only recently by Santiago Ocariz who placed 10th in the 20K freestyle at the 2010 NCAA Championship and is now a member of the CXC elite program.
Fish left UW-Green Bay in 2006 to coach full time as the elite coach with the Central Cross Country (CXC) Ski Association. While there, he helped to train and mentor an athlete who went to two World Championships and the Olympics, and six skiers who competed for the World Cup. In 2007, Fish was named USSA’s Development Coach of the Year and the United States Ski and Snowboard Association Cross Country Domestic Coach of the Year.
“I could have never predicted my last four years,” says Fish. “I need to thank my former Phoenix Coach Butch Reimer for the encouragement. I suspect he knew something I didn’t, but I have nothing but gratitude to hand out all along the way.”
Moving forward, Fish says he is excited to help maintain consistency in coaching when athletes move from development and preparatory races to the biggest international stage. The goal of the program is to mirror the success of the U.S. Alpine ski team, with athletes consistently competing among the world’s best.
“Cross country has some great athletes right now that have medaled or have been very close at medaling at world championships, but cross country skiing in the U.S. is continuing steps in a direction of a comprehensive system for consistently strong results,” he said. “That means a systematic approach for youth talent identification, junior development, elite development and finally Olympic success.”
Reimer, who took the UW-Green Bay program back over from Fish when he left for the CXC, said he’s not surprised about Fish’s quick rise to the top. It was Reimer who suggested that Fish help coach the Phoenix when Reimer took a hiatus from collegiate coaching to support his own children in their athletic endeavors. Fish assisted long time cross-country running coach Mike Kline for a year, then took over the program.
“Bryan took skiing very seriously, whether he was waxing, training or coaching,” Reimer says. “He was the perfect replacement for me at UW-Green Bay because he loves the sport like I do. He left to train the elite skiers. I think that is why he is so successful, because he loves all of it — the sport of skiing, the challenge in training the great athletes, and the technical (waxing) part of it.”
It’s evident that Fish, who graduated from UW-Green Bay with a degree in mathematics, has found his fit.
“Skiing and coaching at UW-Green Bay emphasized my passion for the sport I grew up with,” Fish said. “It became evident that cross country skiing was not only something I do, but an integral part of who I am. Many of my best friends today were my teammates at UW-Green Bay. We had a really talented group and it was fun learning from them all. More importantly, they were great to hang out with. It’s really great seeing many of them coaching or still competing. I love to travel, so many of my best trips have been visiting old UW-Green Bay skiers including Dan Goltz’ 93 ‘96 in Hawaii and Adam Swank ‘98 in New Zealand. Josh Tesch came and helped volunteer coach with me when I was at UWGB and CXC… I can name countless other examples, but these are the intangible benefits in our education that we often forget yet shape our lives.”
Fish currently resides in Hayward, and will eventually move to the Ski Team headquarters in Park City, Utah. Because he is expected to travel so much, he said that being near an airport is more critical than where his home base is. He’ll join many of the athletes, who live across the United States, for “dry-land training” in Lake Placid, New York in October before hitting the European race circuit beginning in November.