David Small: A Coach’s Dream

My history of coaching barefoot water skiing goes back over 26 years with Keith St. Onge and most people out there in the barefooting world know our story.  If you’re not caught up to my relationship with KSO then head over to Amazon or the WBC Pro Shop to buy his new book, Gliding Soles, Lessons from a Life on Water.  for a great read and you’ll learn all about KSO. This write up is about the other half of this amazing duo: David Small, also known as Smallz.

As a coach you are always looking for those dream Athletes, the ones that have all the ingredients to bring it all the way plus more. And trust me they are hard to find. So what are the ingredients that I look for when I am looking for the next great one, here is my list:

1 – Heart

You have to have the heart and passion to be great at anything. If you don’t have it then you will most likely fail at being great.

2 – Strong Mind and Body

You will have to have a strong mind that is not afraid to fail and that is willing to overcome all challenges, that can overcome fear and pain and be willing to change what needs to be changed. You will need to have a strong body that has a great power to weight ratio that can stay injury free and that can deal with the pain and abuse that your body will be given.

3 – Coachability

If you are a know it all and already have all the answers then there is no need to apply. You will have to be coachable with an open mind, willing to change and to adapt.

These things alone will bring you a long ways and can make up for any lack of talent that you may have. If you can fullfill all of the above then you will probably be successful and your talent level from this point will then determine exactly how great you’ll become.

David Small – The Man who never stops earning my respect

Before the New Zealand World Championships and before I really knew Small’z, I was watching his tapes over and over. I wanted to identify his weakneses and strengths, as I was setting up trick runs for KSO.  I wanted to figure  out how many points that it would require to win.

By the time we joined forces to create the World Barefoot Center, I already had a good idea of what needed to change in his sking to bring him up to the next level. At that time Small’z was instructing in Clermont while KSO and I were at the central location in Winter Haven, so one day, I took a ride up to Clermont to see Small’z and to watch him ski. I wanted to either confirm or debunk what I already knew; and after watching him ski, the weaknesses were confirmed in my mind. We  were still in the “feeling out” process of our relationship and I was curious to see how he was going to react to my brutal honesty towards his skiing.  Later that evening, Smallz, Ben Groen, and I were at the Tiki Bar having dinner and a beer, and I finally brought up the subject of his skiing. I wanted to share what needed to be changed. I still remember him looking me right in the eyes and he said, “Go ahead, Big Guy, bring it on.”

I proceeded to bring up the things I felt that he had to work on and change to be a stronger and more consistant skier; mostly working on staying commited to his pivot foot and working on his handle movement. He looked at me and said “I’ll work on them and change it all in a week.” I laughed and told him that it would take a little more than just a week.

The following week, Small’z came down to the school in Winter Haven and as he was walking through the door he asked me if I had a couple of minutes. He gave me a video to watch and asked me what I thought. He had listened to everything that I told him and in one week, he changed everything that I had asked him to work on. It was incredible.

Breaking down the Champion of Champions

1 – Heart/Mind

David Small’s attitude is Awesome. I have never seen a challenge that he did not welcome or wasn’t ready to overcome. I remember one day last year, when we were out training one-foot multiples and he took a bad fall. Small’z is one who does not show weakness or pain. When I idled up to him, I could see that he was in pain–he had a hard time climbing up on the back platform and he was holding his rib.

“Get in the boat, let’s wrap it up,” I said.  Instead, he jumped back in the water and he went back out there to do the exact same trick that just kicked his butt.

Small’z had a broken rib.  When I told him that we would have to take a break to let it  heal, he shrugged and said, “There’s nothing that you can do for a broken rib, so I’ll just have to suck it up and ski through the pain.” He was not about to stop his training.  I watched him go out there day after day in pain, without ever using it as an excuse or complaining about it.  He was out there still doing everything that we normally do on the water. The Man was incredible !!

2 – Body

The Man is a machine, pound for pound he has incredible body strength. When Small’z is not on the water training, he is in the gym working out with his buddy Ben Groen. Ben who is also one strong young man tells me that Small’z is just incredible when it comes to the work outs they do and how much he pushes both himself and anyone else that works out with them. I also get to see his strength when I have him on the water. He amazes me each time I am in the boat with him not only because of his strength but also with how hard that I am able to push him. He takes tremendous pride in over coming challenges that I set for him and he thrives off of them.

3. Coachability

He is a world champion and he is a joy to coach, accepting all challenges that I can throw at him, willing to change whatever I am asking him to change, willing to try new things, enjoys being pushed, and never has any excuses. He wants to continue to push the boundaries and he believes that he can always do better.

To sum it up:

Small’z loves everything about Barefooting! He loves the Business, the Instructing and the training. He loves watching video and talking barefooting. His heart and passion is never an issue, it’s what he lives for.

The more time that I get to spend with Small’z, the more that I respect and admire him. I try to be tough on him and it just seems to motivate him. All the things that it requres to be great he excels at. That is why he is the ultimate athlete: a Champion.

For anyone out there who wants to be an elite athlete no matter what the sport, this is what it takes. David Small and Keith St. Onge are prime examples of two great athletes who are willing to do what it takes to be the best ever!

By: Swampy Bouchard

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