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It's all downhill for the freestyle kids at Apex Mountain Resort

New Apex Freestyle Club coach Rob Kober gives some instruction to team member Alexander Wargniec.
Image Credit: Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When the Apex Freestyle Club had a coaching vacancy to fill they had to look no further than their own backyard.

The person they landed to lead the team just happened to be one of the best in the business, longtime Penticton resident and world-class mentor Rob Kober.

In his 30 years on the job, most which was with the Canada’s men’s team Kober, 54, had team members win Olympic gold along with producing multiple World Cup champions and even worked a two-year stint with the Chinese freestyle organization.

“Coaching the Canadian team was an amazing experience but this (coaching at the club level) has been on my mind for a long time, maybe 10 years,” said Kober while watching one of his young team members practicing at Apex. “It’s just so awesome what so many people have built here and just to be part of that and to add on to what the guys have done before me is really a privilege.”

He added with a laugh: “And to sleep in my own bed. I’ve lived in Penticton for 20 years and never spent a full winter here. My wife is loving it, at least she says she is, I just hope she’s not sick of me.”

In addition to his work in Asia, he also was the head coach of B.C. and Alberta clubs.

This is not his first time working with the Apex club, having often volunteered his time to help out when his kids were members of the team when he was not on the road.

His son Josh, who coached the B.C. moguls team for five successful years, has moved up the ladder to the position of head coach of the U.S. National Development team.

One of the key aspects of his father Rob’s coaching style is skier enjoyment at any level.

“It’s just so much fun with the kids and fun is so important for the top skiers,” he said. “Sure, they’re killers in the start gate, super competitive but they had fun, always fun.

“If they’re into it and they’re having fun they’re wanting to learn. They want to get better.”

The icing on the career cake for the veteran coach was the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea.

“Standing with Mik (Mikaël Kingsbury) when he won his gold medal there, that’s one of the all-time great memories for me, for sure,” said Kober.

And for Kingsbury, at the time, he left no doubt about the reason for his success.

“He (Kober) deserves so much credit,” he said in a telephone interview from South Korea in February 2018. “We’re so close, he’s like a father to me. Because of him, when I push that start gate I know I have all the tools to win.”

Seeing his skiers develop is one of Kober’s greatest joys of coaching.

Rob Kober (left) the new head coach of the Apex Fresstyle Club.
Rob Kober (left) the new head coach of the Apex Fresstyle Club.
Image Credit: Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative

“It’s so gratifying, so neat to have the privilege to watch kids go from the club level all the way to the Olympic Games.”

And what’s just as important to him and a big reason he returned to coach at the club level are the kids who don’t make it to the podium.

“I mean there’s only one World champion, there can only be one Olympic champion every four years,” said Kober. “But it’s those other kids, to watch them grow and become coaches and stay involved and start families of their own and put their own kids in the sport, that’s the stuff I love.

“Being able to look back on my professional career over the last 30 years... now that’s super gratifying.”

On this particular day of training at Apex, Kober was working with 15-year-old Alexander Wargniec, who’s been skiing since he was two.

“He’s (Kober) been awesome. There are not many coaches like he is, I mean he was the coach of Mikaël Kingsbury, you don’t get any better than that,” said Wargniec. “I like the way he can adapt his coaching to your style.

“He’s a great motivator and very positive. It makes a difference because if you’re more positive and having fun, you’re more likely to do a better job and learn.”

For Kober, what he is  looking forward to the most in the next chapter of his life is, “working with the kids, having fun and just being home.”

— This story was originally published by the Penticton Herald.

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