Nancy Hendrickson: A Parent's Perspective

By Nancy Hendrickson, mother to World Champion Sarah Hendrickson

If I had known what I know now, would I have encouraged my daughter to be a ski jumper?  Hands down, absolutely YES!  It certainly hasn’t all been rosy, but I honestly can say the experiences that Sarah has experienced, have been remarkable — life changing.  

Sarah  Hendrickson with her mom  Nancy  and grandmother Arline Bownes at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Sarah Hendrickson with her mom Nancy and grandmother Arline Bownes at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

As a tiny 7 year old, Sarah started out jumping with sheer determination on her face; she loved it and couldn’t wait for her next jump session. As the jump sessions increased and the hill size increased, I could see the strength, focus, discipline, and drive that this sport has gifted her.  We all think our children are “gifted”, and as a parent that is exactly what we are supposed to do, but I caution the parent who is more driven than the child. 

What I have learned through this journey with Sarah, is to step back, let Sarah develop as she wishes to develop within the sport and to be her sounding board. Ski jumping is not often mentioned in our house, unless Sarah brings it up … home should be a safe and stress free environment. 

I think back and I can remember distinctly when Sarah was 8 years old and I was a starter, along with Lindsey Van, during one of the Friday Night Visa Series competitions.  Sarah was “on-deck” to jump next and I was chatting with her about things … it was now Sarah’s time to jump … I was still chatting with her … Sarah jumped …. Lindsey looked at me and said, “you talk to her way too much”!  From that day forward, I made a conscious effort to be in-tune with an awareness of Sarah’s space. 

Ski jumping has opened the world to Sarah, not only as an athlete, but as a young woman.  Would I encourage your daughter to ski jump, without a doubt, YES.  Let them fly!

Women's Ski Jumping USA

Women’s Ski Jumping USA, a 501c3 nonprofit, is the primary support organization for the U.S. National Team. With the help of a small staff and lots of generous volunteers, the organization runs the U.S. women’s ski jumping program and raises the necessary funds to pay for coaching, travel, training, equipment and a junior developmental program.