Brady McNeill has been a snowboard coach with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail for a decade and a half, showing young athletes the full spectrum of snowboarding culture and competition.
Along the way, he caught the attention of his peers, who nominated him for snowboard coach of the year this season.
“Brady has always displayed a passion for snowboarding and instilled that passion in his athletes,” wrote the Snowboarding Sport Committee, a planning organization which assists U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard agreed, and named McNeill the 2018 U.S. Ski & Snowboard Snowboarding Domestic Coach of the Year on Thursday, May 3, in Park City, Utah.
“U.S. Ski & Snowboard Coach of the Year Awards are made in each sport to a U.S. Ski & Snowboard staff or U.S. Ski & Snowboard Competition Club coach based on outstanding contribution to either the domestic program or international program, resulting in high-level performance of his or her athletes in domestic or international competition during the past season,” wrote Tiger Shaw, president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
In receiving the award, McNeill said the fact that he was recognized by his peers in the Snowboarding Sport Committee was the most meaningful element of the award.
“It was an honor to be nominated, more than even being selected,” McNeill said. “It was appreciation shown from my fellow coaches around me, respecting the energy I was putting in and the results my kids were getting out of it.”
The successes of three athletes in particular were mentioned in McNeill’s accolades this season — 16-year-old Jack Coyne, 17-year-old Dylan Okurowski and 18-year-old David Retzlaff, who were regulars at finals in slopestyle events throughout the season.
“They’re my three main dudes, and the accomplishments they achieved is why I was recognized for this award,” McNeill said.
All three athletes earned podiums on the Rev Tour this season, a continental cup-level competitive circuit which is one step below the World Cup.
“Without the award, it would have been a season to remember — one for the books, for sure,” McNeill said. “This just adds that more to it.”
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowboard program director Chris Laske said McNeill’s success with Coyne, Okurowski and Retzlaff brought new notoriety to the program.
“All three of those boys were in the running for the Rev Tour overall title this season,” Laske said. “Plus Dylan took second in the open division at the Burton qualifiers, so that was huge. Overall Brady just had an awesome season with these guys.”
MASTER OF MANY STYLES
In an interesting twist, U.S. Ski & Snowboard — which is the traditional pipeline for athletes trying to make it to the top level of competitive snowboarding in the U.S. — recognized McNeill for his efforts to show athletes that snowboarding is not all about the traditional pipeline.
“(McNeill) thinks outside the box and is aware of all aspects of snowboarding and how to create a career for athletes who may not fit into the traditional pipeline,” wrote the Snowboarding Sport Committee in a letter to McNeill from Shaw.
“I was pretty stoked about that comment,” McNeill said. “Snowboarding isn’t just about gold medals and the Olympics, it’s a whole community on its own without contests.”
In the coaching aspect of that community, however, McNeill has been a trailblazer. He is a certified coaches’ trainer, helping other coaches earn level 100 and 200 U.S. Ski & Snowboard coaching designations and was one of the first coaches to attain level-300 certification himself.
“I actually attended all the trainings and went through all the protocols, I wasn’t just grandfathered in,” McNeill said with a laugh, in a rare moment of self-recognition.
Known as one of the most humble coaches on the circuit, McNeill’s willingness to recognize his own flaws has made him better and helping others through theirs.
“He has had no ego through his career and that has allowed him to learn from the coaches around him and adapt their styles into his,” wrote the Snowboarding Sport Committee.
“I’m not trying the same tricks on the same kids over and over and hoping that it works out, which is what I think (the Snowboarding Sport Committee) was referring to,” McNeill said. “Which is really meaningful.”