2017-11-02 / Sports

Ski club coach has deep roots in Park, great love for the sport

Sports/Education Editor

Mato-Kuwapi Parker is shown on the ski slopes. He is hoping to expand the Yosemite Winter Club’s ski team ranks this year. 
Submitted photos Mato-Kuwapi Parker is shown on the ski slopes. He is hoping to expand the Yosemite Winter Club’s ski team ranks this year. Submitted photos He’s a teacher in Fresno by day.

But during his free time, he’s a dedicated ski coach in Yosemite National Park. Mato Kuwapi Parker is heading into his second season as head coach of the Yosemite Winter Club (YWC) ski program.

When he’s not teaching anatomy/physiology, medical terminology and drug calculations for the Fresno Unified School District’s Adult School, his focus is on skiing.

And that’s no surprise.

Mato-Kuwapi’s dad, Louis Parker was born and raised in Yosemite National Park. Mato-Kuwapi is the grandson of the famous Native American basket weaver Julia Parker. He spent much of his childhood in Yosemite National Park, and while there, began skiing.

“I was always in the Park as a kid,” Mato-Kuwapi said.

Mato-Kuwapi Parker Mato-Kuwapi Parker His father was a ski instructor at Badger Pass. That meant Mato Kuwapi started skiing at 2 years old.

He joined the ski team when he was 7 years old and competed for close to five years.

Mato-Kuwapi now has two of his own children who are competing on the club: daughter Madison Parker, 12; and son Dylan Parker, 10.

“I started them skiing when they were young as well,” Mato- Kuwapi said.

His children are third generation YWC racers. Mato-Kuwapi’s father, aunt and uncle were also on the YWC ski team when they were children.

The chance to coach his children is one reason why Mato-Kuwapi enjoys being with the club.

“Going back to my childhood, I’ve always loved skiing,” Mato- Kuwapi said. “It’s one of those sports where you don’t just have to be a spectator. With skiing, parents are able to ski with (alongside) your children, even though you’re not racing with them. They’re able to experience what you’ve experienced as a kid. You can see them progress and that’s neat to see them do that.”

The events the club trains for are slalom, giant slalom and super giant slalom skiing.

“We’re really focused on skiing mechanics and applying the skiing mechanics to forward pressure and everything that is involved in controlling the skis,” Mato-Kuwapi said. “We really focus on getting our kids to be able to balance well, to be able to control the skis well, and even to be able to recover from being tossed off balance.”

The club consists of a travel team, usually made up of competitors ages 10-15 or sometimes older, and a developmental team, usually made up of competitors 7-9 years old.

The focus of the developmental team is to work on developing the skills needed for skiing. The emphasis of the coaching is to provide a fun learning environment for children that are not yet ready for Central Series racing.

The travel team competes in the Central Series Section of Far West Skiing. The umbrella organization is the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The teams it competes against in the Central Section include Bear Valley (Arnold), Dodge Ridge (Sonora) and China Peak (Fresno). There are four competitions every winter, one held at each club’s location.

There is then a junior championship that children can qualify for, which is usually held in Tahoe.

“It’s not something we send kids to every year; it depends on if we have the talent to be able to get into those, because it’s very competitive,” Mato-Kuwapi said.

The YWC is a historic group. It has been around for nearly 100 years and is comprised of dozens of members. It is a nonprofit group.

“I look at it as a legacy with the Yosemite Winter Club,” Mato- Kuwapi said. “It’s really special to be a part of that. I feel like I need to do my best to carry it on and keep it going, not only for the kids, but the community and Park as well.”

Those interested in signing their child up for the ski club can visit www.yosemitewinterclub.com. Under the activities tab, users can click “Alpine race team.” From there, they can fill out an interest form at the bottom of the page.

Mato-Kuwapi said the first race of the season should start in January.

Matt Johnson is Sports and Education Editor of the Mariposa Gazette and can be reached at matt@mariposagazette.com.

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