Yukoner takes on national coaching duties

Whitehorse's Brent Langbakk has helped propel local athletes to the top tier of orienteering at the national level. Now he's bringing his coaching talents to the international stage.

Whitehorse’s Brent Langbakk has helped propel local athletes to the top tier of orienteering at the national level. Now he’s bringing his coaching talents to the international stage.

The Canadian Orienteering Federation and its High Performance Committee recently recruited Langbakk to become the new head coach of the Junior National Orienteering Team.

“I’m pretty excited and I’m looking forward to it, working with the athletes from all across the country,” said Langbakk. “It’s somebody to monitor the progress of the athletes’ training and assist them in establishing training plans. Providing them with feedback is the main thing.

“As you can imagine, not all the athletes are here (in Whitehorse), so a lot of the job is following with the athletes, meeting with them over Skype or the phone or email, fairly regularly and giving them feedback, making sure they are on track, and providing training plans if they don’t have them from their club coaches. Just monitoring and helping the athletes with their training is the main thing.”

Aside from consultations, Langbakk will be working directly with Canada’s top juniors at training camps and will accompany the team of between 12 and 15 to next year’s Junior World Orienteering Championships in Slovakia.

Langbakk is taking over junior-team coaching duties from National Team coach Magnus Johansson, who, up to now, split his time between coaching the both the senior and junior teams. Johansson will remain as Canada’s senior coach.

“Having two national team coaches is a great step forward for high performance orienteering in Canada,” said COF executive director Charlotte MacNaughton, in a media release. “Brent is certainly well qualified for the role of junior national team coach and we are thrilled to have Brent joining Magnus in working closely with our elite orienteerers.”

Langbakk has been coaching Yukon’s junior program since its creation in 2003, but this past summer, with a national training centre, Western Canadian Championships and National Championships in Whitehorse, Langbakk was practically the junior national coach already, said Whitehorse’s Lee Hawkings, a former member of the junior national team.

“To be honest, him being named junior national coach is just making something official that was basically already in place,” said Hawkings. “We’ve always had a national team coach, but was always a little more focused on the senior athletes.

“Especially this summer, when we had the (2011 National Summer) Training Centre in Whitehorse, pretty much the whole junior team was being coached by him anyway. So it’s kind of making official what was going on all summer.

“But we’re still really stoked it’s been made official.”

Langbakk, who is a certified NCCP Level 3 coach, was named Sport Yukon’s Coach of the Year last December. If he were to win it again, it would be no surprise, with Team Yukon winning 38 medals at the 2011 Canadian Orienteering Championships in July.

“I think that was part of the reason why I was approached,” said Langbakk. “The program we have here in the Yukon is pretty well established and I think the high performance committee recognizes the success that our program and athletes have had.”

No slouch as a competitor, Langbakk has won more than a dozen medals at the national level in the elite division – winning a bronze in the middle distance in July – and has represented Canada at five World Orienteering Championships.

“I think that helps. I’m definitely familiar with international orienteering, what’s required and what athletes can expect when they get to world championships,” said Langbakk.

Hawkings, under Langbakk’s tutelage, competed at the last four Junior World Orienteering Championships.

“He coached me since I was small and taught me everything I know about orienteering,” said Hawkings. “He’s pretty much the reason why I stayed in the sport. I really can’t thank him enough or describe everything he’s done for me.

“He’s super dedicated to the sport, has lots of experience racing, he knows how to motivate kids and how to get people to improve.”

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