Ski coach retires after 20 years |

Ski coach retires after 20 years

Elyse Brightman
South Tahoe ski coach Mike Shreve passes the 2002 Olympic torch to the new head coach Kristi Leonard symbolizing the end of his 20-year career.
Elyse Brightman/ |

In 2002, Dawn Shreve, wife of South Tahoe High School’s head ski coach Mike Shreve, nominated him in a contest without telling him. Her winning essay on the importance of the Olympics gave him a chance to carry the Olympic torch through South Lake Tahoe en route to Salt Lake City.

The essay was about all the youths Shreve had coached who went on to compete in the Olympics and who were members of the U.S. Ski Team. Shreve carried the torch two-tenths of a mile down Herbert Avenue, which was lined with family, friends and past and present athletes.

This year, at an end-of-season banquet for the high school ski team, Shreve passed the same torch to Kristi Leonard, symbolizing his retirement after a 20-year coaching career and Leonard taking over the reins as the school’s head ski coach.

Shreve started coaching at Kirkwood Mountain Resort in 1975.

“Back in my Kirkwood days, I coached members of the New Zealand National Team,” he said.

In 1979, Shreve took a break from coaching to raise a family, but got back into it in 1987 with the Buddy Warner Ski League at Sierra-at-Tahoe. He continued to coach there until 1994 when he started at South Tahoe High School.

In 1996, the Vikings won their first state title with Shreve as head coach and continued to win the titles in 1997 and 1998.

During that time, South Tahoe was part of the eight-team California League, but Shreve and other coaches recognized the talent in the Tahoe Basin League and joined that league in 1999.

“We realized the best skiers were in the Tahoe League and we wanted to be part of that,” said Shreve.

Alumni of the Tahoe Basin Ski League include Julia Mancuso, Marco Sullivan, Stacy Cook and Tim Jitloff.

“The depth of the skiers goes on and on,” Shreve said.

In 2006, school administrators asked the Tahoe Basin League teams to join the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, and again South Tahoe 3-peated in the NIAA.

Since all the Tahoe teams were so dominant, the Tahoe Basin League moved into NIAA Div. I. The creation of the new division was based on recognition that the teams surrounding Lake Tahoe had access to snow every day compared with teams in the Reno area that were only able to practice and compete during weekends.

Shreve says he doesn’t keep track of team records and statistics because winning is not why he’s a coach.

“I get foggy on all these things because I’m not so worried about the gold as I am the kids,” he said.

Shreve says factors contributing to his retirement include turning 60 this spring. He adds that when he was 40 he joked about retiring at 60.

A second factor is his granddaughter. The pre-schooler wants to start skiing next year, and he wants to be there to coach her.

He will be on the mountain on race days next season as an assistant coach, keeping a promise he made years ago to one of his current athletes, Mikaela Clothier. Mikaela’s sister Emily died in a skiing accident while training in 2008. Mikaela was in fifth grade at the time, and when Shreve told her about the accident he promised he would still be there when she graduated. She’s a junior this year.

“Mikaela is the one I made the promise to and I don’t want to break my promise to her,” he said.

In 2003, Shreve took one season off from coaching when his son, Ryan, was in a wakeboarding accident. Athletes from 1994 through 2003 held a continuous vigil at the hospital for 25 days. There was constantly someone at Ryan’s bedside until he died from his injuries.

Shreve was a racer himself starting in the sixth grade with the Heavenly Blue Angels. He was selected for the U.S. C-team in 1973 and after one season decided to go pro. He retired from racing after four years.

When he’s not coaching, Shreve has been a pastor at the Lake Tahoe Christian Fellowship Church since 1989 and chaplain for the El Dorado Hills Fire Department. He will continue those duties.

After holding many jobs over the years, Shreve is looking forward to slowing down.

“I think I’m going to have to adjust to what it’s like to have only one job,” he said.

For him, it’s time to “unpack” and focus on family.

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