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Attitude and Effort: Growing up with a father who has a championship coaching status

The Fjeldheim family is shown in skiing gear. (Photo courtesy of the Fjeldheim family)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Marquette has a long and rich history of outdoor recreation beginning with the first tourist who came here to fish in 1849. The Marquette Regional History Center’s current special exhibit, The Great Outdoors: The History of Recreation in Marquette County, follows the changes from the first camps in the late 1800s to the first car campers and the development of “The Land of Hiawatha” in the 1940s.

The exhibit includes firsthand stories of local pioneers in outdoor recreation including skiers, bicyclists, rock climbers, and paddlers. One of the featured individuals is Sten Fjeldheim, Olympic trainer and championship winning head coach of Nordic skiing teams at NMU for 34 years. Sten grew up in Norway and is known for his work locally starting the Superiorland Ski Club and developing a competition course at Al Quaal.

Here, Sten’s daughter, Ingrid Fjeldheim Bånerud talks about growing up with her father.

“Attitude and effort” are what come to mind when I think of growing up with a father who has a championship coaching status. Let me explain…

I think the majority of us can relate to growing up and having the memories and impressions of our childhood fall into place when we become more reflective as adults. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Marquette with my two younger siblings, Kirsten and Stig. Our childhood was fast paced, from busy summer days on Prospect Street helping my dad build additions, fences or a playhouse, to flooding our rink in the backyard so we could practice our jumps into snowbanks as tall as we were.

Sten and Ingrid Fjeldheim are shown hitting the slopes. (Photo courtesy of the Fjeldheim family)

While my dad was busy coaching year-round, my mom volunteered to start and coach our middle school cross country running team and coordinate and coach the Superiorland Ski Cats for several years. We were a family in motion – rain or shine. “No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” was once an irritating line we were often told.

My siblings and I were not aware of our father’s coaching career and the enormous amount of dedication that lay behind his achievements as a coach. He often left early in the morning, dressed in his ski pants and training shirt, with a black duffel bag full of extra clothes to change into after each workout throughout the day.

When he could, he always made a point to make it home for dinner as he was frequently on the road from September until April for competitions during the cross country running and ski seasons. Awards and medals were never a topic around the dinner table, rather, we talked about our family schedule and logistics.

Throughout our childhood we were exposed to many sports – some turned out to be a bit more successful than others. Although we never felt pressure regarding the outcome of an event or a race, we knew we had to follow through with anything we signed up for, and put in a good effort and have a good attitude for whatever sport we tried or event we were at.

“First you form an attitude, then it forms you” was another once irritating line that I have come to realize was repeated to help build character which can be translated into other setting outside of sports.

Sten Fjeldheim is shown with his grandson Aksel. (Photo courtesy of the Fjeldheim family)

Fast-forward a few years and I sit trying to decide where to submit my letter of intent for college. After a couple college visits, I realized that I didn’t need to travel far to find one of the best cross-country skiing programs and coaches in the nation (and in my opinion, the world).

I remember my first team meeting of my freshman year my dad began by saying there are three “S”s in college: social, school and skiing – pick the two that you want to prioritize. He was always direct and honest in his communication with the student-athletes. Just as at home with his family, he never focused on the results or outcomes, although his office is decorated with National Championships medals and awards.

It was always ingrained in us that if we put a good “attitude and effort” into our daily training and focus on quality, the results would come. In cross country skiing, just as in many other things in life, we have very little control over a multitude of factors; however, “attitude and effort” we can control.

And now this championship status grandfather can pass along his passion for a life in motion to the next generation.

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Sten Fjeldheim is shown with his children. (Photo courtesy of the Fjeldheim family)

If you’d like to learn more about Nordic skiing, join us for a presentation on the MRHC lawn Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. Sten Fjeldheim will talk about his career and discuss the gear and techniques that define Nordic skiing. $5 suggested donation for this program. Due to pandemic precautions we will hold this presentation outdoors on the MRHC lawn. Please bring a lawn chair and layers. If the weather turns, we will make any cancellation notice by 4:00 p.m. on the day of the program.

This program is part of our 2020 Great Outdoors Series, with support from the Michigan Humanities Council.

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