Outstanding Coach Passes Torch
By Briana Sullivan
Four Valleys Community School
Gabrielle Hoessle, Girdwood’s renowned head coach eloquently passed torches recently and reflected on her years of coaching.
In the late 90s, Heather Durtschi developed the cross-country running and skiing programs to give both her children and the community’s children an opportunity to learn the sports. Because volunteers often aid the success of FVCS’ programs, Durtschi was always on the lookout for new volunteers. She saw the potential, enthusiasm, and energy exuded by Hoessle and recruited her to coach. For Hoessle, coaching was doable as soon as her daughter was old enough to participate.
Hoessle continued to volunteer for these programs, tacking on both outdoor and indoor soccer coach to her repertoire. Following the birth of her son, Hoessle again waited until he was of age to participate, before taking over both running and Nordic skiing. Durtschi was still heading these programs after her children were long gone from partaking.
Regarding Durtschi, Hoessle admits, “She was an amazing role model and leadee. I was nervous at first taking over her programs.”
FVCS Executive Director Catherine McDermott said of Hoessle,“Gabrielle has really given it all to these programs over the years. She does everything from clearing brush on trails, creating fun games, collecting and storing all the ski equipment, in addition to leading each session, recruiting volunteer coaches, and planning events. She’s the full package when it comes to a volunteer.”
The Nordic Ski Club and Running Club have also been a great way to help skiers and runners get ready and excited to join the Girdwood Middle School competitive teams.
“Gabrielle has done a great job preparing many kids over the years to be successful athletes on the middle and high school teams,” said McDermott.
Twenty years of volunteering later, Hoessle says in Girdwood there is a sense of belonging and community that inspires. “You want to contribute to the well-being of our community,” Hoessle said. “For me, there is nothing more rewarding than helping our children get outside, playing, or learning a sport, in rain or sun.”
Coach Melanee Stiassny elaborated on the impact Hoessle has had on her kids over five years saying, “She has been such a positive influence on their lives. Her positive vibe and energetic spirit was awesome for my kids. She always went above and beyond with her organizational skills and program detail. She has been my inspiration for volunteering and supporting community events where I can.”
When it came to gear, Gabrielle stepped up in a big way. She realized many kids wanted to participate in the Nordic skiing program but lacked gear. Slowly, she began purchasing and collecting used gear at ski swaps and accumulated a huge quiver of skis, poles, and boots. Now, 20-30 children can be outfitted thanks to her fortuitous, generous project! To our community’s great fortune, Hoessle inventoried and donated all gear to FVCS in 2018.
With all this wonderful-ness, it’s time to express gratitude. While we will dearly miss her daily presence in these programs, we are grateful for all the dedication and time given throughout Hoessle’s years to the children and the circle of inspiration that ensued.
The next time you see her, say a big thank you to Gabrielle, because she definitely deserves the kudos. We are incredibly happy to have such an outstanding resource in our community. To boot, Hoessle ensured the programs be left in good hands, recruiting well suited and strong volunteer replacements, as a parting gift to FVCS.
“I really cannot thank Gabrielle enough. She knows how to get things done, and do it right.” – Catherine McDermott.
Cross Country Skiing begins Jan. 28 for five Mondays with torch-bearing coaches Karen Loso and Kari Heinrich. Coach Ari Stiassny is heading Kinder-Ski during the same times.