We speak to Stacey and Bruce, parents of Jossi Wells, world top freeskier, about what it was like raising their talented, motivated and modest son.
How old was Jossi when you first took him up the mountain?
We first took Jossi up to the Cardrona Alpine Resort when he was 6 weeks old. Bruce was on the ski patrol and I managed the child care facility there, so Jossi came to work with us. When he was 18 months old, we spent a winter at Whistler in Canada. It was here that we bought his first pair of skis, the strap-on variety, and skied with him in between our legs. By the end of the season, he was skiing independently down from the beginner’s chairlift.
What was behind your decision to homeschool?
Jossi is the oldest of four brothers (who are all competitive skiers). We decided to homeschool all the boys so we could have more quality family time together and, because we are Christians, we wanted to be more in control of what our children were taught. It has also enabled the boys to carry on with their ski training during the day and do their school work in the evenings. In addition, when they travel, they can take their school work away with them and keep on track.
How long has Jossi been competing?
Jossi began competing in international competitions when he was 15. Bruce has been travelling with all four boys since then, acting as their coach and manager. They are based in Summit County in Colorado for much of the time, travelling away to competitions throughout the States and also to France and Switzerland.
When did you realise Jossi and his brothers had something special in terms of skiing ability?
As they started to compete, it was obvious they were at the top in New Zealand, but what did that really mean? We live here, on a tiny island, at the bottom of the world. We didn’t get too carried away with any illusions that they were super-talented. It wasn’t until we sent Jossi to the States for the first time, at age 15, and he came second in the US Nationals, that we realised he may have something special.
If Jossi wasn’t a skier, what do you think he’d be doing?
I know that Jossi would like be a professional skateboarder, and maybe design men’s clothing and jewellery. Jossi excelled in so many different sports. In summer, he swam competitively and won a national silver medal when he was 10 years old. He also competed in many triathlons and skateboarded endlessly. In winter, he ski raced and was NZ champion every year; he also played representative soccer and basketball. When he wasn’t doing any of these, he was playing his violin!
What things did you enjoy doing as a family when the boys were younger?
We skied a lot and travelled around for swim and ski racing competitions. We always turned them in to big family days out, taking a picnic lunch and, when sport was over, we played at skateparks and BMX bike tracks. We took them rock climbing, tramping, mountaineering and ice climbing. We discouraged TV watching, and refused to own a Playstation, Nintendo or X Box.
What aspects of Jossi’s personality do you think have helped him become so successful?
Jossi has always been extremely competitive, as well as a perfectionist and a naturally driven person who has amazing intrinsic motivation. When he sets himself a goal, he just works along the pathway to achieve that goal. This applied to his school work as well. He always worked very independently and to a very high standard.
What are the qualities you think are most important to instill in your children?
We stressed to them that it was more important to be a humble, happy, friendly and caring person than to win accolades and be on the podium. I guess our teaching has rubbed off because even today, they are all reluctant to speak openly about their achievements. We’ve tried our best to keep them grounded over the years and to remind them of where they came from.