While all eyes have been on Mia’s incredible progress over the last few years, it’s often Vicky’s story that fascinates me the most. What would you give up for your talented children? How much ‘potential’ is enough ‘potential’? And what if it all goes wrong? Here’s the blueprint for any parent with dreams of making professional winter sports stars out of their children.
What’s it like watching Mia fulfil her dream – and her potential?
We’re incredibly proud, probably more than Mia will ever know! She works so hard juggling everything, it’s certainly not an easy journey for her, but this just proves to us how passionate she is about her snowboarding. And why we’ll do whatever it takes to keep supporting Mia, wherever she decides to take it. To see your kid happy is everything. I’m not going to lie, it’s not been an easy journey, far from it. But life isn’t always easy if you want to be the best you can be. It takes hard work and commitment and on this kind of journey, a heck of a lot of support from parents. At the level Mia competes at now, you pretty much have to be on the road all year round, chasing northern and southern hemisphere winters. Support has to come from parents first, as no one else will put everything on the line for your children.
What sacrifices have you had to make as a family for Mia to follow this journey?
I suppose I can say absolutely everything; people think and even say that we’re crazy! For the past ten years we have purely focused on, and invested everything, into snowboarding. Yes, of course, we love it too, so thats probably made it easier. When Mia was small we’d spend five to six weeks on holiday in the snow, now we’re supporting a full year programme!
Chatting with the parents of other talented children, they’re often curious about what it takes to support Mia’s journey. They’ll say “It’s OK for Mia, she’s got you to take her away, film her for Instagram, travel with her;” they imagine that our support for Mia was financially a very easy thing to do. It wasn’t. Mia showed her potential on a snowboard when she was only five or six years old, since then we’ve been travelling to the mountains in our motorhome so she could follow her dream. I stopped working – and I’d had the same job since I was 15 years old – to give Mia these opportunities. The financial and family sacrifices we’ve made are never obvious.
Are there any rules on how much schooling Mia should do, and when? And what’s her attitude towards school work?
This is where things have got very difficult, I won’t lie. Education causes us the most stress! Until this year (Mia’s year 11), the school have been pretty unsupportive, mainly because those who have the power to authorise Mia’s absences have had their hands tied. During the primary years they thought we were crazy when we told them Mia wanted to be a pro snowboarder and that she showed amazing potential. I get that now, seeing other tiny kids and their pushy parents, we probably did sound crazy. Mia’s first head teacher, on the verge of retirement and living near Manchester, just didn’t get it. But Mia was winning major events at the age of just 13, taking her place on podiums with Olympic athletes on either side of her. Still they wouldn’t take us seriously and many in the UK education system have tried to crush her “ski boarding” idea, (you read that correctly!) suggesting jobs as a theatrical make-up artist or even a blacksmith during career advice sessions.
Moving on, and backed by a few more high profile results and bigger sponsors, the school has improved their support for Mia significantly, although there are now targets to meet and boxes to tick. Mia must have a performance licence for each trip, there are safeguarding requirements to meet and we must register our accommodation with the local authorities in each country, so they can check on Mia if needed. She must do a minimum of 15 hours of education per week (we’d always done this, or more anyway!), there must be a ‘carer’ (me!) to communicate and organise and actually, although it all sounds quite extreme, all this legal stuff makes life so much easier for everyone involved. Mia has always been very conscientious with her school work and now there are proper guidelines and tutors. We’re relieved to see the back of those threatening non-attendance letters on the door mat when we get home!
Are there any team members who’ve taken Mia under their wing? How important is that?
Mia’s situation is unique. She’s so accomplished as a snowboarder, yet she hasn’t been old enough to compete on the World Cup circuit. This means she’s pretty much been on her own journey at the World Rookie comps and Europa Cups. Mia thrives off a crew so we’ve been lucky to have her dad, her coach Ben Kinnear and Morzine-based Jason Rickwood from Gypsy Snowboarding to support her. We’ve noticed that the magic happens for Mia when she has the right people around her, and to be honest, that’s snowboarding at its finest – when you’re with your mates, having a blast.
Jenny Jones (the first Brit to win an Olympic medal on snow) has had the biggest influence on Mia in the UK I think. They are very similar riders with similar personalities and Mia would absolutely go to Jenny if she had any concerns or uncertainties. Katie Ormerod (two-time Olympian) is also amazingly supportive, even though they are entirely different riders and characters. I get really excited to see them working together, there’s no competitiveness, they just bring each other on. Katie travelled with the GB team at Mia’s age so she has a huge understanding of what the next few years look like for Mia. Billy Morgan always supports Mia, Billy Cockerill is like her big brother and Jamie Nicholls is a lot of fun. Fin Bremner is super encouraging, he helps Mia get her head in the game when conditions are tough. Everyone is really great and fully supportive of Mia, even though she’s so much younger.
You and / or Nigel (Mia’s dad) travel everywhere with Mia right now, at what age will you let her go it alone to training and competitions?
We’re transitioning right now… it’s hard! The next few years are crucial for Mia; she’s a teenage girl going through all the changes that a 15 year old goes through, but in a different pair of shoes, so I feel we need to stick at this, with us in the background. I’m sure this will also help the coaches too! It certainly eases Mia knowing we,re there, as much as she rolls her eyes at us. I try to stay out the way on the mountain these days, to give Mia this independence. I was fully prepared to start letting Mia go on some trips when she turns 16 in January, but with all the new school licence requirements, I’ll follow this winter through with her. It’s a big ask for her to manage an average day of training or competing on the hill, three hours of school work, time to stretch, do physio, eat, shower and have some down time. I think all parents must go through this phase! One minute you’re sweeping up behind them because it’s just easier, the next you’re nagging them to do things for themselves!
Mia has a load of fun off the snow, away from snowboarding too. How important do you think this is?
It’s super important, this is why I wanted Mia to stay in full time education, so she can regularly return to school and be with her friends. However I can see this changing now. We were in Australia and she was with friends she’d made from across the globe, and I realised this is where she really belongs! She’s spreading her wings, but we need to get those GCSEs done fi rst. She’s adamant that she’ll go to 6th form, but this leads straight into the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics, so there’s a lot of goals going on there. She’s also part of the skateboard crew at Graystone Action Sports in Manchester, she’s always done gymnastics and she cycles all around Cheshire with her dad. She likes to surf and she loves shopping! Giving her as many opportunities as we possibly can whilst at the same time providing the normal life of a teenager, is quite a balance.
How do you deal with the days when Mia’s performance isn’t as everyone had expected and she maybe doesn’t get the results she wanted?
Believe it or not this does happen, and it is super hard! Naturally our question is always, why? Mia and her coaches take responsibility when the results aren’t as expected. As she gets older, and we can’t take her any further technically, we’ve put everything in place for her to fulfil her potential, now it’s over to her, to a degree. We all work together to support Mia and she always bounces back.
Last year Nigel had to put Mia in a medical helicopter on the mountain and that is every parents nightmare. The doctor said “are you her coach?” and he replied “no, I’m her dad,” and that’s when Nigel realised he didn’t want this job of coaching Mia anymore. He struggled with that one for sure. He couldn’t go in the helicopter with her because of COVID. The next two hours, until he saw Mia in the hospital, were the worst two hours of his life. He’d much rather be her dad, cheering her on at the bottom and I think he’s confident that he can step back now.
And are there any times when Mia just doesn’t want to snowboard? How do you keep her motivated?
NO!!! Not ever. Honestly, she’d snowboard 24/7 if she could and she’s always the last one off the hill.
What advice do you have for parents with small children showing masses of potential in any sport? How do you decide how hard to push them?
Read all of the above! And in particular the second question regarding making sacrifi ces. Would you give up the brand new Audi so you could fi nance all the training camps, the travel? So your talented child could fulfi l their potential? That’s the big question. Yes, she’s an extremely lucky kid, but she deserves to be the World Rookie Champion, the Junior World Champion, the European Champion. She’s worked so hard!
Who else would you like to thank for Mia’s journey so far?
The list is long! Monster Energy, Capita, Union, 686, Skull Candy, Vans, Dragon. The Snowboard Asylum. Morzine’s Sam Nelson for being Mias manager, agent, guy on the end of the phone whenever we need any advice or just want to vent. Thanks to everyone that’s supporting Mia, we certainly couldnt do it without you!