A coach for all reasons


Anna Schulz

Born and raised in Johnson, Anna Schulz is a Vermont outdoor sports enthusiast. She lives in a small white house on the back roads of Craftsbury with her husband, Ollie Burress; their toddler, Emma (affectionately known as EB); and their chocolate lab, Hazel.

A muddy truck sits in her driveway. A car seat takes up one side of the backseat, while the other side is covered with a mat to protect the interior from dog hair. The passenger seat is filled with bike tools, ski wax, and water bottles. A silver car with a ski box on top is parked in front of a human rights mural painted on the side of a bright red barn. The flowers in her slightly-overgrown garden bloom brightly in the summer, and vines trail from the baskets of plants that hang above her front porch.

A jar sitting on her kitchen counter reads “Dear Anna, Hope you feel better soon! We need someone to raise our kids. Love…” The signatures scrawled along the bottom are nearly illegible, with lettering ranging from neat cursive to the harsh lines of someone just learning to write. Her fridge is covered in notes, letters, pictures, and magnets that she’s accumulated over the years.

The equipment propped on her porch changes from season to season. In the summer, a bright teal mountain bike leans against the side of the house, which is swapped for a pair of cross-country skis soon after the first snowfall of winter.

While it’s most common to see her dressed and ready for her next outdoor adventure, Anna occasionally dons jeans and high top Vans for trekking through town. Reflective sunglasses often hide her bright blue eyes, her reddish-brown hair typically tied in a messy bun on the top of her head.

The corners of her eyes are permanently crinkled, with a mix of creases from smiling and squinting in the sunlight.

Anna’s name appears on several banners in the Lamoille high school gym for the state titles her various sports teams won in the early 2000s. She cites the coaches of those teams as some of the most influential people in her life. Particularly, she mentions Dean LaBrie, her soccer coach.

“He was a sort of person who would notice when you weren’t at school for a couple of days and would call to see how you were doing,” she says. He would talk to athletes about managing stress, school, or anything else going on in their lives, while also pushing everyone to play their best and be competitive.

After graduating from Lamoille Valley Union High School as the valedictorian, Anna went on to ski at Harvard for four years. Growing up in a small community like Lamoille can feel stifling, especially as a young adult, and she says that Harvard felt like an opportunity to go out and experience a different environment from the one she was used to.

“I think if I had chosen not to [go to Harvard], it might have made for an easier and more comfortable college experience, but I probably always would have wondered what would it have been like if I had gone,” she says.

She went into college undecided, and ended up studying government with a focus in environmental policy. “When I had to pick a major, I still realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And government is so broad that you can dabble in a bunch of different things and still declare it as your major,” she says.

An adamant believer in following your passions and doing what feels right, Anna practices what she preaches. Her passion for skiing, plants, and community are all clearly reflected in her career.

Immediately out of college, Anna worked for two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she was a Farm to School Coordinator in Orleans county while her husband pursued post-collegiate skiing.

After he retired from professional athleticism, they moved to Oregon for a change of scenery. While living in Bend, Anna got into coaching for the first time at the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, a non-profit that offers snow sport training to middle- and high-school aged athletes.

She eventually returned to Vermont to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Administration at UVM. She continued to dabble in coaching, helping out at the Mansfield Nordic Club, which is based out of Jericho.

After receiving her degree, she worked as a graduate research assistant at the UVM Transportation Research Center for a few years, figuring out how New England’s transportation infrastructure needed to adapt to the threats posed by climate change.

This was work was particularly important after Tropical Storm Irene, which caused hundreds of roads and bridges to become impassable due to flooding and landslides.

Entire communities were cut off during the worst of the storm, which was a wake-up call to many institutions regarding research into how governmental and political structures could support the adaption of Vermont road systems, especially with limited funding.

However, she eventually decided that the job wasn’t right for her. “It’s cool and important, but at the end of the day, I just felt like the day-to-day work was just staring at spreadsheets, and that wasn’t super fun,” she says.

When she got a call from her old ski coach at Craftsbury Outdoor Center asking her to come fill the position of head junior coach, she decided to return to rural Vermont once again. When they offered her husband a job, as well, she said that the deal was just too good to turn down.

Now, with athletes aged 6-22 under her tutelage, it’s rare to find a person at Craftsbury who doesn’t know her name. Quick to snap at you if you’ve done something wrong or forgotten something important, she’s not someone anyone likes to cross. Consistent tardiness to practice, bad roadside running manners, or flouting of COVID protocols result in annoyed emails to program participants.

For those who keep their complaining to a minimum and do what needs to be done, she’s quick to flash a smile or crack a joke. For many young skiers, Anna has come to embody the very things that she valued in her own athletic experience. An extended period of absence will often result in a quick check-in via text or email, just to make sure you’re doing well.

Her main goal as a coach is to meet athletes where they’re at, and to support them in whatever skiing goals they have set for themselves. At the beginning of every ski season, she sends out a questionnaire that encourages athletes to reflect on their past season and to set goals for the upcoming season.

Most of the questions are about process, team dynamic, and personal growth, while only a few focus around results. She says that this is to help the coaches understand what athletes’ focus is around. It also helps them support kids through the college admission process, as well as opening up conversations about goal setting, mental health, and managing school and sports.

Many athletes really appreciate this approach to coaching, and love that they can enjoy the sport without any additional pressure to perform well. Even in the height of race season, Anna will consistently remind people to focus on taking care of yourself and not to stress over results.

“Anna’s so good mental-health-wise, which you don’t get in every coach,” says Meg Voision, a current member of the Craftsbury Ski Team. “She’s concerned about her racers and how they look at racing, how they’re feeling both inside and outside of the sport, whether school’s overwhelming, and she’s just always trying to figure out how she can support you best.”

Voision adds that, just a few weeks ago, she wrote an essay about a day that changed her life, and she referred to her first day at Craftsbury practice, when she met Anna and the rest of the Craftsbury coaching squad.

This support doesn’t end when skiers graduate from the program. Anna is still the recipient of calls from those who need help figuring out a major, or just skiers looking for someone to talk to.

“Even though I’m not skiing for her anymore, she still is very invested in not only my ski career, but also just my life in general, which is really, really sweet,” says Adrienne Remick, a former Craftsbury skier. “It feels like she’s a very consistent mentor in my life.”

Throughout the years, Remick says that Anna has grown into a role model, and one of her “top five favorite adults ever.” Remick also mentions that, when she met Anna as a freshman in high school, her first thought was just how cool it was to finally have a female coach.

Coaching is still a male-dominated field, and many female athletes agree that having a female coach is a really nice change. This disparity can still easily be seen at the college level.

Of the 11 NCAA ski teams in the east, only three have female coaches. Remick says that her decision to attend Colby College, where she now skis, was definitely impacted by the fact that their head coach was a woman.

When she’s not coaching, Anna is mostly concerned with chasing around her almost-two-year-old, Emma, who walked into the room with a xylophone at the moment of mention. When Emma is otherwise occupied, Anna likes to bake various types of sourdough bread.

In addition, she loves growing vegetables in the garden behind her house. “It’s so cool that you can just put seeds in the ground and then they feed you,” she says. “I think if I could do life over, I would be more involved with plants.”