One of the most misunderstood positions in action sports, the team manager is equal parts travel agent, talent agent and life coach. A good manager is simultaneously spotting new talent while keeping current athletes happy and managing the stress levels that come along with both. Kombi’s team manager, John Emberly, comes from the East Coast of Canada and is man of many talents. He can ski as well as many of his own athletes and surfs like a madman. He also coaches park and pipe with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association. Bottom line is Emberly keeps the Kombi team stacked and running smoothly year round, ensuring your favourite skiers get to the start gates and in front of the cameras. We salute and thank him.
How did you get started in the team manager role at Kombi?
I had been sponsored by Kombi at the time for quite a while and developed a really good relationship with the management and company. I think the first time I competed in the US Open they paid my registration. Throughout all my travels as an athlete I have been fortunate enough to develop some really great friends and contacts along the way all over North America and had a really good idea on what was happening in the industry. At that point they would occasionally ask me about other riders who would submit their names for sponsorship. I remember after one of the conversations I just kind of through the idea out there to take on the role as a TM and the rest is history.
How many days of travel do you have each year?
Wow a lot; I spend a lot of time in airports (too much time). Between my own skiing, surfing, and role as a TM, I earn some major air miles. Usually every month in the winter season I?m on a plane and in a different location a few times a month.
You?re based on the east coast of Canada, a less-than-expected location for a ski team manager. What keeps you out there?
Bro I have to ask myself this quite often but definitely a combo of my friends/family, and the surf. I live right on a beautiful surf beach and get to jump in the water almost every day I?m home. It?s such a small scene here that everyone rides, skates, and surfs together, so it creates this really fun and unique spot. Halifax is a really cool place to be, and the people in Nova Scotia are the best kind! With that being said I have to really focus on studying weather forecasts and have made it a point to set aside a few trips every season where I travel to my favourite spots following the fluff and escaping the east coast ice.
Would you move to another location? And where would you if you did?
I definitely plan on having a place in BC at some point but will always call Nova Scotia home. I?m not completely decided on the exact location, but I?m really drawn to the interior and the small town vibe at spots like Red.
Can you give the readers a bit of an idea on how you find new skiers and riders to sponsor? How to get them before other companies snap them up?
Through my travel, friends, and contacts mostly. I also work with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association as a Park and Pipe coach so I have quite a bit of contact and feedback from the provincial coaches on who to look out for and who?s blowing up. I try to be at the major freeride events, and I just keep immersed in the sport and culture. We?re doing some really positive things here with our team and riders talk to one another all the time about their sponsors. If a TM/ company is doing it right, then the riders will come to you.
Who should we keep an eye on as the next big up and comer from Kombi?
This summer I really made it a point to sign some young guys to multi year deals and work with them to grow as pro athletes and team riders. Mac Jones, Sandy Boville, Noah Morrison, Logan Dobson, and Charlie Stevens are all young guys who are on the verge of doing some incredible things in the Ski world.
What is the best and worst trends in skiing and snowboarding right now?
Honestly the worst trend is the whole Gangster Image. I don?t know how some guys can look at themselves in the mirror and be serious. 99% of the time they are wealthy suburbanites. Our sport doesn?t really have ghettos, thugs, hard knocks, or guns. They even talk like pretend thugs on newschoolers and facebook. Stop pretending and get real. Thug Life! hahahahahaha
Best trend would have to be the movement back to the mountains and away from ?just the park?. You can tell that the element of respect for big mountain riding is coming back. Park is super fun and the spot to be when it?s not puking, but get out and learn to ride the entire mountain. Another really positive trend is that companies like Kombi are starting to concern themselves with mountain preservation and making changes to protect the environment.
Would you rather ski the biggest mountain with the deepest snow in the world every day for the rest of your life? Or ski average ski hills all over the world for the rest of your life but never get to ski the best mountains in the world?
This is really tough. My favourite part of skiing right now is riding pow but I?d have to go with continuing to travel the world, meeting new people and experiencing all the unique cultures and countries.
What is the best advice you could give to someone who wanted to be a team manager?
Understand the industry and culture; the good, bad, and ugly. I think being part of the skate and surf culture definitely helps. Most of my crew all skates, surfs, and rides together. I?m able to see trends emerging a lot of the time before it even hits skiing. You really need to love what you do and just be a part of it. I think the fact that I have a different perspective as a rider and a TM also helps. I?ve been sponsored since the age of 16, and continue to ride for Sessions, Nordica, Dragon, Kombi, and Giro, so I?ve experienced every type and style of team managers. I know what riders want from a sponsor and a TM, and do everything in my ability to make it happen for them.
What is the relationship between you and the athletes?
I think I play a lot of different roles with all members of our team. I always try to really get to know a rider before they sign on the dotted line. I?d like to think I really support the team whatever their needs are. Keeping them stoked is my job as a TM so in most cases respect is formed and friendships are created. We do a team shoot every year and get to spend some time getting to know each other. It?s a good opportunity to hear from them exactly what they are up to and understand them as a person not just a rider. There are times with younger athletes that you have to offer guidance and support. It?s a learning curve to becoming a ?pro skier/snowboarder?. Some guys only communicate when they want something. That?s not how I work. Maybe suggest what they should do and what you would like them to do. It?s far from babysitting though, if someone on our team was that much of a Madonna that I have to babysit then they are wasting both our time and their time on the team is limited.