By Ken Castro | Sept. 25, 2018, 5:33 p.m. (ET)

Noah Hoffman speaks to a group of children at Youth Enrichment Services as part of a Team for Tomorrow event on Sept. 24, 2018 in Boston.

 

BOSTON — On a chilly, rather uninviting fall afternoon in the midst of rush hour, an aspiring group of young runners matched strides with their “coach.”

Oblivious to the world outside of the venue, the athletes, seemingly empowered by their Olympian guest, successfully navigated through a 90-minute workout. 

Youth Enrichment Services (YES) of Boston welcomed two-time Olympic cross-country skier Noah Hoffman Monday evening to lead the aforementioned workout and provide a glimpse of his inspirational journey of becoming a world-class athlete.

Hoffman works with myriad charitable and social awareness projects, but was in Boston specifically as part of the United States Olympic Committee’s Team for Tomorrow program. Team for Tomorrow is a community outreach initiative in which athletes give back by donating their time and energy to inspire young athletes and promote Olympic values.

“This is something I try to do fairly often, to be involved with youth sporting events, so when the USOC approaches me and says they want to support a club, the answer is of course, yes,” said Hoffman, 29. “Working with Team USA is an awesome opportunity because they are able to support the YES program in a different way, by providing equipment and the club with some of the needs that I can’t provide. It’s really cool to partner with them in that aspect and represent Team USA in an official capacity.

“My message to the group tonight is that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to if you work and train hard. I never believed for a minute that I could be an Olympian. Never thought that I could ski for a job, for 11 years. You can’t dream this stuff up.”

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Hoffman, from Aspen, Colorado, was first named to a U.S. Ski Team as a junior in 2008. In 2012, he had a breakthrough year in which he captured the national championship as well as a second-place finish at the under-23 world championships. In the 2013-14 world cup season, he scored a stage win, the first for an American man since 1983. He made his Olympic Winter Games debut in Sochi in 2014 and returned in PyeongChang last February.

Now retired, Hoffman added, “I would like to spend the rest of my life giving back as I was helped immensely to get where I am today. Olympic sport in this country requires support from many people, and my career was no exception. In fact, if anything, I had more support than most Olympic athletes in helping me achieve success in my athletic career.”

YES Executive Director Bryan Van Dorpe touched on the immediate and hopefully lasting impact world-class performers such as Hoffman offer. 

“For the athletes that desire to give back to the community like Noah, we want to provide them that forum,” Van Dorpe said. “They tell their personal stories about going through challenges. Noah told them that he was going back to school in his talk and that’s a great message for them to hear. It’s huge, you can see the reaction from the kids; Noah’s a role model for them.”

Hoffman is currently three weeks into his studies at Brown University as part of the Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) Program – a curriculum intended for older, non-traditional students.

YES is a non-profit, community-based organization, now in its 50th year, that provides a year-round platform for athletic experiences with the goal of nurturing personal life skills. 

“Our volunteers are outstanding,” said Van Dorpe. “Many of them are high school or college athletes who are here year-round.”

For Hoffman, a three-time national champion, the process of becoming an Olympian offered a profound understanding of the larger picture. 

“This was by no means something I did solo,” Hoffman said. “I believe it’s impossible to reach this level alone. Even the athletes who have come out from much less privileged situations than I do still generally receive help. There are so many talented athletes out there who don’t get the needed help, and that’s why there are programs like YES to provide these valuable opportunities. Think about what a life we’ve gotten to live and the places we’ve gotten to go; more kids should have that chance.” 

Ken Castro is a reporter from Connecticut. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.