Once again, our own site member Anthony Warren (ScarletArrow) has brought us another interview. This time it's with Tony and Mari Colace, who are the INT directors for Ohio. Anthony drove out to meet these guys and transcribed this entire interview for us. He also included some video clips of the interview which I'll convert and add to the site shortly. Without further delay, I bring you ScarletArrow interviewing Toni and Mari:
SA: So tell us a little about yourself outside the waterskiing world.
Tony: I'm Tony Colace, I'm a retired die maker, married 16 years and love every aspect of waterskiing – slalom, barefoot, air chair, maybe not wakeboarding so much.
Mari: I'm Mari Colace, I'm a nurse and a mom, a water-skier, and boat driver. We have one child in heaven, one that just got married a year ago – she's in her early 20's, and two young guys we just took legal guardianship of…they're 18, and 19. We have another wedding this summer for one of them. We're looking forward to being grandparents someday.
SA: So how long have you guys been waterskiing?
Mari: I started skiing when I was about 10 years old – the ol' get up on two and kick one ski off. My dad finally said enough of that I learned how to do a deepwater start. I stopped skiing for quite a number of years until I met Tony, then we were living on a lake and I got back into it where we were skiing almost every morning. We actually got involved in INT league about 15 years ago when it was run by the former director Jim McClure.
Tony: I started sometime around 10 years old too…my dad told me if I don't get up, I can't get in the boat!
SA: So you were pretty much always on public waters?
Tony: Yes, we were always on public waters until we got involved with INT. We didn't know how good private water could be until then.
SA: You mentioned that you started skiing with INT some 15 years ago, but how did you get involved in the INT league in current capacity (as state coordinators) now?
Mari: Well it started with wanting to get back into INT and not having a state coordinator. The former director for Ohio had stopped and we were going to Indiana's INT. As it turned out, the state coordinators for Indiana were also thinking folding, so we pressed the idea of starting an Ohio and Indiana INT league together. Thankfully, Indiana decided to keep going, so we just moved forward with Ohio since our hearts were already committed.
Mari: We also saw it as a way to help keep the sport alive and introduce a lot of new skiers to the course, maybe help them buy a new ski, or maybe even a new boat like when one of sponsors (Western Ohio Watersports) was able to sell Tige hrough INT.
SA: So there are a lot of us out there who have never even heard of INT league before. I was first told about it last year from my dealer, VanDevere Marine. Can you give us a brief description as to what the INT league is all about?
Tony: Well the mission of INT league is to promote amateur events for the entire family for all ages and abilities in a non-intimidating environment. INT is a different kind of competition venue because you only ski against those who have the same ability as you – no matter what your age.
Mari: INT is a grassroots program. It's something that demands a contribution from everyone, especially the competitors, so it gives you the opportunity to build into the community whatever you want to get out of it. We have the ability to be more flexible with the areas we emphasize rather than adhere to a rigid standard. There are some areas of the country where certain disciplines (slalom vs. wakeboarding) are more popular than others, or even certain divisions are more popular than others (open vs. wide ride division).
SA: So at its most basic level INT is an ability based water sports tournament?
Mari: Yes, but we like to think of it as a league. That's what INT stands for "International Novice Tour". Our dream is to have a variety of leagues in cities all around the state where families are competing every couple of weeks – parents and children alike – similar to how softball, soccer, and baseball work.
SA: Are there any other unique distinctions to the culture of INT?
Mari: One thing that is special about INT is that it is a very family friendly and safe environment. We really believe we are a place where parents can trust that their children are involved in an activity that is healthy and productive, and, at the same time, parents are free to participate.
SA: Why is the INT league an ideal place for 15off level skiers to participate?
Tony: First of all, there's an opportunity ski on smooth controlled water. That's something any skier can appreciate. How many of us have to get up a 6a.m. to get good water? At INT you can ski at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and still have perfect water. Another reason is that all of the major boat manufacturers are represented, Correctcraft, Mastercraft, Tige, Moomba, Centurion, and Malibu all provide brand new boats. I love skiing behind a new boat – it's awesome! Another opportunity is equipment. Part of the sale process is the ability to try out new equipment. And the biggest problem with pro shops is that no one comes in any more. Everyone reads on the internet what the skis or bindings can do, but few people have the opportunity to actually demo a new piece of equipment. An INT tournament gives a skier an opportunity to try something new out.
Mari: Mulligans! If you fall, miss a gate, or a ball – you get to try it again. I use this one often! LOL. Plus we have a "Novice" division where you don't even have to be at a level where you can complete a full pass. You can ski the mini course, you can even do two skis! And we can't overlook one of my favorite parts and that is we all hang out and talk to each other, coach each other, and talk about improving.
Tony: If we're talking about favorites, mine would have to be the wide ride division. You can begin at any speed you want and it has a maximum speed of 30 mph no matter the rope length. I like that because I don't like falling at 36mph.
SA: Yeah we saw some pretty spectacular falls at 36mph last year! What do you say to the person who comes to you and says "I'm just not good enough to participate"?
Mari: Yeah, we hear that a lot. We try to explain to skiers that if you can get up and get through the wake, then they can compete – even with making it through the course.
Tony: There are some skiers where we have had to make 3 or 4 attempts to even get them out of the water. And we're flexible enough to allow that to happen. That's the key right there – we're flexible enough to create competition for everyone – no matter what their skill level is.
SA: Slalom skiers are typically an intense bunch, usually focusing only the things that will help them increase their buoy count. How can the INT league help a 15off level skier get better?
Mari: We saw one of our female skiers last year, she really benefited from the camaraderie and on the dock coaching. She went from the Novice, to 4th Class, 3rd Class, then 2rd Class at 32mph.
Tony: The competition isn't such that athletes aren't willing to talk to one another. Everyone wants to see the other person get better. I've never been to an INT event where everyone standing on the dock isn't involved in some kind of conversation on how to get better.
Mari: One of the things we're hoping to do different this year is organize more practice session between skiers. We do have a ski clinic scheduled at VanDevere's the Friday before the tournament. I think it's going to make a big difference because it's going to be affordable, it's going to be encouraging, it's going to be something that people can come and get some valuable information from.
SA: So how is the ski clinic going to work?
Mari: Well, the slalom skiers will be able to go for 4 hours in the morning. We'll take a break for lunch, and then the wakeboarder's will go in the afternoon. There will be just a very small fee and you have to be an INT member. We'll have a pro for both the slalom skiers and wakeboarders. We're still working on who will be there because there are some logistical issues because of the proximity of the MC Pro Tour.
SA: So the INT league is open to men, women, young and old?
Mari: Yes, the youngest we have had is a 4 year old and I think the oldest is 71 I think. And that's one thing that make's it real interesting…young against old, male against female, it adds a real dynamic!
SA: So if someone wants to find out more information or take the next step, what can they do?
Mari: Your best bet is go to www.intleagues.com . You can pay for your membership online, and this year wear are offering a season pass for all of the stops.
Tony: You can find information about all the different divisions, how scoring is done. Everything you need is right there.
SA: What role do sponsors play in helping INT?
Tony: Sponsors are so important because they are the backbone of our budget, and without our budget we couldn't do many of things we do. They provide us will the lakes like Charles Mill Marina, they provide us with the boats, the even provide us drivers like Boathouse Marine.
SA: Where are the INT league National Championships going to be held this year?
Mari: Oh, the championship is the highlight of your life (besides marriage, childbirth, [etc.])! This year the national championships will be in Bakersfield, CA, and it has been moved to the first weekend in October.
Tony: Championship weekend is like a Disney experience. You walk into the gate and you are just in awe of the experience. You walk through a large archway at the entrance, We Are the Champions is being played over sound system. They really make you feel like you are a champion – because you are! It probably the only time many people will get the opportunity to perform in front of a couple of thousand people.
Thanks again to Tony, Mari, and ScarletArrow for this awesome interview!
GT, 4/10/2008: Good interview SA!
Everyone who has ever met Mari and Tony know immediately they've met a one in a million couple and made friends for life. They represent everything that is right about our sport. Thanks for everything you do! I can't wait to get the tournament season rolling.
I'm FIRED UP!!
Rick Stocks, 4/10/2008: Thank you for having this interview with Mari and Tony. Mari and Tony as new coordinators last year really understood the INT platform and have shown so many people in there community there love for the sport and there love for people. Mari and Tony were awarded last year by INT as the New Cordinators of the year and INT is so greatful to have them part of our family. Thank you all and we hope to see you on the water. God Bless
Rick Stocks, INT Founder