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AT H L E T E PAT H W AY S - W I N T E R 2014



DEAR SPORT PROGRAM ENTHUSIAST You are making a difference in the lives of our youth. A successful sport development program will capture, retain, excite and empower our athletes. Today’s youth are faced with so many opportunities and demands for their time. Our role is to give them the options so that they can make the choices that will have a positive impact on their lives, family, community and society. This new multimedia publication, Athlete Pathways, brings together: • some of the best practices/programs, • newest research and results from the field • as well as highlights from competition reviews and • guiding principles related to sport development. Together we will learn and share ways to develop athlete pathways that achieve excellence, encourage retention and embody the true spirit of sport in Canada. Sincerely,


Debra Gassewitz President & CEO, SIRC CS4L Leadership Team



Stages of Long-Term Athlete Development


‘Athlete Development’ references in SIRC database


Sports with Long-Term Athlete Development programs

$194 million invested by Sport Canada into sport


facial muscles to smile


new hats distributed every year as part of the Rally Cap program




WHAT’S INSIDE BELIEVE Martin Boileau: Athlete Pathways


Martin Boileau, Director General for Sport Canada, is very aware of the high dropout rate of pre-teens and teenagers from sport. In this op-ed he stresses the importance of programs that will meet the needs of adolescents, and keep them interested and engaged in sport.

Options for Athletes

Sport Programs & Long-Term Athlete Development

Community Connection - Dovercourt


Things to consider when developing adolescent sport programs.


Canada’s leading athletes share their insights for young competitors in this multi-media article about the importance of believing in yourself and having programs that support different athletic pathways.




SIRC’s Debra Gassewitz talks with Stephen Nason about Dovercourt’s adoption of CS4L-LTAD and connecting their community directly with a local Olympian.

Q & A with Richard Way


The Power of Competition Review


Parents and their children’s sport


Addressing the Needs of Adolescent Athletes


Istvan Balyi and Jim Grove address puberty as a transitional period that requires developmentally appropriate training to reduce injury, burnout and dropout.


Nam Nguyen


Hockey Canada’s seasonal restructure and its benefits to player development


AT H L E T E PAT H W AY S - W I N T E R 2014






s Director General at Sport Canada, I have had the opportunity to observe the Canadian sport system from a unique vantage point. There is so much to celebrate in Canadian sport – the success of Canadian athletes on the world stage, unprecedented partnerships to support high performance sport, and the engagement of Federal-Provincial/ Territorial Governments through the Canadian Sport Policy. Above all, I have been privileged to meet athletes, coaches and leaders who are dedicated to sport in Canada and are the ones that make it all happen. Nonetheless, there are improvements that can – and should – be made in



our sport system. Too often we read media reports of young athletes being injured, of bad behavior on the field of play, or on the sidelines. Put that together with stubbornly high youth sport dropout rates, some Olympic and Paralympic sports finding they can no longer keep pace with the rest of the world, and national team coaches expressing concern about the skill gaps of even our best athletes, and it becomes clear that we have challenges that need to be addressed. Many of these challenges point to training athletes through adolescence. Pre-teens and teenagers drop out of sport at a high rate, girls in particular. We need programs that will meet the needs of adolescents, and keep them interested and engaged in sport. This is not only so that future national teams will benefit from their talents, potential and enthusiasm, but also so that they will develop and retain a love of sport, together with the requisite physical, technical, mental and tactical skills. This is how today’s youth will acquire the attributes that

will enable them to be physically active adults, tomorrow’s coaches, officials, and positive sport parents. For young participants, adolescence is time of great change, but also a time that is crucial for sport development. It is a time when participants become athletes. Physiologists tell us that adolescence provides great opportunities to develop aerobic capacity, speed, and strength. The decisionmaking ability of the brain is growing by leaps and bounds, and neural circuits are being both forged and reinforced. Canadian Sport for Life tells us that this stage, Train to Train, is critical and it is where we “make or break” athletes. For some it is also a time when there are increasing demands on their time and challenging situations can appear before them. Too often,



instead of drawing adolescents into sport, programs cut them from teams, make them choose between activities, or create barriers to peer interaction. We strive to ensure that sport has a positive effect on the athletes involved. Given all the shared responsibility in our sport system, it is critical that we work together to develop adolescent athletes, and keep them in sport. This means finding ways to create more obvious pathways from club to provincial/territorial to national programing. Offering programs that emphasize what is in the best interests of the athlete, rather than always making the athlete conform. This might mean creative flexibility, or tackling traditional practices in a new way. The pages of this SIRCuit include ideas and insight for how each of us – each in our different roles – can make the changes required to strengthen the sport system, and our athletes’ pathways.

Action for sports: Are there gaps in the development pathway of our sport? If so, what steps can we take to close those gaps? What adjustments could be made to our programs in order to better address the specific barriers to continued participation faced by adolescents in our sport? How can we work more effectively with our sport’s stakeholders to improve our athlete pathways?

Click here to download

It might not be easy, but it will be worth the effort. u


AT H L E T E PAT H W AY S - W I N T E R 2014




for Athletes


oung athletes will be faced with so many options, opportunities and choices. We need to be sensitive to what they are going through, to believe in them and to keep the athlete’s best interests in mind. In listening to some of our leading athletes, we discovered what they thought were the most important things to take into consideration when designing sport development programs for young athletes. The most common comments focused around the following observations: 1. Believe in the individual 2. Ensure they know there are options 3. Provide the support

From an athlete perspective, it’s about developing a motivation that comes from within instead of having a focus on nothing but “the win”. In his latest research, Dr. Patrick Gaudreau, (see page 7) observes that by offering young athletes diverse opportunities and customized choices, they can help their athletes identify goals that are important to them and create a sport experience that is more enjoyable. Jean Labonté, Canadian Paralympic Gold medal Sledge Hockey athlete, addresses this in his interview with SIRC when he talks about the need for young athletes to intentionally think about their goals. His advice to young athletes is this: “What do you feel inside? What do you want? Where



do you want to go? Try to forget what everybody else wants you to do. It starts from deep down inside and that’s what is going to drive you. Think about yourself and what you really want to do. You can’t do something for someone else; you have to do it first and foremost for you. And if you really want something, you will find a way to do it and people will follow you and will help you.” In the sport environment coaches play an important role in helping young athletes determine their training pathway. As James Holder, decathlon/ heptathlon coach with the Ottawa Lions Track & Field club, comments “It is always a balancing act, and I am very aware of my role as coach for these athletes at a critical time in their

lives. They aren’t kids anymore … they are young adults who need to make their own decisions. It is often part of my role to provide adult guidance, not just about the sport, but also about the bigger environment around the sport”. By providing the fundamentals in sport and by aiding in the development of life skills coaches can help athletes achieve balance. Rob Zamuner, former NHL player and current youth coach, echoed this at the Canadian Sport for Life National Summit when he said “Perspective is critical. Don’t take away their dreams, but perspective is very important. Encourage the athlete, but ensure they are well-rounded”. Giving athletes a solid foundation on which to explore their varying opportunities allows for positive sport growth and development.

Jean Labonté - Sledge Hockey - Gatineau, Quebec


“You can’t do something for someone else; you have to do it first and foremost for you. And if you really want something, you will find a way to do it and people will follow you and will help you.” Jean Labonté

Listen to an excerpt from an interview with Jean-Labonté

However, support from the coach must be combined with support from the parents in terms of making sure all parties, athlete, coach and family, are on the same page. It is during this transition time from child to

never consciously made the choice to be a skater, but I think the best piece of advice that my mom always gave me was not to identify myself with my sport. So, I may be a figure skater, but I’m so much more than that. What I

What is a goal pursued for autonomous reasons? Patrick Gaudreau, Ph.D. University of Ottawa


thletes can set all kinds of goals. Some goals are the learning and mastering of tasks. These mastery goals help athletes focus on improving and developing their skills. Other goals are raw performance or normative goals. These performance goals guide the athletes to perform better than others and achieve rankings among the best athletes. Studies show that mastery goals usually help optimize the quality of the sport experience by creating athletes with higher satisfaction. As for performance goals, they sometimes help optimize performance by making athletes more likely to achieve a better performance. These results are similar in boys and girls. Our recent studies show that both the mastery goals than performance goals can help performance and sporty satisfaction with the proviso that athletes pursue these goals for autonomous reasons rather than for controlled reasons.

In Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s “30 Seconds to Greatness video”, they narrow in on Tessa’s secret to success. Source: Canadian Olympic Committee adolescent to young adult that athletes face pathway pressures on many fronts. What sport do I pursue? What school do I choose? Which friendships should I maintain? Where do I place my priorities? Many of these decisions have long term impacts, but it’s the support behind these choices that help the athletes grow as an individual and maintain a balance between sport and life. World and Olympic Champion figure skater Tessa Virtue shares her “Secret to Success”, when she says “I


do on the ice doesn’t dictate the type of person I am off the ice. I think I’ve always tried to maintain that balance.” In an article describing her pathways through sport, Olympian and Canadian Champion snowboarder Alexa Loo relates how her parents provided her with a well-rounded, multi-sport foundation, but she took it from there “Ironically, my mother said ‘I am not raising an Olympic athlete. We want to raise a well-rounded child. We don’t want an Olympian.’ Boy did I show her!”

• Athletes can pursue their goals for autonomous reasons. In this case, the athletes compete for fun, because it contributes to the overall development of the person and because the sport allows them to pursue goals that are important to them. • Athletes may also pursue their goals for controlled reasons. In this case, the athletes compete to avoid feeling negative feelings and because they feel some kind of social pressure. The fact of pursuing a mastery goal or performance goal for autonomous reasons (rather than for controlled reasons) could improve both performance and the athlete sport satisfaction. In this sense, the setting of goals pursued for autonomous reasons is important to maximize both quality (satisfaction) and quantity (performance) of sport participation - two objectives of LongTerm Athlete Development (LTAD). u

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“The biggest gift I received from sport was knowing and finding the strength that I didn’t know I had, to go through challenges.” Jennifer Heil

So how do you go after sport without sacrificing too much? Olympic and World Champion freestyle skier, Jennifer Heil offers advice to young athletes on how to pursue sport for the right reasons, with a good foundation. She explains, “The biggest gift I received from sport was knowing and finding the strength that I didn’t know I had, to go through challenges. We never know if we are going to meet our goals, but knowing I have the strength to go after them, that’s been the greatest gift. … My greatest memories and greatest rewards are from the day to day, from finding that strength, from going through it, from the lessons I’ve learned and the excitement and the fun of watching myself improve and grow. It’s not a straight line and there are always set-backs, there are always challenges.” To help young athletes maintain this focus on fun and individual development she speaks to the important role parents play in athlete development and how they can help by understanding the principles of Canadian Sport for Life and the Long-Term Athlete Development framework. In order for all these roles – athlete, parent, coach – to work together in harmony, there needs to be a sport system in place to encourage collaborative action. With a system geared towards recognizing the different stages in development and the roles and needs of each of the players taken into consideration at each of these stages, progress and goal setting can be achieved. Hockey



Jennifer Heil discusses her advice to parents and athletes for pursuing success in sport.


#WeAreWinter: Justine DufourLapointe’s Olympic journey to Sochi 2014

Source: Canadian Olympic Committee


“There is a certain pressure knowing that Canadians everywhere will be watching, but I have to see it the other way. It is more like Canada will be supporting me, proud of how hard I’ve worked and my journey.” Justine Dufour-Lapointe

Canada provides us with a good example of this in their article later on in this issue where they describe their competition review process and how it resulted in a restructuring of the schedule to keep more young athletes playing throughout the entire season (see page 20). Jennifer Heil also believes in a system that allows athletes to grow through sport. Whatever their development pathway, sport should be available to athletes regardless of age or stage. When it comes to athletes entering the competitive stages, her advice to the sport system is to find ways of maintaining the joy and excitement of the sport, especially as the competition gets more intense and the


challenges get greater. As developing athletes move from the participant to the competitor it is up to the system and the programming to enable them not to lose the joy in sport that inspired them to start up in the first place. As Jennifer Heil says in a interview with the National Post, she says, for athletes “it’s a very fine line between managing the outcome and managing your performance”.

help our athletes achieve the success they dream of. In the words of our Olympic gold medalist, Justine DufourLapointe: “There is a certain pressure knowing that Canadians everywhere will be watching, but I have to see it the other way. It is more like Canada will be supporting me, proud of how hard I’ve worked and my journey.” u

In the end it up to all of us – the coaches, the family and friends, the sport programming – to support our athletes in achieving their goals. At a time when medals are often the measure of success, using the framework of support through programming, skill development and goal setting will





AND LONG-TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPM A clear path to better sport, greater health and higher achievement.

Developing sport programs for adolescents requires attention to factors that affect the athlete development and approaches that address varying stages of development. With Long-Term Athlete Development, the Train to Train stage, typically focuses on building an aerobic base, developing speed and strength towards the end of the stage, and further developing and consolidating sport-specific skills.

A helpful checklist for the Train to Train stage from Canadian Sport for Life - Long-Term Athlete Development 2.0 Depending on sport-specific needs, make aerobic training a priority after Peak Height Velocity (PHV) while maintaining or further developing levels of skill, speed, strength and flexibility. Encourage flexibility training, as the rapid growth of bones during this stage leads to stress on tendons, ligaments and muscles. Consider the sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to strength training for females: immediately after PHV or the onset of menarche. For males the sensitive period for strength begins 12 to 18 months after PHV. Note that both aerobic and strength trainability are dependent on the maturation levels of the athlete. Learn to cope with the physical and mental challenges of competition and develop further mental skills.

Introduce athletes with a disability to specialized sport-specific equipment such as racing wheelchairs and athletic prostheses. For all athletes, the use of body-size and skill-level appropriate equipment remains important. Optimize training and competition ratios and follow a 60:40 percent training-to-competition ratio. Too much competition wastes valuable training time and conversely, not enough inhibits the in-competition practice of technical/tactical and decision-making skills. Encourage athletes to focus on two sports based on their desire to participate and their sport-specific potential. Utilize single and/or double periodization as the optimal framework for preparation. Train athletes in regular competitive situations in the form of practice matches, scrimmages or competitive games and drills.

Source: Canadian Sport for Life - Long Term Athlete Development 2.0

Download the new CS4L-LTAD 2.0 Resource Paper





Active for Life

Sport programmers are encouraged to be aware of numerous key factors that influence the long-term development of the athlete. The following factors are the key components upon which LongTerm Athlete Development is built:

Train to Win

1. Physical Literacy: Physical Literacy is the cornerstone of both participation and excellence in physical activity and sport. Individuals who are physically literate are more likely to be active for life. 2. Specialization: Sports can be classified as either early or late specialization. Well-known early specialization sports include artistic and acrobatic sports such as gymnastics, diving and figure skating. These differ from late specialization sports in that very complex skills are learned before maturation since they cannot be fully mastered if taught after maturation.

Train to Compete

3. Developmental Age: Children of the same chronological age can differ by several years in their level of biological maturation.

Train to Train

4. Sensitive Periods: A sensitive period is a broad timeframe or window of opportunity when the learning of a specific skill or the development of a specific physical capacity is particularly effective. 5. Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development: Mental, cognitive and emotional factors are essential to each athlete’s development.

Learn to Train

6. Periodization: Simply put, periodization is a time management. As a planning technique, it provides the framework for arranging the complex array of training processes into a logical and scientifically-based schedule to bring about optimal improvements in performance.


7. Competition: Optimal competition calendar planning at all stages is critical to athlete development. At certain stages, developing the physical capacities take precedence over competition. At later stages, the ability to compete well becomes the focus. 8. Excellence Takes Time: There are no shortcuts to achieving excellence.

Active Start

9. System Alignment and Integration: The need for system alignment and integration is necessary to enhance the learning experience and to increase participation and excellence levels. 10. Continuous Improvement: The LTAD framework is based upon the principle of continuous improvement, both in its dynamic evolution and in its application. u FRANÇAIS

AT H L E T E PAT H W AY S - W I N T E R 2014


support support

Athlete Development frameworks Participation in sport and physical activity is extremely important for the development and the health of all youth. Sport and physical activity is meant to be fun and enjoyable for all ages and at all stages. Long-Term Athlete Development and Active for Life not only helps create stronger and more talented athletes, but also helps to encourage a lifestyle of staying active and fit as we age. These frameworks acknowledge physical, mental, and cognitive development at different stages of life so as to make sure the participants are enjoying sport and continue to participate as they get older, whether it is competitive or recreational. Resources on LTAD frameworks: Examples of Provincial Implementation Plans • Sport Information Resource • Basketball Québec Centre • Golf Québec • Judo Québec • Canadian Sport for Life • Triathlon Québec • Ski Québec Alpin • Association Snowboard Québec • Taekwondo Québec • Volleyball Québec • Field Hockey British Columbia • Taekwondo British Columbia • Synchro Newfoundland • Softball Ontario

Racing on Skates - Speed Skating Canada

Source: Speed Skating Canada

Speed Skating Canada has done an amazing job in this video that explains the science behind long term athlete development and how it’s been incorporated into their athlete development pathway. “Racing on Skates puts athletes at the centre of the sport experience. It provides coaches, officials and administrators at all levels of the sport with the scientific evidence they need to make the best possible programming decisions.”



National Sport Long-Term Athlete Development Frameworks • Alpine Canada • Archery Canada • Athletics Canada • Badminton Canada • Baseball Canada • Canada Basketball • Biathlon Canada • Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton • Boccia • Bowling Federation of Canada • Boxing Canada • Canadian Broomball Federation • Canoe Kayak Canada • Cross Country Canada • Canadian Curling Association • Canadian Cycling Association • Equine Canada • Canadian Fencing Federation • Field Hockey Canada • Football Canada • Canadian Freestyle Ski Association • Goalball • Golf Canada • Gymnastics Canada • Hockey Canada • Judo Canada • Karate Canada • Canadian Lacrosse Association • Canadian Sport Parachuting Association • Racquetball Canada • Ringette Canada • Rowing Canada • Rugby Canada • Shooting Federation of Canada • Skate Canada • Canada Snowboard • Canadian Soccer Association • Softball Canada • Special Olympics • Speed Skating Canada • Squash Canada • Swimming Canada • Synchro Canada • Taekwondo Canada • Tennis Canada • Triathlon Canada • Volleyball Canada • Water Polo Canada • WaterSki & Wakeboard Canada • Wrestling Canada • Sail Canada


TRY A TRI IN 4 MINUTES!! Looking for a way to engage your parents in the sport their kids are playing? Try a quick role playing

exercise as was demonstrated at the Canadian Sport for Life National Summit 2014. During his quick four minute session introducing his TRi KiDS Triathlon series program, Brad Melville had the 200+ member audience up on their feet and cheering for triathlon! How did he do it? As easy as standing up and hitting the starting line. Brad had his entire audience move through a TRi KiDS triathlon accompanied by his 12 year old assistant. The audience finished with miles of smiles and a room full of energy. Take a look at how it was done. 1. Stand up and have your group shake out the kinks and warm up their muscles. Imagine you’ve prepared all your equipment in the transition zone. Head to the starting line …. And your off 2. You dive into the water and you are swimming. Paddle those arms and move through the water. There’s the end of the course, you are out of the water and running into the transition.

3. You find your kit and change into your shoes. Hop onto your bike and pedal your way out onto the course. Peddle those legs, lean over your handle bars and feel the wind in your face as you zoom around the course. 4. Transition zone is back in site, climb off your bike and run to the drop off. Your legs are tired and a bit shaky, but it’s time to head out in the run. 5. You can hear yourself breathing hard, but you are feeling strong. Running, running. You see the finish line off in the distance. Almost there. 6. The crowd starts cheering and you feel their energy driving you to the end. Raise your arms and let out a cheer. You’ve done it! You’ve finished your first triathlon. 7. Don’t forget to cool down and get that post-race recovery fuel. 8. Congratulations, you are a triathlete!


AT H L E T E PAT H W AY S - W I N T E R 2014




AND THEIR CHILDREN’S SPORT Jocelyn East, Ph.D., parent and sport researcher


hen our children are young, we make choices with the aim of allowing them to acquire values and experiences that will shape their personalities for future years, sometimes for their entire lives. One of the choices that we make as parents is to take our children by the hand and shuttle them early Saturday mornings to arenas, pools or gyms (sometimes all three in the same day!) found all over Canada. We do this because we want them to develop their physical and interpersonal skills. We are aware that this first introduction to physical activity could mark the beginning of a long adventure culminating in a journey that may follow a variety of athletic pathways within the sport system



For many parents, the choice to introduce young people to sport is based on our past athletic experiences or from the love and passion that we developed as an athlete, coach, official, volunteer, or simply sports enthusiast; these positive experiences and emotions forever leave a lasting impression on our lives. In essence, we fundamentally believe that sport can contribute to the integral development of the person. The athlete’s pathway is influenced by numerous factors that must be taken into consideration, all the while remembering our priority is the the well-being of our children. Our expectations are, however, faced with many challenges. For one, our children’s interests often change, while other times they develop a one-dimensional interest towards one sport. Bombarded by an ever expanding range of

sports options, we are trying to cope with this by making the best choices for our young athletes and their development. I have noticed that one challenge to managing all these interests is that although the sport system offers many options for participation, there is sometimes a lack of flexibility and collaboration between sports because of needless administrative hurdles that get in a participant’s way. For example, simply due to a lack of vision, flexibility or awareness of athlete development principles on the part of clubs or coaches, some young hockey or soccer players are discouraged from participating in other sporting activities that would without a doubt be useful for their development.

support Another observation I have made through discussions with other parents, is the difficulty of reconciling our own expectations with those of our children and with those of the coaches and club administrators who guide them. Parents must cope with widely varying coaching styles from one season to the next and from one sport to another. The flexibility and experience levels of coaches, officials and sport administrators, as well as their own interests and objectives, may sometimes conflict with our expectations

and those of our children. As parents we must then manage our frustrations as well as our children’s, since the expectations and reality do not match. As a parent of two children who have reached the elite levels of their sports, I have noticed how these challenges multiply as they rise up through the ranks. The pressures grow stronger, and the parents’ role is fundamental to their children’s progress. We become moderators between our own expectations, those of the youth, and

those of coaches and the administrative structures. As parents, we have to adjust our expectations and guide our children to ensure that their athletic experience is of a quality that fosters optimum development. Without the positive involvement of parents in sport, athletic progress will be arduous, as will life itself. The privilege of seeing our children develop their potential in and through sport is immeasurably rewarding. We believe that sport has the power to make their lives a powerful adventure! u

Canadian Sport for Life: A Sport Parent’s Guide “Medical and sport research shows that our children are increasingly at risk for obesity and disease due to low levels of activity and poor nutritional habits. Some experts have also suggested that Canada is producing declining performances in international competition due to a lack of physical activity and sport development during childhood years.” In the optimal zone of parent involvement, parents are reactive, active and proactive in their children’s activity. Inactive and hyperactive parents can reduce their child’s enthusiasm for participation. What parents can do at home to support athlete development in adolescence: • How does your child experience sport? • An introduction to the CS4L model • What sport research says • What you can do at LTAD stages • Supporting and promoting CS4L


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dolescent athletes need developmentally appropriate training, competition and recovery programs that respect the dramatic physical changes that take place in their bodies during puberty. Traditionally, sport programs have done a poor job of addressing these changes. Instead, the tendency has been to provide them with scaleddown adult programs, and our athletes have frequently paid the price through injury, burnout, and premature deselection from the talent stream.

Challenges of puberty Puberty is a transitional period in maturation that produces significant physical, mental, and emotional challenges for training and



competition. In Long-Term Athlete Development, puberty spans the late Learn to Train stage for early maturers; the Train to Train stage for average maturers; and the early Train to Compete stage for late maturers. With male athletes, those who mature early tend to experience early success in their sport. They are generally bigger, stronger and faster than their peers at an early age, so they tend to outperform them. Coaches, administrators and parents often interpret their strong early performance as indication of superior talent. Meanwhile, the late maturers in the same cohort tend to drop out of the sport or activity because they either feel inadequate or they are ignored by their coaches, or a combination of both.

It has been estimated that as much as two-thirds of the top athletes of the world are in fact late maturers. Therefore, it behoves coaches and administrators to find a way to keep late maturing males in sport programs until they have had a chance to realize their potential. Female athletes face the opposite challenge during puberty. Girls who mature early will often drop out of sport and activity because the changes in their bodies actually tend to diminish their performance. The rapid widening of their hips, for instance, impedes certain skills because it disrupts the physical coordination of fundamental movements such as running and jumping. Another challenge is the greater incidence of ACL injuries


In Long-Term Athlete Development, puberty spans the late Learn to Train stage for early maturers; the Train to Train stage for average maturers; and the early Train to Compete stage for late maturers.

among adolescent female athletes, which has been variously attributed to the changing geometry of their hips and growth imbalances in ligaments, tendons and muscles. A primary solution to retaining both male and female athletes through the adolescent growth spurt is to define logical programs that address the changes in their bodies. By providing developmentally appropriate training, competition and recovery regimens, we can reduce the incidence of athlete injury, burnout, and dropout.

Training over performance In the process, programmers, coaches and parents need to be aware that rapid growth, especially in the legs, often interferes with skills learning and even causes the apparent “loss” of skills by affecting coordination. During adolescence, performance expectations for the athletes should therefore be adjusted.

By focussing on the process of training as opposed to the outcome of performance, sport programs can ensure that adolescent athletes are properly prepared for the Train to Compete stage and beyond. u

In most instances, athletes should be allowed to “plateau” in performance until they finish their growth spurt.

Istvan Balyi

TRAINING TIP from Istvan When taking a team or athlete to an out of town competition, create an educational opportunity. Prepare a 2-pager about the community hosting the event and share the factoids and information with the athletes. Cool facts about the region, community and culture create a new appreciation and better connection with the host community.


We should prioritize training over performance, and coaches should focus instead on the “big picture” of the adolescent athlete’s physical, mental, and emotional development.

Istvan Balyi is a member of the Canadian Sport for Life Leadership Team and a world renowned coaching educator; his series on LongTerm Athlete Development and periodization have been published in numerous countries.

Jim Grove Jim Grove is a member of the Canadian Sport for Life extended Leadership Team who supports the Canadian Sport for Life movement in a variety of communications roles.

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Community Connection


he Canadian Sport for Life Summit is a great place to meet and network with members of our sporting community. At the recent conference in Gatineau, Debra Gassewitz, SIRC, had the opportunity to meet with Stephen Nason, Senior Director of Programs with Dovercourt Recreation Association in Ottawa. The engaging discussion uncovered a couple of hidden gems, in particular as they relate to communities adopting the Long-Term Athlete Development framework and the win-win in supporting local Olympians to provide inspiration to their youth. Why Long-Term Athlete Development?

“We are using LTAD because there is more to developing athletes than ‘per chance’. If you have a framework and model, you can see when an opportunity arises” explained Stephen Nason. “We are attending the CS4L conference to learn more about LTAD and to develop programs that have structure. We want to offer programs that appeal to all the different levels of our members.” Why sponsor an Olympian? “When we saw we had an Olympic athlete [Michael Tayler], who had recently competed at the Olympic Games, living in our community, it was a no brainer to sponsor him” commented Stephen. “Michael uses the Dovercourt Recreational facility and often talks with the kids about his training, goals and life lessons. It’s great to show that we support him and he supports our developing athletes.” u For more information: • • • communityconnections

Photo credit: Dovercourt Recreation Association 18



with Richard

Photo credit: Alexandre Lauzon

Q&A Way

We asked Richard Way, the Senior Leader of the Canadian Sport for Life movement and a member of the Leadership Team his views on effectively using competition. How do you see Canadian Sport for Life - Long-Term Athlete Development strengthening the Canadian Sport System? Canadian Sport for Life and Long-Term Athlete Development provide a catalyst for NSOs and their provincial and local partners to improve the quality of sport delivered to all Canadians. This is achieved in a variety of ways, one of which is the creating of a framework that articulates the athlete development pathway specific to their sport. It includes developing physical literacy, which underpins high performance athletics as well as lays the foundation for participants to be active for life. What is the rationale behind the competitive review process? Why is it important to the Canadian system and the sport itself? It’s an understatement to say that competition is an important part of sport. For Canadians to have quality sport there is a need to review and restructure our competition systems to ensure that the emphasis of competition and the coaching of the participants is developmentally appropriate. Poor competition structures reward participants in a way that’s detrimental to their long-term development; thus, inadvertently compromising their ability to reach their potential.


Should every sport/program undergo it? The objective of competition review and restructuring is to provide developmentally appropriate, meaningful competition for athletes. All sports needs to review their current competition format to ensure continuous improvement, recognizing that the world is constantly changing and the youth of today live in a world that is not the same as older generations. How do you start the process? When NSOs were completing their sport-specific LongTerm Athlete Development frameworks they realized that their existing competition structures and formats actually inhibited athlete development. As a result, almost all NSOs are now undertaking the process of competition review and restructuring. The challenge is how to implement the outcome of the competition review nationally, provincially and locally. It will take hard work with a sport-by-sport, community-by-community approach; however, with the growing Canadian Sport for Life movement, and the many champions who are passionate about improving the quality of sport, I’m sure that sport will continue to evolve to be fun and inclusive to all, enabling participants to achieve podium performance along with healthy, active lives. u

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ockey is a sport celebrated for its post-season: the playoffs. A competition format that pits two teams against each other in a battle of elimination – the winner advancing, the loser going home. A journey that many teams embark on but that only one completes. A time of the year when fewer and fewer players get to keep playing.

During this stretch, all that matters is who’s left standing. No one’s thinking about the teams that have been knocked out or those who didn’t qualify for the playoffs in the first place. Nobody (aside from the members of those teams, of course) really cares that these players could play up to three fewer months’ worth of hockey than those who make it to their respective cup finals.

The playoffs are big business in the world of professional hockey. The two main leagues showcased in Canada include the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and the National Hockey League (NHL). The CHL’s playoffs, marketed as the Road to the Memorial Cup, take place between the end of March and mid-May, with the Memorial Cup tournament taking place in late May. The NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs commence at the start of April and conclude during the latter stages of June. These couple of months of postseason action garner plenty of TV time and attract massive audiences from around the world.

And why should they care?


For the NHL’ers, these guys are playing at the top level of professional hockey. They’ve already “made it.” They are firmly entrenched in the Excel stage of Hockey Canada’s Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) framework – the final developmental stage of the framework’s competitive stream. Missing out on some extra game time isn’t going to hinder these guys’ skill development too much. The CHL’ers, ranging from 16 to 20 years of age, might feel the effects of missed game time a bit more than the pros, but even still, these players have already reached Train to Compete and

Train to Win (stages seven and eight, respectively, of nine), and play in the world’s top professional development junior hockey league. They’ve developed physical literacy, they’ve specialized in a specific position within a single sport, and the majority of these athletes are either on their way to a professional contract or a college career. But think about young players in their prime skill development years who miss out on the playoffs. Granted, minor hockey playoffs don’t last two or three months the way they do in junior or the pros, but they can still last up to six weeks. And six weeks at home while your peers are playing competitive hockey can be a big setback to a young player’s development. This is one of the realizations Hockey Canada came to after performing a nationwide competition review to see what player development looked like in each province. “In order to figure out what we needed to change and why we needed to change it and where we needed to change it, we needed to really look at where we

strengthen here’s where we’re at in actuality, and here’s the ideal,” says McNabb. “If you don’t meet the ideal, you need to change something to help get closer to it.” Each provincial association then filled out a self-evaluation and checklist of where they were at regarding LTPD requirements and reported those findings back to Hockey Canada. The result of all this work and research was the proposal of new seasonal and postseasonal structures meant to improve three main areas.

were at,” says Corey McNabb, Hockey Canada’s Senior Manager of Coach and Player Development, adding that Hockey Canada has already had ageappropriate skills manuals for coaches in circulation for 15 years. “We have the material, it’s just now we really have to affect some change with the actual structure of the season so that it’s more conducive to coaches targeting player development.” Sport Canada and Canadian Sport for Life requested that Hockey Canada complete this national competition review three years ago so as to see how closely the various provincial associations were implementing the LTPD framework. After analyzing the information gleaned from questionnaires and surveys, and collaborating with the likes of Dr. Steve Norris, the Director of High Performance Programs for Sport Canada, Hockey Canada figured out what an ideal season in terms of player development would look like. “We spent a lot of time putting all the data together, then sent that back to the [provincial] branches and said


First, the time between team selection and the start of season will ideally be expanded to a month, which provides more time for development at the start of the playing year. “Right now, unfortunately, some teams don’t get a chance to do exhibition games, or if they do do that, then they hardly get any practices because they’re using all their ice time for games,” says McNabb. He adds that a month-long pre-season would allow teams to have an exhibition game each weekend, and still fit in two to three practices during the week. The second adjustment would be extending the season from lateJanuary through mid- to late-March. McNabb says one of the biggest issues with the current structure is when kids have their seasons ended by midFebruary or sooner, they turn to spring hockey and travel hockey that can carry-on until June or July. “From there you’re getting kids who are on the ice 12 months a year. We think if we can change the seasonal structure so kids play later into the winter and into spring, there’s not going to be nearly as much of a need to get kids to play spring hockey and stuff like that. They can jump more into other sports and activities.” Finally, Hockey Canada wants to see leagues move from the eliminationround playoff format to the roundrobin tournament format. “More


kids will get more playoff games at a higher intensity and higher level of competition than they are right now,” says McNabb. While every player will benefit from more playoff games, McNabb sees this shift as particularly valuable to potential elite players. “When you get to the national level, when you get to the Olympic level – it doesn’t matter what sport it’s in – people always talk about the champions, their will to win, their will to perform best. So we need to continue to provide that [opportunity],” says McNabb. “When kids know they’re already out of the playoffs or they’re not going to make it, the reality of it is their drive goes down. And so I think we still potentially lose a lot of great athletes or great players because we force them out too soon. You never know which one of those kids is going to really take advantage of a challenging situation.” McNabb acknowledges the possibility that all leagues might not buy into the playoff changes, particularly if those leagues take the stance that the regular season standings should mean something. He hopes that in those situations leagues would consider having an A and B playoff pools to ensure everyone continues playing at a competitive level regardless of how they finished the season. And with hockey such a traditional sport in Canada, there’s also the possibility that those with an “oldschool” mentality might resist structural changes, particularly when it comes to the top competitive tiers of Midget triple-A (Under-18) and Bantam triple-A (Under-15). But these are the exact leagues targeted by Hockey Canada – one, because Hockey Canada is serious about these changes, and two, because McNabb believes there will be a trickle-down effect. “If we were to get the Midget triple-A leagues across the country on board with this, then it only makes sense that the Midget AA does because that’s


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strengthen where [triple-A] players are affiliated from. Before you know it the flagship teams or leagues are the ones that . . . dictate a lot of what happens below them. Just look at the NHL – they basically set the schedule and the American Hockey League and CHL all follow that same type of format because they want to get their kids to that level so they try and copy and mimic it as closely as possible as a development program.” Looking at the various provinces, McNabb says some will implement the changes quickly, possibly as early as the 2013-14 season, while “others will be a little bit slower depending on personnel, their level of commitment to it and their ability to get people to buy-in as well.” Hockey New Brunswick is one of the provincial associations that has quickly embraced Hockey Canada’s proposal. After Hockey Canada passed its ideal seasonal structure into its bylaws and constitution as the official guide and framework for LTPD in May 2012, Hockey New Brunswick began its competition review process the following fall.

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Nic Jansen is the Technical Programs Coordinator at Hockey New Brunswick. His association started with an overall review of the province’s Peewee (Under-13), Bantam and triple-A leagues. They collected data on when seasons were starting and ending; how many practices, games and tournaments were happening for the teams; and whether or not teams participated in off-ice training. “Then we compared it to what Hockey Canada’s ideal structure consists of,” says Jansen. “Now we know where our strengths and weaknesses are and how we can adjust our seasonal structure to align it further with Hockey Canada’s.”

Peewee and Bantam leagues also play until mid- to late-March, and they wind up with a year-end tournament that ensures all players get the same amount of game time. “Even the number of practices that our teams are having is in line with what Hockey Canada is looking for,” says Jansen. “It may be partly due to us being a smaller province, with more accessibility to ice, but even some of our bigger centres have found ways to be creative, to get more practices in or offer shared practices with other teams. The [ice] times may not always be ideal, but we do feel that we’re getting the top number of practices in.”

McNabb says that, based on the evaluations and checklists he received, the provinces and leagues varied in their strengths and weaknesses, and that some were already pretty close to LTPD standards while others were further away. New Brunswick was one of those provinces that only needed a bit of tweaking.

But Jansen admits that ice time is also one of New Brunswick’s weaknesses. As it stands, the larger centres such as Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton put their ice in in early September, while some of the rural areas don’t get ice until late-September. “Logistically, it’s tough to mandate that everyone starts on September 15 when some have ice then and some don’t have ice – we’re trying to work through that,” says Jansen.

For one, all of the province’s Major Midget and triple-A players currently play until early- to mid-March. The


McNabb agrees that when the ice goes in and comes out can affect the league structure, but says he hopes leagues can work around that when they plan future ice schedules. Many leagues around the country do their ice contracts in two-year blocks, and a number of them are locked in until the 2014-15 season. This means a lot of places will begin implementing Hockey Canada’s proposals then. And while change can be challenging, Jansen points out that it’s for the benefit of the players. “The feedback we’ve received has been positive overall,” he says. “I think all of the teams want the players to improve and they want to ensure they are following the proper pathway.” McNabb says that taking the time to show major stakeholders what’s good about the game – and what adjustments could make it better – is the key. “It’s going to be a combination


of educate, show people the rationale, the reasons why, and then we start to actually affect change by changing what happens in the rink. I’m not a big believer in changing things total 180 degrees right away, because if you go too far it takes you longer to get back,” he says. “But start moving it slowly, and go this far this year and a little bit further the next year, then in three years I think we’re going to have all of these leagues in a competition structure that’s more conducive to development – more time for office training, more time for rest and recovery and those types of things. We’re on a good pathway and we know where we want to get to, and it’s just a matter of doing everything in a timely manner in a way that makes sense and that’s logical and that people will buyin.” u

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Nam Nguyen

Sport: Figure Skating* Date of birth: 20/05/1998 Place of birth: Ottawa Height: 165 Hometown: Toronto Start skating: 2003 Skating Club: Toronto Cricket Club Twitter: @namchops Coach: Brian Orser Choreographer: Lori Nichol, David Wilson Hobbies: electronic games, reading, piano Competition Results World Juniors 2012/13 12th 2011/12 13th Canadian National Championship 2013/14 5th Senior 2012/13 6th Senior 2011/12 7th Senior 2010/11 1st Junior 2009/10 3rd Junior

Nam is the youngest Canadian figure skater to win the juvenile, pre-novice, novice and junior national titles, the latter at 12 years of age. His father Sony came to Canada in 1988 from Vietnam and then sponsored his wife, Thu, in 1994. Nam was born in Ottawa in 1998 before moving to Richmond B.C when he was just a year old. He started skating with his parents and wanted to play hockey but he was more interested in figure skating since he paid more attention in those classes.


* Based on the principles of Long-Term Athlete DevelopS I RC.CA ment, figure skating is an early specialization sport.

Photo credit: Skate Canada/Stephan Potopnyk

The Future

Editor Debra Gassewitz Content Nancy Rebel Michelle Caron Joshua Karanja Trent Weir Design David Roberts Josyane Morin Translation Alexandre Contreras Marcel Nadeau Special Thanks Jocelyn East Patrick Gaudreau Stephen Nason

Sport Canada: Martin Boileau Rebeccah Bornemann

For more information:

Canadian Sport for Life: Richard Way Istvan Balyi Danielle (Bell) Meyer Jim Groves Andre Lachance CS4L Leadership Team

Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) is Canada’s national sport resource centre, established over 40 years ago. Mailing address: SIRC 180 Elgin Street, suite 1400 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K2P 2K3

Photos courtesy of: Biathlon Canada Canada Games Canadian Interuniversity Sport Canadian Olympic Committee Canadian Sport for Life/Alexandre Lauzon Dovercourt Recreation Association Hockey Canada Skate Canada/Stephan Potopnyk Swimming Canada

Disclaimer: Author’s opinions expressed in the articles are not necessarily those of SIRCuit, its publisher, the Editor, or the Editorial Board. SIRC makes no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness or suitability for any purpose of the content. Copyright © 2014 SIRC. All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored, transmitted, or disseminated, in any form, or by any means, without prior written permission from SIRC, to whom all requests to reproduce copyright material should be directed, in writing.


AT H L E T E PAT H W AY S - W I N T E R 2014


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