• Can we incentivize athlete to stay in High Performance Sport longer?
  • What role can post-secondary institutions play to transition athletes in each sport’s pathway?
  • What can Provincial sport organization do to better engage post-secondary institutions?
  • What innovations are being used at universities to maximize athlete development?

These were some of the questions explored at CSI Pacific’s Powering Podiums on Post-Secondary alignment. This is the first in a series of blogs that will summarize our Powering Podium events. Feel free to leave comments to join in on the discussion.

Background – Why should we look to Post-secondary Institutions?

On June 16, CSI Pacific hosted a Powering Podiums with provincial sport organization to examine how post-secondary institutions could be leveraged in their high performance athlete pathway. In many P/DSO high performance programming ends at U18 which is typically aligned to key family decisions to pursue post-secondary education or to enter the workforce. This post-high school drop off is evidenced in both participation and P/DSO targeted athlete data. However, opportunities to extend the athletes’ high performance experience beyond 18 may lead to:

  1. Greater maturation to enhance training and competition demands
  2. Better opportunity to maximize the next generation national team athlete pool
  3. Higher level of quality competition by retaining experienced athletes

Universities and Colleges in BC are a potential partner in helping athletes transition from high school and incentivizing them to stay in their sport.
The workshop was opened by David Hill who set the scene and provided information on athlete progression based on P/DSO athlete targeting. Key information provided in the presentation [PPT], included:

  • Confirmation that many sport pathways do include post-secondary institutions toward national team.
  • Recommendations to maximize Type 1 errors where athlete may be identified but never actual convert to higher levels and minimize Type 2 errors where athletes are not identified but could have converted to higher levels in the sport. Hence do we commit type 2 errors by not considering opportunities for athletes to continue their careers beyond secondary schools?
  • Opportunities in post-secondary annual cycle to engage athletes in provincial HP programming
  • Key statistics based on average athlete ages at different levels of targeting as well as ages when athletes cease to be targeted.

Keynote: UBC’s approach to enhancing high performance support

The workshop was anchored by James Brotherhood, UBC senior manager of sport science and sport medicine, who presented on some innovative strategies that UBC has used to foster greater integration of sport organizations into UBC’s varsity programs. James’ presentation on UBC Athletics IST Development [PDF] can accessed here and highlighted:

  • Athlete development pathway is a cascade of training groups where the top percentage of athlete move into high training groups ultimately ending in the Olympic team.
  • UBC has invested in a strategy to support both Usport and other High Performance athletes integrated sport science and sport medicine as well as student athlete support services to ensure academic and sport progress.
  • UBC projects that are being undertaken with Usport athletes to further performance included area of nutrition, periodization, monitoring, sleep strategies, and injury prevention.

The Provincial Sport Organization Perspective

A series of mini presentation were made by P/DSO as identified below with links to their presentation where applicable.

BC Rugby

Universities are a key part of the athlete pathway and BC has many successful programs linked to post-secondary institutions that have converted athlete to national team for both fifteen a-side and seven a-side versions of the game. A proposed strategy would see BC rugby provide post-secondary rugby players summer work placements which would allow these players to engage existing representative programs.

Cross Country BC

Identified that many athlete who follow traditional pathway toward National Development Centers did not stay within the High Performance pathway and left the sport. Two years ago Cross Country BC made a strategic decision to work with High Performance Clubs to foster conditions to allow athletes to pursue post-secondary schools in their home communities while continuing training and competition commitments. Clubs were able to develop cooperative relationships with local post secondary institutions. Provincial program provided HP support through camps and innovative exchanges with Sweden to incentivize athletes to continue training and competition opportunities.

BC Athletics

With an average age of 21.8 year for athlete identified on their targeted list and 80% of athlete over the age of 18, most of BC Athletics athletes are beyond secondary school. BC Athletics prioritizes support to these athlete through athlete assistance for training and competition travel, high performance camps, and partnering with universities to sanction provincial level competitions.

Canoe Kayak BC

Highlighted the need to engage universities to keep athlete in the pathway longer and identified possible strategies that PSO would like to investigate with post-secondary students including assistance testing athletes, and flexibility in academic programming that would allow athletes to train and compete.

Basketball BC

Have taken advantage of coop and internships through post-secondary institutions, highlighting the benefit of engaging schools to attract programming or administrative assistance. Also highlighted the need to work with Canadian institutions to keep athlete in Canada as opposed to the NCAA, especially when many athlete return to Canada disillusioned by their post secondary experience.

Panel Discussion – What opportunities can post-secondary schools provide

The workshop culminated in a facilitated panel discussion which included

  • Robin D’Abreo, UBC -Head Coach, Field Hockey (w) / Interim Director of Athletics
  • Gord Hopper, UBC Director, Performance and Team Support,
  • James Keogh, Uvic Associate Director, Sport
  • James Brotherhood, UBC senior manager of sport science and sport medicine, and
  • Drew Cooper, General Manager Pacificsport Vancouver Island (University of Vancouver Island)

The panel were asked a number of questions from PSO to explore opportunities where post-secondary alignment could occur with many siting support through facilities, student services (eg. Kinesiology students and or research projects), enhance programming where Usport programs exist and potential to provide targeted athlete from any sport with enrollment assistance and academic counselling. Provincial organizations were also challenged to identify and continue support to their provincially targeted athletes as identified in some of the PSO presentations. Post workshop reflections by presenters and panelists further revealed that:

  • PSO could targeted post-secondary coaches who can impact the athlete pathway were possible
  • Increased collaboration and sharing of resources and efficiencies could be achieved but needed to be initiated so that there is benefit to both the PSO and post-secondary institution.
  • Many partnerships with post-secondary institutes do exist on informal or formal basis and usually dependent on roles that align to the NSO or PSO.
  • PSOs could be leveraged to fill gaps in post-secondary off season to incentivize athlete to maintain training, attend camps or enhance competitive experiences.
  • Better performance planning could be used to integrate both PSO and post-secondary programming (academic and or sport) into yearly training plans.

As one participant indicated, “The conversation regarding post-secondary collaboration deserves a lot more attention and some concrete plans. I recognize that each sport would consider this activity with differing lenses but there remains some commonalities that could be very beneficial to both the PSO and the post-secondary institution.”

I encourage you to comment below and identify some areas where you feel there are potential gaps and solutions for PSOs to integrate athletes into the post-secondary athletic or academic pathway.