Fall Athletic Update
U14 PROGRAM UPDATE
by Jacques Reid
It’s been a busy off-season and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to take a seat on AOA’s new athletic committee! Taking on the lead role for AOA and its U14 planning has been an exciting challenge which has included updates to our OCUP schedule, race criteria and selections, rules, fitness standards, coaching education opportunities and many more areas. It was hugely beneficial to have many great ski racing minds at the table this summer and I think the group is working well together.
- JANUARY: Mid-Season OCUP Series: Open to all OCUP racers with no qualifying. Along with each race day event we will also be including athlete & parent education seminars
- FEBRUARY Speed Camp: A big focus on this project will be Coach education around a new speed training camp prior to the Sault Ste. Marie Mealey Cup.
- MARCH: B2B Project. AOA ran this camp last year and is designed to put the best with the best and had great success for our athletes and coaches alike.
- MARCH: Pre-Can Am Camp. To run after the OCUP Finals so we can spend some time together as a team before hitting the road east for our final competition of the season!
U14 Challenges and Opportunities
Over the years AOA has seen some great success at this age group in Ontario. We are fortunate to have a lot of great club coaches at this age scattered across the Province and I’m looking for more opportunities to compare notes with them along the way including the mid-season OCUP block series in Collingwood and the Mealey Classic in Sault Ste. Marie in the middle of February.
U16 PROGRAM UPDATE
By: Heather Metzger and Graeme Buckrell
Off Season Highlights
It was fun to spend time over the summer months building a longer term vision for this age group across the Province which included great input from many of Ontario’s great ski racing minds… Based on the feedback from the spring summit it was clear the community wanted more racing blocks to accommodate proper training schedules, less qualifying pressure through the entire season and a calendar that gave each region some flexibility to suit their own challenges. We came up with the concept of O-CUP Qualifying events (for major and next level races) and O-CUP regional seeding events (regions can use these to seed their athletes for qualifying events). We have been working hard with Robyn Skinner in finalizing the official program guidelines document for the clubs and membership. For those who don’t know what the Program Guidelines are it explains the rules, criteria, selections and more for the U16 program and all levels of the sport. For example, if parents want to know where AOA provides information on Can Ams, Whistler Cup or how to qualify for U16 Nationals, etc. it will all be outlined in this document.
1. FEB 26–28: U16 National Championships Prep camp (Speed/GS focus): Athletes will be selected from the OCUP Mid Winter Races and the focus will be on team building, race preparation and educational off snow sessions. Location TBD.
2. MARCH 29–30: Can Am Prep camp: Athletes will be selected from the Mid-Winter and OCUP Finals. The camp will focus on team work – ensuring all athletes/ coaches work together and support each other. The camp will also focus on final race preparation with timing, multiple course sets and race simulation – 1 day SL/1 Day GS, off snow activities. Location TBD.
3. EUROPEAN PROJECT PREP CAMP: AOA Athletic Committee will determine the best timing, venue and selection process for this project in the fall with a camp in Ontario prior to departure. Focus for this preparation camp will be creating a strong, functional and supportive team dynamic, establishing a high level of comfort and confidence with Coaching team and Team mates including off snow sessions.
U16 Challenges and Opportunities
We need buy in and commitment. In collaboration with our member clubs, our high performance vision as a Province is to strive to get the best athletes together to make sure we offer the best programming, opportunities and coaching possible. We need to continue to build the trust with families and clubs so the athletes believe in our system and our therefore inspired and striving for the Provincial level of our sport. We are extremely excited with our new projects for next season and a great race calendar will allow all the athletes many opportunities to qualify and get involved throughout the season.
U19 PROGRAM UPDATE
by Joey Lavigne
The focus of our off-season planning was to position and design a U19 program to positively impact and help direct programs around the province that are focused on the Federation International Ski (FIS) level of competition (Those below the Ontario Ski Team). This needs clarification as the clubs and divisions have existing U18/19 programs which cater to a broader membership base and can differ greatly within each region. This is where we created the SOD cup for example, to create the race calendar for that group vs. the FIS calendar which is a more competitive and nationally focused.
Some of the programs we will include in our mandate this first year of the new AOA Athletics management strategy will be integrating Ontario FIS programs on snow in a training and competition environment. We will do this by encouraging preparation camps to be held together and in the same location. Secondly, with the coordination and collaboration of Championship events to ensure we enhance selections and consistency and hopefully performance among our athletes.
Race Calendar and Selections
One of my major focus areas has been in assisting and creating a functional Ontario FIS calendar that meets the needs of our athletes while being properly integrated into the National and Regional (QC and eastern US) calendars. Needless to say getting commitments from clubs to host takes a little patience and I believe that we have created a calendar that, with the support of the Provincial team should give us some excellent opportunities. Please find the draft U19 calendar here>
Challenges and Opportunities
The U19 programs across Ontario: (National Capital Outaouais (NCO), Southern Ontario Division (SOD), National Ski Academy (NSA) and the Lake Superior Division Alpine (LSDA) have traditionally been some of the best in Canada. Across the country the sport is going through some real changes as athletes and parents are faced with managing both academic and athletic challenges. The programs in Ontario are facing similar challenges and we are seeing our families look to a variety of programs to meet these needs, including US programs. As the AOA U19 Coordinator I am looking at all aspects of the athlete development system, how athletes progress from the U16 environment at club and regional programs to the demands of FIS competition at Regional and Provincial Team levels. This is where athletes really start to interface with other programs, Provinces and Nations. Truly, it’s where the fun really begins!
The biggest challenge that faces the U19 area of programming is truly in growth and retention. As an organization, we will spend a lot of time this year to attempt to understand the demands of the athletic community at not just the U19 level but as athletes move from the U16 to the U18/19 level. Why do we have such a decline in membership? What do the programs need to focus on? Is cost the major factor or are there truly other athlete and personal development considerations we need to look at? Bottom line…. we have in the past developed some of Canada’s best talent and we believe we can collectively provide this again and assist the Ontario Ski Team in its path to greatness. AOA’s new Athletic committee will continue to work towards finding solutions to these challenges, albeit, some easier than others.
We have also identified coaching development as an area of importance for the development of the sport. We are working with other organizations and ensuring Ontario has access to excellent professional development that will enhance our ability to provide quality programming which we hope will assist in retaining and graduating athletes to the next level.
This is the start to a potentially excellent method of managing our U19 level of development in Ontario. Having access to the experienced OST staff on these committees only enhances everyone’s program. We are excited to get this season started!