SOD CUP vs. OCUP Explained by Jacques Reid

Submitted by U14 AOA Athletic Consultant, Jacques Reid
Jacques is also the Extended Program Head Coach at Craigleith Ski Club

SEPTEMBER 20, 2018 — “The ski season is fast approaching, and as a parent living in the Southern Ontario Division (SOD) you could be in the position of trying to make the decision of registering your U14 & U16 child in either the O-CUP stream, or in the Southern Ontario SOD-Cup stream.

This is only pertinent to SOD since the other three AOA divisions – LSDA, NOD & NCD  – are not faced with this decision due to the smaller enrollments. Only in SOD must we offer two series due to the volume of athletes in our programs – what a great problem to have!

Before proceeding any further, let’s start by explaining the two streams;

OCUP: (Competitive Stream)

OCUP (short form for Ontario Cup – One Province, One Program) was introduced to the AOA system in 2016. Its goal was to start a series of races open to all four AOA divisions.  This series includes a four day mid-winter series and a 5-day OCUP Finals (formerly called Provincials) series. Both series bring together the best skiers in the province for their age, and can serve as a qualifier for subsequent national or even international events.

SOD Cup: (Recreational, Skier for life Stream)

SOD Cup (short form for “Southern Ontario Division” Cup) replaces the former Team and/or Division 2 racing series. The SOD Cup is comprised of a series of races throughout Southern Ontario and culminates in an SOD championships, “Race Fest” where kids of the same age (same yr. of birth) compete against each other.

Last season the top ranking skiers from the SOD Cup races and Race Fest have the opportunity to qualify for the OCUP Finals which allowed these skiers the option of competing at a more competitive level at the end of the season while still skiing at the regional level during the season.

Still, as you are faced with this decision, what factors do we need to look at?

  • Program options at your ski club
    • It could be that the OCUP program is not offered at your club due to the enrollment where two “streams” per age group is just not possible. For athletes in this situation who are truly eyeing the OCUP I recommend looking at other ski clubs that may offer the two streams.
  • Love of Skiing
    • Above and beyond anything else an OCUP athlete needs to really love this sport. The time on snow can be a lot; in particular at the U16 level. Some clubs are training Thursday – Friday – Saturday & Sunday.  If skiing is your child’s true love I would look for the OCUP.
  • Skill level
    • Skill level is next on the list of priorities when making this decision. Sport Science and Long Term Athletic Development research shows that if the sport fundamentals have not been mastered by the age of 12, it is very difficult to progress in the sport chosen by the athletes at later stages. In Southern Ontario, this age is U14. Keep in mind, some kids can be “late bloomers” and only start to display a true understanding of the sport and start showing physical maturity later in their teens. Typically if your child is an all- round athlete they can typically find their stride at U16. Remember, all kids develop at different stages!
  • Commitment level & Time away from school
    • The level of commitment to skiing and time away from school are also big factors when making this decision. Your child could be playing another sport, interested in other things like music or just plainly not ready to give ski racing a full commitment at this stage in the game. The OCUP does include the mid-winters and then the Finals (that’s two weeks) plus if selected in U16, your son or daughter, could attend Nationals and Can-Ams. Yes, time away from school can be challenging. Remarkably many athletes experience greater academic success when enrolled in elite sport. Many U16 skiers are enrolled in sport schools and others simply find the organizational tools to learn on their own, which in turn can lead to success. It can be done!

The great thing about skiing in this area is that from one year to the next, things could change dramatically in your child’s motivation and skill development. Perhaps after one year in the SOD-Cup they will be ready for the OCUP. The other nice thing is that this process is generally open, where parents, with the advice from program coaches, make this decision. In most team based sports, this decision is made by the coach – full stop. As long as good communication with the coaches is in place, families can clearly chose which stream is best for their child.

So, there you have it…Talk to your coaches and program directors and ask them what program your club is offering. Next, be realistic about how much they love this sport, also be realistic about their skill level. Now, ask yourselves how much can you commit to as a family to the sport of alpine ski racing? Finally, make a decision to best suit the current progression of your child so that they can continue to learn, work hard and have fun at the same time.”


All the best,
[email protected]