High Performance Update from Sail Canada

Published on February 1st, 2018

Don Adams, CEO of Sail Canada, gives an update on the High Performance plan to develop athletes with medal contention for Canada in 2024 and 2028.

It has been almost a year since I mentioned in one of these columns that Sail Canada would be implementing a new High Performance Plan, which will have the ingredients for long-term podium success. I also mentioned that there were key elements that Sail Canada would need to have in place.

I am now happy to report that after extensive dialogue with Sail Canada stakeholders, Provincial Sailing Organizations, Coaches, Clubs, and the High Performance Committee, Sail Canada has developed a High Performance plan. This plan will lead Sail Canada to 2020 and beyond with a particular focus on developing athletes with medal contention for 2024 and 2028.

Sail Canada has built the High Performance plan to address existing gaps with a “made in Canada” solution that reflects the opportunities we face as a sport, and the challenges posed by highly competitive rival nations. The high performance plan presents a focused shift in how it approaches developing sailors toward key performance objectives.

As the details of the “what” and “how” of the high performance plan enfolds, it is important to make the Sail Canada performance objective very clear. Every decision related to high performance must help us achieve our objective as stated in the Sail Canada Strategic Plan under the Performance Pillar:

Sail Canada will create and implement a high performance athlete development system with athlete pathways producing podium results and systematic development of national team athletes with consistent medal contention.

The High Performance Plan addresses the key components that make up a successful system. Evidence from successful systems in Canada and other nations indicates these qualities as non-negotiable for sustainable high performance success:
High Performance Leadership with clear delegation and authority
World Class Coaching Expertise
National, Provincial & Club Alignment
World Class Daily Training Environments
World Class Competition Strategies
World class IST delivering SSSM Services to Targeted Athletes
Evidence Based Athlete Identification and Development
System Gap Analysis and Mitigating Strategies
Individual Gap Analysis and Mitigating Strategies
Organizational Commitment & Capacity to Implement HP Plan

In developing the High Performance plan each of the above-mentioned components has been addressed.

The hiring of a High Performance Director and hiring/contracting professional coaches where coaching expertise is absent will address High Performance Leadership and Coaching Expertise. Our plan is to have a High Performance Director in place early this spring and to hire or contract Podium and Next Gen Coaches.

In 2015, Peter Hall was asked by the Sail Canada Board to become chair of the High Performance Committee on a two-year term. Peter has done a great amount since being head of the committee, and under his leadership a new high performance plan has been created and is about to be implemented.

It has now been two years since the appointment and Peter is stepping down to allow new leadership to take over the committee. As an avid sailor, Peter Hall has been a part of the sailing community for many years. Peter has contributed and volunteered many hours of time and effort in Quebec, Canada and worldwide for the promotion of sailing.

As a competitor, Peter has competed at the top of the Soling and the lightning classes resulting many world championship wins. Peter will continue his role as the Sail Canada representative to World Sailing, and will remain involved in the search for a High Performance Director.

Coaching education and development is embedded within this plan enabling Canadian Coaches to get the training and experience they need to become experts in their field. Coaches involved in high performance athlete development will work as a team with other coaches across Canada. They will participate and lead key development programs and activities, while also providing leadership and mentoring to coaches in their region.

Sail Canada has recognized the need to support the current and future high performance athletes in a more systematic way. To do this National, Provincial and Club programs will be aligned to provide more collaboration and coordination of activities in Regional Training Hubs. This will provide World Class Training Environments in various regions across Canada and access to needed sport science and sport medicine expertise.

The Regional Training Hubs, being discussed with key partners across Canada, addresses a gap in Sail Canada’s current high performance pathway. These hubs will allow for coordinated and supported delivery of world class training environments, coaching, and programming to younger developing athletes who have demonstrated highly competitive sailing skills against Provincial and National competition, and have begun posting competitive performances at Youth and/or Junior international competitions. These Training Hubs will extend and augment the important and on-going work our Provincial Sailing Associations and Clubs continue to do in developing talented Canadian sailors throughout the athlete pathway.

One key element of this plan is to provide enhanced coaching and training and appropriate competition to our young athletes so they become “better younger” to compete with the best young athletes in the world. Only then can we work to transition these athletes as medal contenders. To do this we are developing programming that identifies talented athletes early in their sailing career. This group of athletes will be referred to as Next Gen Emerging Athletes, followed by Next Gen Athletes leading to Podium Potential Athletes.

The Next Gen Emerging athletes will be young athletes who have the potential or who are meeting international performance benchmarks in Olympic Class or World Sailing Youth Championship development class, at Youth, Junior, and Open events, supported by a resume of top performances in North American events.

The Next Gen Emerging program will address a key gap in Sail Canada’s current high performance pathway, the coordinated and appropriately supported delivery of world class training, coaching, and programming to younger developing athletes.

Identified athletes will receive dedicated individual support at Regional Training Hubs and at existing, or newly established training camps and competition, along with access to Sail Canada directed sport science services, through the Canadian Sport Institute partners.

The Next Gen Targeted program will support Next Gen Emerging athletes transitioning to the Next Gen Development stage, with an individualized campaign with appropriately supported world-class training, coaching, and programming. Next Gen Targeted athletes will be those under 25 years old who have demonstrated highly competitive sailing skills and met performance benchmarks in an Olympic Class at international Junior and Open events. The Next Gen Targeted program will also provide identified athletes with support for a Sail Canada approved individualized program of training camps, targeted competition, sport science, and a training squad.

With successful implementation of the above programming, more athletes will be transitioning to the Podium program. The Podium Program will support the transition of Next Gen Targeted athletes to an individualized campaign focused on podium performances at international events, World Championship, and Olympic Games, with appropriately supported world class training, coaching, and programming.

Podium athletes will be provided with support for a Sail Canada approved individualized program of training camps, targeted competition, sport science, and a training squad.

Each of the above listed programs will be overseen and directed by Sail Canada’s High Performance Director with Coaching provided by Podium Coaches or Next Gen Coaches and delivered through a partnership between Sail Canada, Canadian Sport Centre/Institute partners, funding partners, Sailing Clubs, and other stakeholders.

By aligning the various programs and partners we will work together to create a sustainable successful system that has all the essential components in place. Every Sailing Club in Canada plays and important and crucial role in this system especially at the young sailor developing levels. More work on this will be done to assist clubs in transition learn to sail athletes to race performance athletes.

Underpinning this plan are three important new resources/tools to be used by all coaches and instructors throughout the system:
Sail Canada Podium Pathway – a multi-stage pathway covering a racing sailor’s career, featuring Podium Track Results benchmarks for each stage;
Sail Canada Gold Medal Profile – an athlete assessment tool;
Sail Canada Skills Matrix – a detailed skill assessment tool, connected to the Gold Medal Profile.

These resources will provide the coaches with the tools to do evidence based athlete identification and development, system gap analysis and individual athlete gap analysis alongside mitigating strategies that will help the coach and athletes identify limiting performance factors that can be worked on and improved over time through training and competition experience.

The high performance plan recognizes a shared responsibility for programming, funding and delivery of all stages of the pathway. Moving forward Sail Canada, Provincial Sailing Associations, Sailing Clubs, and Canadian sport system partners must make bold decisions that leverage resources within the Canadian sailing and sport community to best support our promising athletes.

Sail Canada will also be resourceful and collaborative with our athletes and stakeholders in raising the required funds to further support the enhanced programming that will be required. Sail Canada will work with all stakeholders in the sailing community to present Sail Canada’s high performance program as a property of value to future sponsors and funding partners.

Last but not least, Sail Canada will also work to renew a Sail Canada National Spirit where sailors feel supported by their national and provincial associations and their regional clubs, and hold themselves accountable for performance; where we focus on developing Canadian coaches and Clubs to world class standard; and where as many people as possible in our sailing community celebrate their contribution to our high performance sailing success.

I believe we now have the ingredients in place to create a world class, made in Canada system, which will lead to international sailing success. As I said at this time last year, no one person can do this alone, we are stronger together and together we will make it happen. Implementation of the plan will begin immediately, but will it will require patience and collaboration to implement effectively and see the longer-term results. There will be more details to follow as the plan unfolds. As always, I invite your feedback and comments.

Don Adams
CEO, Sail Canada

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