Athlete development starts young, ends active 

Parents, athletes, coaches invited to Canadian Sport for Life seminar

By Andrew Mitchell

It has been estimated that it takes a minimum of 10 years or 10,000 hours of dedicated training to become an elite, Olympic-calibre athlete. But that’s not entirely the point of a new program launched by Canadian Sport Centres called Canadian Sport For Life.

CSFL is a seven-stage program for athlete development, starting at the very youngest ages. Each level represents a different stage in an athletes’ physical, mental, emotional and cognitive development. There are also stages for adaptive athletes with a wide range of disabilities.

Children and adolescents are the main focus of the program as those years are crucial to developing future champions, although the long-term goal of the program is to ensure that Canadians remain active their entire lives.

The new program will be introduced in Whistler on Friday, June 22, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Whistler Mountain Ski Club cabin. PacificSport Sea to Sky, which represents Canadian Sport Centres regionally, has enlisted provincial sport performance director and strength and conditioning specialist Cindy Thomson to explain to the public how the program works. The event is free to the public, and recommended for all coaches, parents, physical educators, and everyone involved in sport.

“This is the system that Canada is using to make sure there’s a straight line of integration between the national, provincial and regional sport systems for every sport,” explained Tami Mitchell, regional coordinator for PacificSport Sea to Sky. “This is not only for high performance athletes, it’s also about active living. Of the seven stages of this plan the last is about staying active after your days of competitive sports may be over.”

Sports organizations and athletes at every level were consulted in creating the CSFL framework, and it will serve as the backbone for all sport organizations as they establish their own coaching certifications and development guidelines.

The first stage of the program is called Active Start, referring to kids aged 6 and under. This stage emphasizes the general physical and mental benefits of physical activity, and includes a list of general guidelines for parents and recreational organizations to get kids active. There is also an emphasis on basic skills development, including the basics of running, jumping, twisting, wheeling, kicking, throwing and catching.

The FUNdamental stage is geared for boys 6 to 9 and girls 6 to 8, ages when most kids master the fundamental movements required by sports and begin to focus more on skills development. It’s at this age where athletes can be taught the proper techniques and can start to be identified as potential high performance athletes on the basis of their trainability. It’s also the age where kids should play a wide range of sports and will begin to compete in their preferred sports.

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