Athletes recognize the importance of teamwork. And following an announcement last week, it's clear that multisport organizations across the province do, too.
On Feb. 18, Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) announced it is joining the viaSport Alliance, a B.C.-wide network of organizations operating to develop athletes and coaches and create active communities. By sharing expertise and resources through the non-profit viaSport, WSL president and CEO Roger Soane believes there will be benefits to all involved.
Soane explained that of the 11 partners, Whistler's is at the more developed end of the spectrum having hosted programming ranging from coaching certification clinics to its Olympic Mondays program where young athletes get a taste of winter sports like luge, biathlon, trampolining and ski jumping. He sees the partnership primarily as an opportunity to build on what is already being offered.
"We can now work on delivering more multisport plans, we can do some more education on physical literacy and really get a grip on 'How can we communicate to our community on long-term athlete development, sport for life' — all those things that people talk about, but there isn't really one entity that owns it," he said. "We're looking to become that entity that really does own at least the education portion of all those things that keeps people active for all their lives."
Whistler Sport Legacies is a key cog in the partnership because of its entrenchment in the community, said viaSport CEO Sheila Bouman.
"Whistler and the Sea to Sky is quite organized already in terms of a community and a region and the way they work together," she said. "We're looking at an active and engaged population. People are already really dialed in and working closely with tourism and education and the Aboriginal community. If anything, we think (Soane) is in a good place to really strengthen the connection between all of those pieces.
"Having high-performance facilities and lots of recreational athletes, he has all the ingredients for probably the most active region in B.C."
Soane sees Victoria's Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) as one of the other major role models within the program. He noted PISE works closely with local school districts and municipalities and has created strong relationships with businesses in and around the capital. Soane anticipates forging further connections with local municipalities and the Sea to Sky School District and holding programming in the corridor from Squamish to Mount Currie.
"(PISE) are already ticking many of the boxes that we want to get to. It's a very different facility. It's a matter of how do we take our facilities, say what can we do to adapt what we're doing to the viaSport Alliance, which is about getting people moving and keeping them moving," Soane explained. "How do you take someone from a three-year-old to an 83-year-old and keep them moving throughout their life? When we all got together as a group, we said 'Wouldn't it be great if British Columbia was recognized for many, many things like health and wellness, physical activity?'"
Ultimately, the ripple effects of active lifestyles will create less strain on the health system, he explained, adding the goals are admittedly "lofty." But beyond that base level, Soane said the alliance will bring greater possibilities for those who wish to strive for some high athletic goals.
"If they want to be competitive, what can we do to keep them competitive, and what can we do to help them if they want to become high-performance athletes?" Soane said.
Each hub will have its specialties, and Soane hopes for each location to build on its strengths while enjoying those of the partners. For example, he pitched swaps between hubs, with people from here heading to Victoria for a rowing camp while people from Vancouver Island could come here for snow-based activities. The Whistler Athletes' Centre will be a major boon for such efforts.
"We can bring people to Whistler. We can house them, and we can also educate them as well," he said.
Soane said WSL will receive a small amount of funding from viaSport, but the goal is that all programming will eventually be self-sustaining.
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