As of a few weeks ago, us athletes found out that a few things are changing in Canadian Track and Field. Let me lay down the facts. The track and field organization of Canada, called Athletics Canada, has totally revamped its strategy, and many athletes who train in Calgary, Ottawa and Kamloops are feeling the effects in some serious ways.
This is where it all started; Athletics Canada has hired a new Head Coach of the High Performance Program named Peter Eriksson. He is Canadian-born but moved to England to be apart of the British Athletics Association. Now that he is back and involved with Athletics Canada, he is changing the Canada’s high performance plan to match the strategy system used by the British Athletics. So what does that mean? How does that affect Canadian athletes? Well, let me explain in detail.
Currently, Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa and Kamloops are the destinations that all have a National Sport Center. A Sport Centre is placed in a training facility that has several elite athletes and consists of an indoor and outdoor track and a weight room. Athletics Canada then covers the cost to train at the facility and therapists in order to help the elite athletes financially. However, as of December 31st of this year, that will all change.
- The Calgary, Ottawa and Kamloops Sport Centre will no longer be a Sport Center. As of January 1st, 2014, Athletics Canada wants the 2 main training “hubs” (similar to a Sport Center) to be in only Vancouver and Toronto. And might I add that the coach from the Calgary, Ottawa and Kamloops Sport Centre will no longer have a job unless they move to either Vancouver or Toronto to coach in one of the “hubs”. That means coaches like Glenroy Gilbert, the coach at the Ottawa Centre who mentored the men’s 4x100m relay to win a bronze medal at this year’s World Championships, will not have his contract renewed in 30 years; because he choses not to leave his wife and kids back home in Ottawa. What will Athletics Canada do if too many ex Sport Center coaches who brought success to Canadian Track and Field are all without a job? How does Canada expect to move forward?
- And to add to all the craziness, the athletes also stuck in that whole “come to a hub or your doomed” situation, they too will now either have to make the same decision or will be forced to financially support themselves to cover the cost to train at the facility without any access to therapists. They no longer have any financial support through the sport center, which would normally go towards physical therapy, training camp expenses and accommodations. Athletics Canada will no longer put their money in any of the Sport Centers except for the Toronto and Vancouver “hub”. As a full time athlete myself, it is devastating to hear that the elite athletes who chose not to leave will have to support themselves because most full time athletes have no income. I mean some of them cannot just pack up and move. Some of them are in the middle University or have children. They can’t just put everything on pause and start up somewhere else.
One thing that I hope the new administration recognizes is that coaching talent in Canada is hard to find. Hard changes are often necessary, but it’s important not to alienate all of your talent, or sooner or later you’ll be left empty handed. We have a hard enough time retaining coaching talent because we can’t pay competitively compared to other federations like United States. We don’t need to push people away from the sport. We’re already losing very good people in the midst of all this. However, maybe that has to happen, but we shouldn’t be so unashamed about forcing people into a corner.
On the contrary, if you look at it from a different perspective perhaps consolidating resources into fewer full service centers makes sense. When resources are spread too thin, we end up with a bunch of semi-centers that are limited in what they’re actually able to provide. Therefore, having two primary centers, one east, one west, makes geographic sense. One, Toronto is the natural choice for the Eastern center because we have over 23 elite athletes with 11 of them being Olympians, 3 coaches, and great facilities. This means by adding new elite athletes to the “hub” Athletics Canada can put a greater amount of financial support into the hub and be able to provide more for the athletes. Yes, it a huge sacrifice for the affected coaches and athletes, but it’s a good sacrifice if you are truly dedicated to the sport in hope for a new system that could beneficially help Canadian Track and Field. If it works for British Athletics, it can possibly work for Athletics Canada.