Scandinavian countries take lead from Canadian athlete development

Scandinavian countries may seem to have an edge over Canada when it comes to athlete development, but the fact is they’re often relying on our expertise. In a recent interview, Sport for Life expert André Lachance took journalist Martin Leclerc through how exactly that came to be.

"Many of the improvements in Scandinavian sports systems are the result of recommendations made by Canadian experts," he told CBC Radio, in an article published in January.

Championing the Long Term Athlete Development framework, which is currently being revised for version 3.0, Lachance asserted that any coach or athlete participating in organized sport in the past 14 years has been influenced by its release. The framework has been adopted in several countries around the world, which ensures Canadians will be routinely invited to share their expertise with foreign federations.

But sometimes that means those countries will move ahead with initiatives that give them a competitive advantage.

"In Canada, we are the world's champions in the production of beautiful glossy documents. The ideas in it are excellent. But when it comes to implementing them, it's something else,” said Lachance.

“In our country, we are still debating issues that existed in 2002 or 2006. Meanwhile, the Scandinavians are leaving with our information and thinking, "OK, how do we get this implemented as quickly as possible?”

In October Lachance spent a week in Denmark, and noted all the sport federations present were there to study Canadian concepts—the primary one being physical literacy. And though he’s enthusiastic that European countries are making progress, he’s a little demoralized by the way Canada’s lagging behind.

One concept he’d like to see gain more acceptance is support for multi-sport programming.

"It's very popular. The Japanese will be the next to make this fundamental shift to multi-sport. They also realize, for example, that playing baseball intensively between the ages of 12 and 16 has more negative than positive effects on athletes," he said.

But some programs are hopelessly outdated.

"The idea of going to school in the morning, playing sports in the afternoon dates back to the Soviet Union. It was not a bad idea, except that we realized that after five years, young people are disgusted with practicing the same discipline intensively and that they are more likely to abandon all sports,” he said.

"We are trying to influence decision-makers to do things differently, by letting high school students learn about several and then allow them to make a choice.”

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