Edmonton is committed to providing athletes with a pathway from grassroots to high performance while advancing opportunities for all, as part of the city’s continued efforts to implement long-term development into their everyday operations. A large part of that means investing in sport and recreation facilities.
“All of our many local sport organizations are members of their respective provincial sport organization, and through them the national sport organization advances their sport-specific long-term development frameworks. Our mandate is to advance the sport, active living and active recreation sector by strengthening the sector and giving voice to issues affecting sport, active living and active recreation,” said Gary Shelton, executive director of the Edmonton Sport Council.
This year Sport for Life included Edmonton in a pilot project to mobilize the Quality Sport in Communities and Clubs workshop and resource, sending CEO Richard Way and community mentor Lea Wiens. Local and provincial sport organizations were joined by sport councils, representatives from both K to 12 and post-secondary education, and interested parties from health and recreation. Together they explored how multi-sectoral collaboration can help aid in the creation of a quality sport pathway from getting into sport to high performance. They were thrilled to hear about the great work already being done in Edmonton.
“While knowing there’s still a ways to go, Edmonton’s been working to make recreation more accessible through initiatives such as the Leisure Access Program which last I heard accounted for about 25% of all City of Edmonton recreation facility admissions. Then there’s great organizations like Free Footie and Sport Central, which have a focus on children in need,” said Shelton.
Other programs for aspiring athletes include TriSchools, an initiative of the World Triathlon Series which has a goal of providing 10,000 Edmonton youth with the opportunity to participate in their first triathlon and encourage active living. There’s also the Edmonton Triathlon Academy, Green & Gold Athlete Academy and sport academies within the Edmonton Public School and Edmonton Catholic School systems. It’s through initiatives like these that participants become acquainted with new sports and decide which ones they would like to pursue at a higher level.
“There is programming and opportunities right here in Edmonton for participants at every stage of the pathway, leading all the way up to competing at the highest level.”
High Performance Pathway Program
One of the most exciting developments in Edmonton’s sport and physical literacy ecosystem is the creation of a High Performance Pathway Program at the Kinsmen Sport Centre (KSC). Aligned with Long-Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity as well as the Quality Sport Checklist, their multi-year master plan is nearing fruition. Since 2014 the KSC has been working to establish a dual-mandate of supporting high-performance sport groups as well as individual athletes and fitness enthusiasts
“Before this, we had 15 or 16 recreation centres but our city didn’t have a facility dedicated to high performance. When our master plan was approved, aligned with the larger recreational master plan for the City of Edmonton, the vision was for this centre to be focused on sports with a high performance pathway,” said Brad Badger, director of programs and events at KSC.
Thus began an extensive and multi-faceted project that began with extensive renovations and required overhauling the facility’s programming from top to bottom. Using a phased approach, they slowly introduced each new element as they worked towards the goal of creating a pathway to excellence for young athletes.
“One of the important criteria we asked sport groups was how their programs reflected the long-term development framework stages. We wanted to understand what level of athletes their program caters to,” said Badger.
“In order to participate in the HPP, sport groups must have athletes in the Train to Train, Train to Compete, or Train to Win Stages of the Sport for Life long-term development framework. These stages are considered the HPP Pathway Stages.”
Twenty sport groups from across Edmonton applied to participate, and 15 groups ultimately met the pathway criteria. They are now renting KSC space and receiving pathway benefits.
Sport for Life CEO Richard Way knows all too well the amount of work that goes into a project like this, and he applauds the Kinsmen Sport Centre for nearing the finish line.
“Creating a high performance pathway for your athletes is not the sort of thing that happens overnight. It requires careful planning, and a vision that stretches far into the future. We were pleased to see a city like Edmonton take the tenets of long-term development and really run with them, overhauling their operation from the ground up. We can’t wait to see the results in the years to come.”