Skate Canada revitalizes participant pathways

Aspiring figure skaters now have two pathways to excellence, and an easy platform to explore both, thanks to Skate Canada’s revitalized Long-Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity framework and their newly introduced Athlete Development Matrices for their Podium and STAR pathways. 

According to Dr. Shae Zukiwsky, Senior Director of Performance Excellence at Skate Canada, these improvements were long overdue. The resource is now available to all Skate Canada skateholders country-wide through a user friendly online portal.

“With the release of LTD 3.0, it was absolutely time for us to revisit our resources. There were needed improvements to our Own the Podium, Gold Medal Profile and there was some systemic alignment that was needed. We took the opportunity to do a holistic, broad approach,” he said. 

“Instead of a resource, coaches were looking for more of a tool. We didn’t want to just create a document to live on the website or a bookshelf. Through consultations with our stakeholders and various groups, including Skate Canada's Integrated Support Team (IST), it became really clear there was a desire to move past the theoretical level to something applicable that people can actually use in their daily environments to enhance LTD integration and education.”

To accomplish this, Skate Canada worked with Sport for Life LTD Advisor Dr. Vicki Harber to address the foundational principles for the four figure skating disciplines – Singles, Pairs, Ice Dance and Synchronized Skating; with the final category in particular requiring a revamp. Offering resources to support healthy mental preparation while training and competing had to be incorporated into Skate Canada's LTD framework, according to Josée Bourdon, Senior Manager of Coaching.

“The LTD Mental and Self Skills ADM was a good addition to Skate Canada’s LTD framework. It provides practical information for coaches to consider on the Mental and Self Skills attributes that are developmentally and generally impactful to an athletes’ well-being and performance. It’s our mandate to ensure coaches feel comfortable and understand the importance of training the human first alongside the athlete,” she said.

The makings of a LTD platform 

The information included in Skate Canada’s new LTD resource is appropriate not only for coaches but for parents, administrators, sport leadership and the entire figure skating community. It recognizes that each participant learns, matures and masters skills at a different rate. The two pathways were created with three key pillars in mind: mental and self skills, technical and tactical, and physical capacities.

The two pathways created by Skate Canada function as follows:

Podium Pathway

The Podium Pathway is intended for elite skaters destined for high-level competition. It consists of the following elements:

  • For each stage of LTD, there is a drop-down menu for each relevant step.
  • The platform is informed by coach consultation and evidence-based benchmarks.
  • Content is aligned with judge and official education, and resources regarding assessment.
  • Language is aligned with domestic and international resources. 
  • Videos are available to visually support each stage of development.
  • Members can open tabs for each competitive category in the platform — you can look at all the skills at one LTD level, or you can look at an individual skill at all stages.

STAR Pathway

The STAR pathway is Skate Canada’s equivalent to the Learn to Train stage of development, and includes 93% of their participants. The STAR pathway is supported by the same elements that are provided to the Podium Pathway, and integrates the same information provided during elite athlete development all the way through.

Both pathways also include:

  • Subject matter experts, Skate Canada’s IST, provide intro videos to each ADM, which provides visibility of the Sport Science team to the skating community.
  • In each stage of development there are links to other relevant external resources, and a list of terms and references/resources.

Encouraging system-wide change

As they rolled out these new resources, Zukiwsky and Bourdon travelled to various provinces to make sure provincial and territorial sport organizations (PTSOs) were on the same page about the platform, LTD and the ADMs. They held workshops with coaches and sport leaders across the country. 

“It was critical for us that each province’s leadership appreciated the direction Skate Canada was moving and had an awareness of what we’d created. You can create the best tool, but if nobody knows about it and nobody’s accessing it, it doesn’t matter. We were very pleased with the resource we’d created, and needed people to appreciate how to use it and bring it all the way down to the local level,” said Zukiwsky.

To further reach out to their provincial and local organizations, Skate Canada has created video vignettes that cover various aspects of LTD. Every month, they feature a new element in their newsletter, teasing and then sharing information about it on social media. They cover topics such as competition planning, best practices in sport science for daily training environments, and a parent information guide.

“We personally see LTD as the main hub to develop and grow our sport,” said Bourdon. 

Now that the platform has been unveiled, PSOs will begin the individual work of incorporating the content into their operations. With the support of Skate Canada, each one will prioritize which elements to mobilize and implement.

“This is impressive, from the completion of the LTD 3.0 framework and Athlete Development Matrix, and perhaps more important, to the planning and support for implementation and working with the Skate Canada sections across the country,” Sport for Life’s Director of Quality Sport Carolyn Trono said. 

“The Skate Canada approach highlights that every skater deserves a quality sport experience, whether they’re on the Podium Pathway or on the STAR Pathway.” 

NOTE: Sport for Life will be profiling some of the PTSOs that have incorporated Skate Canada’s new Long-Term Development and Athlete Development Matrix content and used it as a tool for innovation in the coming year.