WinSport’s Snow School Continuum – LTAD approach to developing snow lovers

If your child plays hockey or swims, most parents would agree the sport system is relatively easy to navigate as there is a defined system or path for parents to follow. The levels are progressive and instructors often refer you to the next level.

However, other sport systems are challenging. Skiing and snowboarding programming has no governing body that clearly defines the levels and progression.

Each resort sets the progression levels and does their best to build a progressive scale that outlines pre-requisites and the skills that your child will learn in each class.

WinSport creating a clearly defined path of progression for skiers and snowboarders

WinSport has tapped into their sport scientists to build snow school levels to meet the age and physical development of children. The system is rooted in the Long-term athlete development model (LTAD).
WinSport has tapped into their sport scientists to build snow school levels to meet the age and physical development of children. The system is rooted in the Long-term athlete development model (LTAD).

The LTAD is a sport framework that is designed to ensure children – beginning before puberty – do the right things at the right time in sport activities to develop a life-long love for sport and successfully participate at elite levels, if they choose to do so.

Snow School at WinSport is quite simple to understand. Our website displays the levels outlined by age. It indicates the skill set your child needs to have so you can place them in the appropriate level. If you need help, our guest services staff is available to guide you through this process. Even if your child is placed in the wrong level on the first day of lessons we will quickly place them in the appropriate group. The instructor will check off the prerequisite skills your child has achieved on their progression card which you will find attached to their jacket. At the end of your lessons, we encourage our instructors to connect with you and share with you the next steps for your child.

We would love to tell you that progression is linear and your child will move easily from one level to the next. However, that’s not always the case. Your child may need to repeat levels to ensue that they gain the appropriate level of mastery over specific skills. Our priority is twofold – ensuring that your child can navigate the terrain safely and that they have the confidence to perform specific skills.

As a parent your child has progressed through lessons and they love being on snow. Their skill set will certainly improve as they spend more time on snow. It is at this moment that parents seek out more information on what is next. They go online, talk to friends and try to find out how they get their children to the next level.

Progressing to the next level – WinSport Club programs

Parents who have grown up in the sport understand that the next step is either recreational or competitive club programs. Club programs are long-term, ranging between 11 weeks and season-long opportunities. They include multiple sessions per week and your child has a coach instead of an instructor. Our recreational club offerings are different than most clubs.

  • The first type of club is all-mountain. This is rooted in exposing your child to multiple disciplines (alpine & freestyle) so they can determine which discipline works best for them.
  • The second type of club is focused on one specific discipline.

How our clubs differentiate

WinSport clubs are different than other ski teams that you see across the province. Most of these groups are operated by volunteers and do have paid coaches. Our recreational club program is operated by the same leadership team that guides our snow school. We have them linked to ensure the progression and development is rooted in appropriate stages of the LTAD model. We work closely with both provincial and national sport organizations to ensure that we are incorporating the latest progression in each discipline so that your child is learning the latest skills. In addition, we have a training environment where your child can practice specific skills at a specific progressive level. We also search for opportunities to introduce your child to competitions.

The next step: Performance teams

As your child progresses through our system and have a passion and natural aptitude for a discipline, your recreational club coach will take the time to identify them to our performance coaches. Our performance coaches and administration team will have a discussion with you and your child to determine if they would like to move to a competitive level club. If there is an interest and fit, an invite will be extended to your child to join one of these teams.

The performance teams are where we develop the next generation of Olympians. These are year-round programs where your child will take part in dryland training, international training and participate in high-level competitions. We are proud to have had more than two dozen athletes and coaches graduate from the performance teams to national programs.

Our most successful recent graduate, Cassie Sharpe, had an exceptional performance at the Games in PyeongChang, taking home gold in the half-pipe.

We are proud of the progressive LTAD-based system we have built at WinSport because of the foresight from the founders of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

Get involved

Let us help you navigate your snow journey. Our team in Guest Services and snow sports are available to connect with you and answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to seeing you on the slopes this winter.

Fore more information, contact our Guest Services team at 403-247-5452 (ext. 4) or visit winsport.ca.

 

Why we’re “gaga” over Gaga Ball

It may sound cliché, but if you ask any child what they think about gaga ball, they will literally go ‘gaga’ over it.

“They actually chant and cheer when we go play gaga ball – it’s probably the one activity they look forward to most at camp,” says Kyler Tritter, a Team Lead for WinSport’s summer camps. “They really cheer during the game while playing and then cheer on their friends when they’re eliminated from the game.”

Gaga ball is a fun, intense, fast sport played in an pit with rules similar to dodgeball.
Gaga ball is a fun, intense, fast sport played in an pit with rules similar to dodgeball.

Gaga ball is best described as a simple form of dodgeball played in a partially enclosed octagonal pit that contains short walls, so the ball stays in play. Participants have to strike the soft ball with their hand to hit opponents. If a participant is hit with the ball below the waist, they are eliminated from the game and leave the pit. Due to the enclosed space, it’s an intense, fun and fast game.

“It’s a good game for all skill levels and it’s fast paced, so the games usually last two or three minutes which gives the kids a lot of opportunity to play,” Tritter says. “If they are eliminated quickly, they’re right back in playing another game in only a few minutes.”

According to Sport Resources Group, gaga ball originated in Israel and was popular in Jewish camps and community centres in the 1970s. Recently, it has quickly grown in popularity in North America and is in use at camps and schools.

WinSport incorporated the game into summer camps last year using makeshift gaga ball pits. With it being such a hit with the kids, the organization purchased official pits this year.

Tritter says despite the game’s simplicity, it supports a component of the organization’s sport philosophy which focuses around teaching kids how to lose.

“It’s important to learn how to lose – and in gaga ball, even if you do lose there’s a lot of opportunity to try again and do better,” Tritter says. “That’s one of the things we want to achieve in our camps – to build resiliency so that the kids know if they lose, it’s not a big deal and they just need to do something different next time.”

Gaga ball also aligns with WinSport’s use of Teaching Games For Understanding (TGFU), which is a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic. Read all about it here.

“The kids are working on a lot of fundamental skills – striking, dodging and other tactics,” says Tritter adding that these same skills are used in sports such as soccer, hockey and lacrosse. “It’s really fun to watch as well when you’ve been eliminated because you can pick up on other peoples’ tactics. The kids can also can create their own strategies. We’re not telling them the strategies – they are learning on their own which is much more impactful.”

Gaga ball also separates itself from other sports in that it is more inclusive and puts everybody on an even playing field.

“You don’t have those kids dominating as you see in lacrosse, soccer and ball hockey where you get a couple of kids with previous knowledge and tend to dominate the game,” Tritter says. “Gaga ball is more of an open playing field where to large degree everyone can be competitive and have fun.”

TGFU. It’s not a bad word – it helps kids learn

The acronym TGFU is not something you say to somebody, it’s rather something that kids do at WinSport that helps them develop essential sport skills.

Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) is a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic.
Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) is a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic.

TGFU stands for Teaching Games for Understanding. Simply put, it’s a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic. It’s essentially an indirect method for teaching skills and rules that kids will later apply to specific sports such as hockey, rugby and soccer.

“The biggest piece is that it makes the games fun and it teaches kids about rules and why they are in place, so they gain an appreciation and an understanding for them,” says Chris Lane, a Team Lead for WinSport’s summer camps. “It focuses on what to look for in certain situations, so they can make strategic decisions.”

TGFU always starts simple and progressively gets more complex, so kids learn strategy and tactics. For example, a game of tag may start with everybody being “it.” When a participant is tagged, they sit down. In a second game, the kids would be partnered and only that partner can tag the participant in order for them to be able to stand up and get back in the game. In the third game, teams of four are built, and only one participant can tag somebody back into the game, prompting a team to think about who should be tagged back in first.

“This is where we start building upon skills and tactics,” says Lane. “It develops a broad set of skills, it’s engaging, and kids learn the ‘why’ about a game.”

Lane says that once these tactics are developed, kids are inherently learning specific skills for sports.

“Think, for example, in a game of hockey how important positioning is,” Lane says. “The importance of positioning is taught when we play tag, along with other skills such as the importance of keeping your head up and how to get to an area as quickly as possible – which are key skills in hockey.”

Some other examples are playing net-wall basketball and gaga ball – both are trying to get a ball in a specific place and can be applied later to hockey, where it’s important to strategically aim the puck at a specific point in the net.

Lane says for TGFU to be successful, it’s important to talk with the kids to ensure they understand why certain rules were implemented into the games. He says it’s equally important to debrief the kids on the tactics they exercised.

“Between games and at the succession of the games, we pose questions to the group,” Lane explains. “How did the game change when we introduce a rule set? We really get them to understand the thought process.”

Lane says since TGFU integrates strategy and tactic into sport, success isn’t completely reliant on athleticism, so it puts everybody on an even playing field where they learn while having fun together.

Keeping summer campers safe when the temperature is high and the skies are smoky

As a venue from the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, WinSport summer camps offer kids a unique outdoor experience for their daily activities. But as we all know, Calgary’s summers can be hot and/or smoky because of wildfires.

WinSport has systems in place to monitor lightning and air quality so team leads can adjust  activities quickly when the weather turns.
WinSport has systems in place to monitor lightning and air quality so team leads can adjust activities quickly when the weather turns.

That’s why we have a system in place to constantly monitor conditions, so we can act promptly to keep summer campers safe in a manner where they can still have fun participating in their activities.

When the temperature is in the 30C range, our instructors pay extra attention as to when the campers need a break in the shade or need to rehydrate. We also modify daily activities to include water. For example, we’ll often run a sprinkler while the campers run around playing an activity.

Other ways we keep your child safe in the heat:

  • We have sun screen on-site at all camps
  • We take breaks in the shade and/or inside air-conditioned buildings
  • We encourage campers to drink water frequently
  • Mist stations are set up in the Husky Gardens so all summer camp participants have access
  • We provide hats to Sport and Adventure campers

When it comes to smoke, we are constantly monitoring air quality and take action accordingly, which include: potentially moving outdoor activities inside, taking additional breaks inside, reducing intensity of activities.

Lastly, we also monitor lightning and move all activities indoor when lightning activity is in the area.

Why proper nutrition is key to learning and development

From pretty much the moment you drop off your child at WinSport for summer camp, they’ll be moving, being active and learning life skills.

And the correct fuel is so essential for optimal learning – both physically and mentally.

Kyle Tritter, a Team Lead for WinSport's summer camps, serves up lunch. WinSport has evolved its lunch program to ensure kids have nutritious food that gives them the right fuel for their day of activities.
Kyler Tritter, a Team Lead for WinSport’s summer camps, serves up lunch. WinSport has evolved its lunch program to ensure kids have nutritious food that gives them the right fuel for their day of activities.

Kyler Tritter is a Team Lead for summer camps and says nutrition is a key component to having a good day at summer camp.

“When you have a nutritious meal, instead of hot dogs and popsicles, you’ll see fewer breakdowns with the younger kids and the older kids feel less lethargic or tired,” Tritter explains. “What they eat is the fuel for your body which is another aspect we try to teach them. What you put into your body is what your body uses. You can feel better and perform better when you have the right food.”

As an organization that teaches sport to all ages – from toddlers in how to skate lessons to Canadian Olympians training to reach the podium – it’s understandable that WinSport strives to provide the type of food for people to reach their goals. It’s something WinSport’s executive chef Liana Robberecht has been focusing on during the last few years.

“We started focusing more on healthier food about three years ago, beginning with our offerings in the Garden Café,” says Robberecht. “WinSport caters to athletes at all stages of their journey, so it is important to have the proper fuel. We achieve this by implementing variety of options in the grab-and- go sections, salad bar and through daily specials.”

Robberecht says it was equally important to strategize meals for summer camp participants.

“We then took a more serious look at what options are we giving the children that participate in summer camp, we wanted to work with our camp instructors more closely to be able provide good food,” says Robberecht.

Tritter says the nutritious food has had a positive effect.

“Every day there is always one item of the food groups – there’s always a protein, a whole grain and fruit and vegetables,” says Tritter. “It is really good – the food looks a lot more enjoyable, it’s not hot dogs and popsicles – it’s actually food that will provide kids the correct fuel for the day.”

Some examples of the meals prepared for summer camp participants include baked gluten-free chicken fingers, house-made chicken meatballs, house-made turkey sliders, watermelon and vegetable sticks.

WinSport isn’t just providing nutritious food for campers, instructors are teaching them how to eat right. Tritter says some of the camps get the kids to build meal plans specific to their sport.

“For athletic development camps in rugby and soccer, the kids create nutrition goal setting to help them become a well-rounded athlete,” says Tritter. “We introduce them to the different food groups and how much they should eat in each. We also teach them about alternatives to meat and alternatives to dairy. The older groups (age 10-14) make a game-day meal, which includes what they would eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks and a plan to keep hydrated during day.”

Robberecht says her team will continue to work with camp instructors to learn more about their nutritional requirements for summer camp activities so kids not only enjoy the meals but have the appropriate fuel for their daily activities.

Long Term Athlete Development – what it is and why parents should care

You may or may not have heard the phrase Long Term Athlete Development, also commonly referred to by its acronym, LTAD. If you’re a parent and haven’t heard the term, you’ll certainly want to know what it means.

WinSport's programs are designed with the Long Term Athlete Development framework.
WinSport’s programs are designed with the Long Term Athlete Development framework.

Simply put, it is a sport framework that is designed to ensure children – beginning before puberty – do the right things at the right time in sport activities to develop a life-long love for sport and successfully participate at elite levels, if they choose to do so.

“Sport never had a K to 12 model as our education system does, so the LTAD is just that,” explains Jennifer Konopaki, Director, Sport Leadership, at WinSport. “LTAD provides a framework for coaches, trainers and educators at all levels on how to appropriately structure their programs and practices so it is optimal, developmentally. It’s detailed for every age and gender. For example, it outlines what girls need opposed to boys – it’s really Canada’s food guide for sport.”

History

So where did this LTAD framework come from? It started in 2002, when the Canadian Federal, Provincial and Territorial (F-P/T) Ministers adopted the Canadian Sport Policy, which was a commitment to enhance participation, excellence, capacity and interaction in Canadian sport. The policy had a vision of ‘A dynamic and leading-edge sport environment that enables all Canadians to experience and enjoy involvement in sport to the extent of their abilities and interests and, for increasing numbers, to perform consistently and successfully at the highest competitive levels.” (Canadian Sport Policy, 2002).

Since then, sport organizations have been adopting the LTAD framework into their programming and it’s something WinSport is also proud to integrate into all its programming supported by its mission: “to provide opportunities for Canadians to discover, develop and excel at sport through world-class training, facilities and exceptional experiences.”

“The incredible thing at WinSport is we have the entire framework in action,” says Konopaki.

LTAD in WinSport programming

Take for example WinSport’s ski and snowboarding programs, where children can start as early as three years old. Because all programs are based on the LTAD framework, the child begins being comfortable on snow and as they age, they’re introduced to programs to refine the skills they have learned in multi-disciplined programs. Eventually, if they wish, they’re then encouraged to move on to WinSport’s developmental teams. From there, they can then learn in a high-performance environment where many athletes can move on to provincial and national teams.

A key component of the LTAD framework is to develop fundamental movement skills (FMS) for children at an appropriate age, which then sets them up for success for the rest of their lives. FMS are simple skills opposed to those learned for specific sports. Examples of fundamental movement skills include throwing, catching, kicking, running and exercises to improve flexibility and movement.

“If you have a three-year-old and all they do is play hockey, they are very specialized, but they don’t have those fundamental sport skills that carry them through life,” Konopaki explains. “What happens after hockey? Will they be able and willing to play soccer, or participate in a corporate baseball tournament or whatever else their life is going to bring? It is so essential that these fundamental skills are developed in the optimal window so they learn these skills that will help them down the road.”

As noted on Sport for Life’s website: “Encouraging children to enjoy moving and promoting confidence in movement skills at an early age helps to ensure later participation in physical activity.”

LTAD giving parents confidence

Parents spend a lot of time and money helping introduce their kids to sport so they have fun and lead a healthy life. Konopaki says the LTAD framework gives parents the assurance that their child is receiving the most appropriate training and instruction that will lead to both their enjoyment and success in sport and physical activity.

“It provides quality assurance and confidence to you as a parent that the programming is appropriate based on your child’s needs,” says Konopaki.

She also says the LTAD framework gives coaches the guidance as to when children should begin to specialize in a particular sport, which was a major flaw in programming prior to the LTAD framework.

“We tend to specialize at a young age in Canada, which makes children one dimensional and more prone to injury,” says Konopaki. “So you end up with a hockey player opposed to an athlete that plays hockey. It’s important to read up on it as a parent – when you’re engaged with a local baseball organization for example, you can see if the age and coaching is appropriate based on the established research and science.”

For any new policy or guideline, there has to be influential people or organizations to champion the initiative. That’s where Sport for Life comes into play. It’s an organization that promotes developing physical literacy and improving the quality of sport programs based on long-term athlete development (LTAD) principles. Starting in 2005, the organization evolved into a movement led by a network of experts and champions working across sport, recreation, education and health, from community to national levels.

David Legg, a member of the Canadian Sport for Life Leadership team in the mid-2000s helped write the LTAD for athletes with a disability, known as No Accidental Champions. Legg notes that among other benefits “the LTAD framework helps identify what ages children should be introduced to specific training programs.” Legg also explains that another benefit from a multi-sport approach is helping lower the incidence of injuries due to overuse.

These are a few of the benefits from using the LTAD framework and a commitment to physical literacy and a multi-sport approach. Now, large organizations such as WinSport, to community parent volunteer coaches have a plethora of resources specific to their sport and age of participants in which they design programs and coach under an LTAD framework. It’s all located here: http://sportforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/LTAD-2.1-EN_web.pdf?x96000

Preparing for WinSport Summer Camp – how to deal with separation anxiety

WinSport’s award-winning summer camps offer children unforgettable memories during the week they spend with our qualified instructors.

But like any new experience, an unfamiliar environment can create some anxiety for both campers and their parents in the early days of camp drop-off. It’s called separation anxiety and luckily, there are some simple tips you can follow to make sure the first day at camp is the best it can be for both campers and mom and dad.

WinSport 's award winning summer camps offer children a unique outdoor experience.
WinSport ‘s award winning summer camps offer children a unique outdoor experience.

Erin Rennison is a team lead for summer camps. She says it’s important parents prepare their child for camp before checking in on the first day.

“Talk about what types of activities the child will be doing at camp, emphasizing the fun that they will have,” Erin explains. “Make sure they have all the equipment and supplies required for certain camps such as snacks or athletic shoes so they feel fully prepared and confident.” (For all the details, visit our Know Before You Go camps page here.)

Erin also says it’s important to have a conversation about any fears your child might have and to let them know the instructor will always do everything they can to make the child feel welcome and comfortable at camp.

Michelle Mungar Lumley’s six-year-old son Brayden participated in Sport & Adventure and Hockey camp last year and says parents can get their children engaged the night before camp to reduce any anxiety they may have.

“Get your child to help you prepare their snacks and/or lunch, fill their water bottle and pack extra clothes so they feel prepared and begin to get excited,” Mungar Lumley explains. “It also helps to bring your child to WinSport prior to camp and just walk around. Help them to understand where they will be hanging out. New environments can be scary but if they have been there before and have an understanding of the lay of the land, it won’t be as scary come first day of camp.”

At this point, your child should feel engaged, excited and have a general sense of what to expect at the first day of camp. Now it gets really exciting – arriving to WinSport for their check-in where they get to meet their camp instructor.

As you know, your child can go from excited to nervous in a flash. Mia Giffen, a camp team lead says if your child becomes anxious, it’s important to remind them of similar of situations in which they were dropped off by their parents.

“Remind them how past experiences went – how you had picked them up in the past and the fact that you had come back. Use examples such as at a friend’s house or other camps and activities,” she says

Kristie Pshyk’s nine-year-old daughter Hailey participated in girls-only Mountain Bike and Sport and Adventure summer camps. She says parents can also experience separation anxiety, but that it’s important not to show it.

“If you are anxious about leaving your child, don’t show it. Wave and smile and say good bye and let the experienced instructors take care of the rest,” she explains. “They will call you if your child isn’t coping well. Usually once we are out of site, the child joins in and forgets they are sad to see the parent go – worried anxious parents make anxiety prone kids worse.”

Another great way for families to prepare and get comfortable before camp is to read the “know before you go” part of the WinSport website. This provides essential information including times, a map of the park, what to bring and where to go. https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/summercamps/campskbyg.cfm

Other tips prior to check-in   

  • Talk to your child about camp. Get them excited about the activities and friends they will meet. Take out the scary unknown aspects of camps and create excitement before they go.
  • Talk about what types of activities the child will be doing at camp, emphasizing the fun that they will have.
  • Clearly define the week/activities – don’t surprise them
  • Have all your campfax forms and waivers signed online ahead of time to make camp check-in a breeze. Refer to the Know Before You Go document: https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/summercamps/campskbyg.cfm

Other tips at check-in  

  • During check in on day one, have a brief conversation with your child and his/her instructor. This conversation will help set the tone and relationship between them.
  • When dropping off your child, talk to their Instructor and junior instructor. Show your child their group is a safe space.
  • Show your child the schedule for the week and point out the activities that you know they enjoy.
  • If possible, make good byes short so your child can quickly get acquainted with the atmosphere, instructor and fellow campers.

 

Why WinSport Summer Camps are the best in the city

Several organizations in Calgary host summer camps for kids, but none of them compare to WinSport’s award-winning camps for kids aged 4-16.

Our camps are sport-based, as we believe sport is the perfect vehicle to help each child reach their greatest potential. Don’t believe us? We’ve compiled a list of unique facts about our camps that distinguish ours from the rest of the city.

WinSport leverages its Olympic legacy in its summer camps by offering unique activities.
WinSport leverages its Olympic legacy in its summer camps by offering unique activities.

1.) WinSport summer camp participants get to explore the largest outdoor space in the city. Canada Olympic Park spans a total of 229 acres!

2.) We leverage Calgary’s close proximity to the mountains to introduce summer camp participants to different environments, such as mountain trails and hikes in Kananaskis.

3.) Our summer camp menus are specifically designed to ensure our camp participants’ caloric intake so they have exactly what they need for the activities they’ll be participating in throughout the day. Having distinguished executive chef Liana Robberecht on the WinSport team, allows us to create meals with the best, high quality ingredients.

4.) The WinSport summer camp family is huge! Last year, 5,814 campers participated in WinSport summer camps.

5.) We offer more than a dozen camps across three different categories including hockey, sport and adventure and mountain bike!

6.) We use science to guide our camp curriculum by applying principles like TGfU or Teaching Games for Understanding. Learn more about TGfU here: http://www.playsport.net/about-playsport/teaching-games-understanding-tgfu-approach

7.) Our summer camps use the facilities that played a key role in 79% of Canada’s medals at Pyeongchang! You never know which athlete you’ll meet at WinSport.

Your child will make memories that will last a lifetime at our summer camps. For more information, visit: https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/summercamps.cfm

 

 

 

 

Legacy babies, facilities are continuing testament to the power of a success Olympics

It’s been 30 years since Robyn Perry, who was 12-years-old at the time, lit the cauldron at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium to officially start the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

It’s the biggest party the city has ever seen and spawned a three-decade long love affair between winter sport, the City of Calgary and Calgarians in general.

“Arguably Calgary’s growth, even just the physical size of the city, can be tied to that coming out party on the world stage,” says Mount Royal University professor David Legg, a past President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Chair of Health and Physical Education at MRU. “It’s tough to name one specific thing as the most important legacy of 1988, but the facilities themselves are the easiest and most demonstrable to the lay person.”

History is rife with Olympic host cities that mothballed their venues almost as fast as they were constructed. Those cities include Sarajevo (winter, 1984); Atlanta (summer, 1996); Athens (summer, 2004) and Beijing (summer, 2008).

Alex Gough`s life would have taken a different turn if it wasn`t for the sliding track at Canada Olympic Park.
Alex Gough`s life would have taken a different turn if it wasn`t for the sliding track at Canada Olympic Park.

Calgary’s legacy facilities, however, have continued to play an important role in the city’s landscape and identity, with all the vital venues from 1988 still being fully utilized – except for the 90-metre ski jump tower at Canada Olympic Park, which is now the departure point for North America’s fastest zipline.

“If you were to count the number of people that have utilized the facilities that were built for 1988, we are hundreds of thousands of people I would guess, if you include all the different facilities combined in some form or another,” said Legg. “That’s a pretty significant impact over a 30-year span. Those impacts are difficult to demonstrate cause and effect and direct and indirect impacts, but, anecdotally, and certainly my gut tells me, that they are significant.”

Those venues continue to play a significant role in WinSport being relevant three decades after Canada Olympic Park was turned over to the Calgary Olympic Development Association by the Government of Canada following the ’88 Games. They are critical to WinSport fulfilling its mission, which is: to provide opportunities for Canadians to discover, develop and excel at sport through world-class training, facilities and exceptional experiences.

“The founding organizers of the Calgary Games deserve so much credit for having the forethought to ensure that the facilities at Canada Olympic Park would be relevant for future generations, thanks to the endowment funds that were created following the Games,” says WinSport President and CEO Barry Heck.

WinSport doesn’t receive direct government funding for its day-to-day operations. It relies on revenue from the ski and snowboard hill, the four ice rinks, public gym, programs, summer camps, its variety of summer and winter activities, and its robust food and beverage operation, which hosts more than 1,000 events yearly.

According to a recent study conducted by Calgary Economic Development, WinSport contributes $120 million of positive economic impact annually to the City of Calgary. This is in addition to the social and cultural impact on the community.

While the facilities have continued to draw Canadian and international athletes for training and competition, perhaps the longest lasting impact of the 1988 Games are the “legacy babies.” These are athletes who wouldn’t have been introduced to certain sports if they weren’t available to them as they were exploring sport.

“Being able to be thrown down a luge track when I was in my adolescence, that was an incredible experience,” says Sam Edney, who first discovered luge in Grade 9 at the suggestion of a physical education teacher. He finished in sixth place this week in Pyeongchang at his fourth Olympic Games. “If you are a kid from Calgary or Alberta, then you are really lucky because we have that opportunity to have access to these facilities.”

Edney is just one of a handful of athletes whose lives would have taken tremendously different paths if they didn’t have access to the Canada Olympic Park venues. Bobsledder Helen Upperton, a silver medallist at the Vancouver 2010 Games, first tried luge as a 12-year-old and was then lured to bobsleigh after college. Lugers Alex Gough, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith often credit their success with the opportunities provided to them thanks to the ’88 Games.

Ski cross racer Brady Leman’s mom worked at Canada Olympic Park as a ski instructor, among other roles, while he was growing up. That gave him access to the hill essentially every day of the week. He is one of 171 athletes competing in Pyeongchang that has either competed or trained at WinSport’s facilities at Canada Olympic Park or the Bill Warren Training Centre in Canmore.

“I had some pretty cool opportunities as a kid was growing up in Calgary, especially spending so much time here (Canada Olympic Park),” said Leman, who won gold on Day 12 in Pyeongchang. “I got exposed to a ton of different sports when I was younger. I think skiing was always in our family and it is definitely in my blood, but I think if it wasn’t that, I would have picked something up else like speed skating, ski jumping or luge.

“Being in Calgary gives you the opportunity to be exposed to those kinds of things and that’s not an opportunity that every kid gets.”

The facilities at Canada Olympic Park have not only withstood the test of time, but have continued to thrive. With a halfpipe upgraded to Olympic standards in 2011, WinSport has drawn some of the world’s great athletes, including legendary snowboarder Shaun White, who held training camps in Calgary for each of the past three years.

The moguls World Cup was recently held in January on the moguls pitch at Canada Olympic Park for the 11th time, while five aerials World Cups have been held there.

The luge World Cup was held in Calgary in November, with Edney and Gough each capturing silver medals – the first time ever two Canadians have won medals at a World Cup in Calgary. In fact, more than 18,000 runs took place on the Calgary track during the 2016-17 winter season.

“For one of the venues that has been around for as long as it has, WinSport and the legacy has done a great job of maintaining the venue and keeping it relevant and up to date,” said Gough, a silver medallist in South Korea. “It’s great for us to have as a training facility and great for us to be here and be able to race on it.”

It’s these venues that are playing a significant role in determining whether the City of Calgary decides to bid on the 2026 Winter Games. Many would only require renovations rather than entirely new facilities. In the case of the sliding track at COP, a refurbishment is scheduled for this spring after WinSport secures the funding required. This facelift is exclusive of a potential Olympic bid.

Upperton’s parents drove her across the city in her early sliding days. Little did she know that that the 1.5-kilometre track would play a huge part of her life, including her introduction to her partner, Jesse Lumsden, a member of Canada’s men’s Olympic bobsleigh team.

“I always say that the sliding sports, a lot of times, it’s a matter of location,” said Upperton, who teamed up with Shelley-Ann Brown to win silver at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. “We happen to live in a city with all these great legacy venues and my parents took me to use them. Eleven years of my life went by. I travelled all over the world, represented my country at two Olympic Games and met amazing people, including Jesse. I had so many great experiences that shaped me into the person I am.”

In fact, the 1988 Games have shaped the lives of thousands.

“Part of Calgary’s DNA is that we were a successful Olympic sport city,” said Legg. “Even Salt Lake City, I don’t know if that’s part of their ethos or how the present themselves, but for us, that’s our signature.”

 

WinSport helping children thrive in unique Early Explorers program

A child’s mental and physical development is crucial between the ages of three to five, which is why WinSport took the steps to create an Early Childhood Development (ECD) program called Early Explorers.

Recent studies of ECD indicate that over 50 percent of children entering Kindergarten in Alberta are not developing appropriately in the key areas of development. (EcMap Project, 2014)

The Early Explorers program builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment.
The Early Explorers program builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment.

As WinSport has been a pioneer in programming, the organization began to carefully look at how it can address this issue and build the physical and cognitive development of children through sport. The idea to create the program was inspired from WinSport’s legacy, which was formed by relentless, bold, and fearless individuals. The organization’s goal is to continue that legacy by creating the next generation of leaders – children who will make an impact and continue to inspire their community.

Previously, WinSport’s focus has been on children over the age of 5, but the Early Explorers program now allows the organization to address the crucial development of children in earlier ages.

To build the program, WinSport worked with the First 2000 Days Network. This group of early childhood experts are tapping into the science, stating 85 percent of the brain’s wiring happens between the ages of 0 and 5. (Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, 2011).

“WinSport’s early childhood programming embraces children’s inquisitive nature and creates opportunities to support and enhance their rapid development,” explains Hollie Cressy, Manager of Sport Development who helped create the Early Explorers program. “We believe children are strong, capable individuals and we value their ability to boldly discover the world around them and fearlessly return to nature and the outdoors.”

The outdoor play component of our ECD program is complimented by the newly designed calm and nurturing indoor learning space in the Markin MacPhail Centre.

“This engaging indoor and outdoor learning environment will stimulate children’s curiosity and sense of wonderment by providing experiences with sporting equipment, nature-based play, obstacle courses, and other activities,” Cressy explains. “In our program we intentionally design stimulating environments that will promote active play and sparks them to explore which ultimately motivates them to move. Another important element is the equipment we put in these spaces and environments. We will have logs, stumps and branches that children will engage with – this leads to developing fundamental movement skills including balance, coordination, jumping, crawling and running.”

Cressy also says another unique part of the program is that children are encouraged to lead their own learning.

“The day-to-day curriculum outcomes are not pre-determined, but rather child-led, allowing them to explore the world around them and guide their own discoveries through dramatic play, art, indoor learning centres like a sand table and a weaving station. Children will spend a large portion of their time outdoors in a variety of weather conditions as this will help build their resilience and creativity within this environment.”

The program will be facilitated by Early Childhood Educators with a minimum of a diploma in Early Childhood Education.

Parent Jennifer Nahu provided insight on the development of the program.

“I had the pleasure to see the time, consideration, learning and effort that has been put into this space and into creating a unique program for Calgary children,” Nahu explains. “WinSport has created an engaging program that will have children learning about the world around them with an emphasis on physical movement nestled in a space that only WinSport can offer. Children will be immersed in movement exploration and sport with a big outdoor component. I am personally excited for my own preschool child to experience this one.”

The six-week program features both once and twice per week options. In its pilot year, the program will run until the end of June. For more information, visit: https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/earlychildhood.cfm