Canadian Sport Instute
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  • The Alberta Slalom Canoe Kayak Team lead by High Performance Head Coach Michael Holroyd has been improving in leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to a partnership they have formed with the Alberta Sport Development Centre (ASDC) Calgary and the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary (CSIC).

    The diverse training group that has been utilizing the partnership since 2009 is currently comprised of 18 athletes at various levels in development. The group consists of 5 high performance athletes, 3 athletes one tier below high performance, and 10 additional athletes who are targeted as future stars. All have seen benefits from the organizations' unique partnership pooling their respective resources in order to provide the maximum level of support possible as opposed to dividing their respective contributions up in a less effective manner.

    Coach Holroyd, a Canoe Kayak National Team member for 10 years, retired from the sport in 2007 to begin working his way though the CSIC's renowned Coaching Diploma Program. After completing the Advanced Coaching Diploma Level 4 Program, he commenced work with the team and has seen amazing improvements in many of his athletes, including Haley Daniels and Adrian Cole, who came into the ASDC Calgary program as young athletes and have progressed to the National Senior and U23 Team, respectively.

    The team's biggest success stories thus far, Jessica Groenveld and Ben Hayward, are looking ahead to the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015. With the inclusion of Canoe Kayak in the Games for the first time, Groenveld is confident that the services the partnership has provided will continue to garner incredible international results, with the ultimate goal being to win a medal at the home Games.

    Holroyd, along with all of his athletes, knows that the biggest advantage the partnership has provided has been the opportunity to work with world leading specialists from the CSIC that they typically would not have access to. These experts include Sport Scientist Kelly Quipp, who conducts physiological testing on the athletes twice annually using a Kayak Ergometer in the state-of-the-art Sport Performance Laboratory at Canada Olympic Park. The team also utilizes the exclusive High Performance Training Centre a minimum of twice weekly in order to train with CSIC Strength and Conditioning Coach John Abreu. Mental Performance Coach Clare Fewster rounds out the group of CSIC experts that have actively contributed to the team's success through the partnership. Groenveld is convinced that these opportunities have enhanced her training, saying, "The collaboration of ASDC and CSIC has enabled us to access resources that are fundamental to athlete development and success. For myself, the strength gains made this year with John, and the ability to have specific training targets from testing with Kelly, are incredibly important."

    Coach Holroyd is equally thankful for the world class teamwork that goes into his program, saying, "We are really lucky here in Calgary to have the ASDC Calgary help athletes, collaboratively with our provincial association, work up to the National Team level where the CSIC programs kick in. Through this system, we have been able to use the world leading testing, strength and conditioning, and mental training service providers from the CSIC and bring it to our developing provincial athletes. This gives us consistent long-term data from testing and ensures that athletes stepping onto our National Teams are doing so with good fundamentals. This linear, consistent support has allowed our programs to help athletes to the fullest."

    Stay in the loop!

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @CSICalgary
    Written by Brittany Schussler: @bschussler
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

  • Olympic-bound freestyle wrestler Erica Wiebe remembers clearly the match that catapulted her onto the Canadian senior women’s team for the 2013 World Championships. On the morning of the wrestle-off that would determine who would make the team, she awoke to pounding on her hotel room door at 8:45 am. Her match was scheduled for 9:00 am. A mad rush ensued and she made it to the venue with three minutes to spare, but she was strangely calm – she was ready.

    Two quick and successful takedowns saw Wiebe win the match in a matter of minutes. “From the time I woke up to winning the match was twenty minutes!” she remembers, laughing. “But I was so prepared, I had visualized the match so many times, I knew what was going to happen. All of these things went wrong, like missing my alarm, but I was still ready.”

    Being ‘ready’ to compete is something all athletes aspire to. Whether it’s through determining the best pre-race routine or figuring out the ideal mindset in the weeks, days or minutes before a race, each athlete has their own way of getting ready for competition. Frank van den Berg, Director of Mental Performance at the CSI Calgary, helps athletes work towards their best state of readiness, through a concept he calls R.E.A.D.Y.

    R.E.A.D.Y came to van den Berg from a story he read in a text book years ago, where a coach asks his athlete, “Are you ready?” Her reply was, “No, not quite ready, yet!” The idea is that there is room in the final days, hours or minutes before competition for flexibility and openness in routine or mindset – there is space, and time, to get the last details in place before competition.

    van den Berg says, “I think it’s a good feeling to feel prepared - from training history, competition experience, routines and strategies for competition, but it’s okay to keep it open, be flexible, right up until the start.” The ‘Y’ in R.E.A.D.Y stands for ‘yet’.

    In some sports the ‘Y’ might be about the taper in the last few days, where top speed is the goal, i.e. it’s a physiological component. In alpine skiing it could be about inspection of the race hill in the days leading up as well as the day of, where changes in conditions could lead to making a change in approach or strategy.

    It’s all about keeping that last little bit open and flexible to be able to adapt to any situation that comes up. “When I first talk to athletes about the idea of R.E.A.D.Y they often feel a sense of freedom or relief. It gives them room to keep a few percentage points open. They don’t have to worry about it in advance,” says van den Berg.

    Denny Morrison, four-time Olympic medalist in long track speed skating, feels a sense of readiness from confidence he develops in his routines in the years prior to a big competition. “Sochi was the most ready I’ve ever felt,” he says. “Ready physically but also mentally. I nailed down a routine in the two Olympics before Sochi. I just felt so dialed.”

    Even still, there was room for letting himself experience how he was feeling without judgement. In the few days before his first race in Sochi he knew he wasn’t quite there physiologically but he knew that he would be ready on race day. “I always had confidence in the program that I would feel good on race day even if I didn’t feel great the days before,” he says.

    Readiness can be elusive, though. Both Wiebe and Morrison recall times where they felt ready but underperformed. For Wiebe, she underestimated her opponent’s strength at the 2014 World Championships and was thrown to the mat early. “That wasn’t the best mindset,” she remembers. “The best mindset I can have is when I go into it knowing that this is going to be a really tough match.” Looking back, Morrison says he was arrogant in how good he was feeling in the days before his races at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where he skated well below his potential.

    Ultimately, maintaining openness and flexibility to adapt can help the athlete stay in the moment and achieve a state of mindfulness that is central to a good performance. “It’s not a bad thing to not feel completely ready one month before the Olympics,” says van den Berg. “The athlete is only completely ready once they get to the start line.”

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto
    20/07/16

  • A historic landmark in the Norwegian consciousness, the Holmenkollenn ski park in Oslo embodies more than a century of legendary Nordic skiing competitions. For one special day in 2016, it also embodied a historic result for Canada’s men’s biathlon relay team, who took home a first ever bronze medal in the 4x7.5km team event behind the Norwegians and Germans at the World Championships.

    The four-man crew, comprised of brothers Scott and Christian Gow, Brendan Green and Nathan Smith, is now being recognized for that feat at the upcoming Alberta Sport Awards, hosted by CSI Calgary partner, Alberta Sport Connection, winning the 2016 Team of the Year award.

    “It was an amazing day for us,” says team veteran Nathan Smith. “Oslo is the big mecca for Nordic skiing and we were racing in front of huge crowds.” He says that although Norway took the win, it was fun to be in the battle for beating the home team. “The atmosphere around the medal was almost better than the medal,” he jokes.

    Smith was tagged for doping control before the end of the race and was forced to watch the end play out for his team from indoors. He says it was nerve-wracking to see the finish but was elated when the team’s anchor skier, Brendan Green, crossed in third for the bronze medal.

    For all four team members, it was a very special race and a very special day. “Winning the bronze was kind of unbelievable,” says Scott Gow. “We knew it was possible but it takes all four guys having a perfect race on the same day and we managed to do it at the World Championships.”

    “These individuals and teams are Alberta’s best. We’re proud of what they’ve achieved and honoured to recognize them for their outstanding contribution to sport in our province,” says Andrew Ference, Chair of Alberta Sport Connection. “They have reached higher, dug deeper, led by example, and made our sport system better.”

    The bronze medal, along with an individual silver won by Smith in 2015, has given the team an element of belief and confidence they didn’t have before. In a sport that is typically dominated by a handful of European countries, breaking through to the podium has help shift the attitude on the team.

    “As a team we’ve reached a turning point,” says Gow. “Up until a few years ago, in the back of our minds there was a mental block but once the precedent is set it helps the whole team believe.”

    Belief in what’s possible is what fuels the team forward as the next winter Olympics looms large in 2018. The team had its ups and downs during the season following the bronze medal performance, but is looking forward to building on the momentum it provided.

    Gow says it’s a fond memory from that year, but with another a whole season completed since then they are looking to improve on it. “This coming season we are focused on our training, getting fitter and faster. The biggest factor is team positivity and confidence in both the relay and individual races,” he says.

    Smith is recovered from a lingering mono-like virus that prevented him from competing most of the 2016-17 season. He has started training early this season in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang is 2018. The setback was difficult but Smith says it’s giving him extra motivation to overcome the obstacle.

    For now, at least, there’s a chance to revel in the memory of the historic medal once more, before focus returns to the future. Biathlon is a lesser-known sport in Canada and Gow says this award is means a lot to the team. “It’s always really nice to win an award and be recognized,” he says.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
    Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto
    19/04/17
  • In a season punctuated by Ted-Jan Bloemen setting the 10,000m World Record and Ivanie Blondin being crowned the Mass Start World Champion, the Canadian Long Track Speed Skating Team has exceeded all expectations.

    Predominantly based out of the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary (CSI Calgary), the team recently wrapped up the World Single Distance Championships where they won four medals (Blondin’s gold, a 10,000m silver from Bloemen, and bronze in the 500m from Alex Boisvert-Lacroix and the Men’s Team Pursuit).

    Scott Maw, CSI Calgary Sport Physiologist and Integrated Support Team (IST) Lead with Speed Skating Canada (SSC), knew the team had what it took to be a force on the global stage. Over the past two seasons, there has been a collaborative effort between SSC, the Olympic Oval and CSI Calgary in making adjustments to team culture, expectations and accountability. It began with an overhaul of the athlete pathway to make it one program focused on performance across all levels.

    The changes have lead to an increased concentration on the four main pillars that Speed Skating Canada’s program is built upon: respect, compete, accountability, and professionalism. This has come from an emphasis on team atmosphere, an element that can be difficult to emphasize in a mainly individual sport. To enhance the concept of team, all of SSC’s coaches have worked together to create a team-oriented yearly training plan that includes team training camps throughout the year.

    Maw says the objective is “really about making sure each and every athlete is getting the basics right while respecting their teammates and their competitors and what it means to skate with the maple leaf on their skinsuits. This in turn gives them the confidence that they can perform when it matters.”

    Following the 2014 Winter Olympics, Maw began working to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine if World Cup performance was an indicator of World Championship or Olympic success. His task involved analyzing results from the previous six seasons, including thousands of races.

    These KPI’s are used by CSI Calgary Mental Performance Consultant Derek Robinson to increase athletes’ emphasis on both individual and the team’s performances. By frequently reporting to the skaters on how they performed as a team relative to the other countries, Robinson is able to motivate skaters to improve for individual progression and to contribute to the team’s success.

    Maw and the IST have adjusted many elements of the speed skating team’s approach. To better quantify the skaters’ response to training, SSC’s coaches have aligned how they classify training zones. This has worked in conjunction with a revamped approach to how skaters are monitored allowing IST members to hone in on how each athlete is responding to training. The athletes are also being monitored on their attention to elite habits, which include a vast array of things such as sleep and nutrition.

    Despite the endless ways to monitor athletes, adjust training, and encourage a supportive environment, ultimately Maw knows, “When it comes down to it, it’s all about the skater giving their best performance on the day that counts. We are here to support that and to help them make it happen by design rather than by chance.”

    The speed skaters close out their season in Heerenveen, Netherlands

    at the World Cup Final March 11-13. For up-to-date results, follow Speed Skating Canada on Twitter @SSC_PVC.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Brittany Schussler: @BSchussler
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

  • The Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team is ready to show the world what they are made of as they host the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship March 28-April 4 in Kamloops.

    After bringing home the gold from the 2014 Olympic Games, forward Brianne Jenner says, “Having World Championships on home soil is very exciting for us and something we really look forward to. We have great fans when we play at home and it really makes for a fantastic atmosphere. The Four Nations Cup was held in Kamloops in 2014 and the crowd really got behind us. I have no doubt they will do the same in April.”

    The Canadian Sport Institute Calgary (CSI Calgary) will be cheering loudly for Team Canada, as it is the training home of nine team members: Bailey Bram, Sarah Davis, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Brigette Lacquette, Meaghan Mikkelson Reid, Jillian Saulnier, Blayre Turnbull, and Hayley Wickenheiser. The Calgary-based players rely on CSI Calgary’s Integrated Support Team in a variety of areas including nutrition, physiology, sport science, strength and conditioning, massage, and mental performance.

    Two-time Olympic Gold Medallist Rebecca Johnston says, “The partnership between Hockey Canada and CSI Calgary has been amazing! I use a wide variety of the services. As a hockey player, I need treatment on a weekly basis to stay on top of my body and eliminate injuries. The CSI Calgary provides us with everything that we need and more! We are so fortunate to have the resources that we do.”

    Meaghan Mikkelson Reid, also a double Olympic Gold Medallist, has recently returned to the team after having her first child. She believes this feat is in part thanks to Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Osadec, emphasizing, “I could not be more grateful for the amazing work that Jeff has done for me. After working with him for four years, he trained me through my pregnancy and then after I had my son. He helped me get back to full strength in approximately three months. There is no way I would have been named to the World Championship team without his knowledge, expertise, and passion when it comes to training athletes.”

    The CSI Calgary’s Amy Bauerle, a therapist with Canada’s National Women’s Team, notes, “It is great to have the opportunity to work with the athletes throughout the season. These women are dedicated athletes and I am excited to see their hard work pay off in Kamloops when they get the chance to compete on the world stage on home ice. It’s an honour to be a part of this journey with them.”

    To follow the Canadian Women on their quest for World Championship gold, visit http://www.worldwomen2016.com/en/.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Brittany Schussler: @BSchussler
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

  • Dr. Cari (Read) Din is an Olympic Silver Medallist in synchronized swimming. She also has a PhD in Leadership Behaviour and can link these two achievements to her involvement with the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary (CSIC). Cari believes that the CSIC impacted her synchro career, and now with her knowledge in Leadership Behaviour wants to share her experience to positively influence others.

    Din's lifelong relationship with the CSIC began while using the high performance coaching and sports science services to their maximum benefit en route to her 1996 Olympic medal winning performance. She believes that she "took advantage of every service" and was inspired to stay involved in sport beyond her athletic career giving credit to her CSIC employed strength and conditioning coach. He was "the reason I made the [medal winning] team." Noting that she was "shaped by my coaches as much as my parents," this experience catalyzed her curiosity for medal-winning leadership that drove her PhD research.

    Cari received the Petro Canada Olympic Torch Scholarship to complete her Master's degree in Motor Learning. Her PhD research focused on the coach and athlete leadership that preceded Canadian Olympic gold medal winning performances in 2010. She has been able to translate her evidence based research into innovative coach development and mentorship.

    Wanting to use her experience and education to promote and create highly impactful relationships between coaches and athletes, Din has worked with CSIC staff and integrated support team members to enhance their behaviours and, ultimately, improve athletes' results. She has also spent time facilitating workshops that the CSIC has hosted over the past months, focusing on women's leadership and development with both athletes and staff alike

    Like many high performance athletes, Dr. Din has the drive and determination to succeed both in and out of sport. Her evolution through the multi-faceted CSIC channels has allowed her to make significant impacts in high performance sport at every level. From developing athlete to Olympic Medallist, from undergraduate degree to doctorate, and from pupil to advisor, Cari has helped to improve the sport community. Staying involved with the CSIC has been a main goal, in order to give back to the organization that has helped her dreams come true, both athletically and professionally.

    Stay in the loop!

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary

    Written by Brittany Schussler: @bschussler

    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

  • Preparing for life after sport is not often at the forefront of athletes’ minds. The pressing demands of training and competition consume the majority of their energy and focus, which leaves little room for professional development outside of sport. However, there is a concerted effort at the CSI Calgary to offer athletes a variety of workshops and seminars through Game Plan with the aim of fostering skill development in areas that will help them thrive once they retire from sport.

    Part of Amy Van Buskirk’s job as Athlete Services Coordinator at the CSI Calgary is to educate athletes about the programs available to them and encourage them to sign up. “Although the athletes don’t always have these programs on their radar and sometimes need a little push to sign up they are always so glad they do and are super thankful” she says. Courses offered include Financial Planning, Networking, Public Speaking, LinkedIn, Media Training and Branding & Marketing.

    One recently retired athlete needs no push at all – Rudy Swiegers, Pairs Figure Skater and 2014 Olympian, signs up for every course he can. “Right now with any opportunity that comes up I just say ‘Why not?’ It’s good to grow as an athlete and as a person” he says. One of the key benefits that Swiegers has noted is that he can apply the skills he’s learning right away. “The public speaking course gave me skills that I can use in a job interview, where I can come up with ideas quickly and communicate them” he says, which is something he hopes to do in the near future.

    For luge athlete Arianne Jones, who is working towards the 2018 Olympics, the courses aren’t only for life after sport. “It’s helpful for the future but it’s also really helpful now” she says. “With these workshops and events I can make connections now that lead to sponsorships during my athletic career as well as potential jobs when I am done.” She also has no concern that preparing for the future will detract from her luge career. “I think it’s a good thing to think about the future and it doesn’t take away from the competitive drive. Working towards the future and being competitive now can exist in synchronicity.”

    What the athletes learn can be contagious. According to Van Buskirk, there is a peer-to-peer influence that helps the program grow and reach more athletes. “The athletes see other athletes go to the workshops and share what they’ve learned and that sparks others to get involved. It is absolutely worth their while” she says. Ultimately the goal is to help the athletes develop skills they can use in new careers after sport.

    Jones acknowledges that the transition from sport to life will be challenging no matter how many workshops she takes or how well prepared she is. “No athlete quits and says, ‘I came out and things were great!’ That’s nobody’s story!” she laughs. Indeed, that transition can be difficult for many, if not most, athletes. But according to Jones, there is still a lot of value in working on professional development for the future when you’re still an athlete. “It makes you feel like you are doing the right thing now so that when you get there you have some skills and training behind you” she says.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto
    06/07/16

     

  • Riding 750km in five days around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico might not sound like a break to most people, but for Canadian long track speed skater Jordan Belchos it was just the thing to help him kick-start his Olympic season. Throw in a couple of days eating tacos on the beach though, and then maybe you’ve got a recipe for a nice off-season, too.

    Belchos’ main competitive season ended in February after the World Single Distance Championships but he didn’t want to lose any fitness, so he first opted to travel to the Netherlands to train with a pro-team and race a few marathons. “I wanted to train super hard and not waste any time,” he says.

    His post-season trip to Mexico with a few teammates and girlfriend Valerie Maltais, a short track skater, led him back home to Calgary, where Belchos continued with some easy riding to avoid losing any of that built-up fitness. “My thinking on it is to come back to training not having lost any aerobic capacity. I enjoy riding and it keeps me in shape.”

    Canadian skeleton athlete Jane Channell took a different approach to her off-season. After three months straight of being on the road competing on the World Cup circuit she was mentally and physically exhausted and headed home to Vancouver for some serious rest and relaxation, prescribed by her coach.

    “I didn’t get out of my pj’s for a week!” she laughs. “I slept a lot and didn’t do very much but I felt like I should be doing something. It’s sort of like melting into yourself and you become a bag of goo but by the second week you get the itch to start moving again.”

    In many sports, the off-season strikes a fine balance between taking the mental and physical break the mind and body need without losing strength and fitness due to inactivity. It’s ultimately the individual’s choice and likely influenced to some degree by the nature of the training required for their sport.

    Nick Simpson, the CSI Calgary strength and power coach working with the long track team, says he values the break, in fact he himself took his own mental break in April, but appreciates that it’s different for each athlete. “For many of the speed skaters I work with they just love sport and physical activity. Most of them don’t enjoy sitting around. What’s key is that the break is unstructured, no matter what the athlete chooses to do.”

    Simpson says that this year, more so than previous years, some athletes kept up with their training during the break. “In the past they would take a full month off but this year felt that they didn’t want to waste that time,” he says.

    Many athletes worked on corrective exercises prescribed by the medical team after physio assessments. Simpson says this can help prevent injuries over the course of the season. “With the athletes taking care of themselves in the off-season they are coming into the season more solid to begin with.”

    Channell says starting up again can be a bit of a shock to the system. “At first my joints feel rusty and muscles feel loose instead of tight,” she says. “But it feels good, I feel like I’m ready to go. It’s nice to have a schedule again.”

    For Belchos the choice to keep training was motivated by an intense desire to improve. “I want to be competing for medals and start the season at a good level, not playing catch-up with the guys already winning medals,” he explains. “I wanted to come back fit, in shape.”

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
    Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto
    17/05/17

  • A dose of inspiration often appears after an unexpected turn. For Canadian long track speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen, it came after injuring his wrist in a bike crash during a training ride that left him training on a stationary bike in his living room for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, this break led to plenty of time to take in the 2016 Olympic Games on television.

    “It was great to have the inspiration of the Games at that moment,” says Bloemen, current world record holder and 2015 world championship silver medalist in the 10,000m. “I remember thinking, “Ok, this is what I’m doing this for.” A timely and powerful reminder for one of the best speed skaters in the world.

    As the sport world now shifts focus from summer to winter sport, with the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang fast approaching, winter athletes like Bloemen are preparing to compete in their pre-Olympic season and Olympic test events.

    Concurrently, winter athletes are also shifting from summer training to competition mode, a progression that doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. In long track speed skating, the transition is a deliberate effort to refocus the mind from training to competing.

    This effort has been spearheaded by Derek Robinson, CSI Calgary Mental Performance Consultant and the Mental Performance Lead for Speed Skating Canada. Along with the Integrated Support Team (IST), he has spent the last several years developing a series of mental exercises and events that are integrated into each coach’s yearly training program, which serve to develop specific competition skills.

    “It’s very deliberate, purposeful, planned and debriefed,” says Robinson. The idea is that the athletes are presented opportunities throughout the season to help them improve competition focus. Robinson says they also measure how the athletes are doing, like evaluating how well they are embracing a particular challenge or responding to a debriefed message, which helps both the coaches and athletes understand how they are improving.

    Within this framework, athletes also progress through the transition to competition in their own, more organic way. Bloemen says he shifts his mind to competitive mode by focusing on short term and daily goals. “I have a hard time focusing on far away goals,” he says. “I’m more focused on what I can do now; the first race of the season.”

    He gains confidence from the progression of hard summer training to getting back on the ice to feeling the speed in fast laps. Eventually, the excitement returns and he thinks, “Oh yeah, I want to race again.”

    This is the kind of attitude that the IST is looking for. “We took them through competition simulations throughout the summer to remind them of that part of their mental performance. We’re now taking that from a general to specific focus,” says Scott Maw, CSI Calgary Sport Physiologist and IST Lead at Speed Skating Canada.

    That entails everything from the summer of training, to technical and tactical work, and mental and physical training. According to Maw, a lot of it is about them trusting what they did physically – it plays a big role in what they can do mentally.

    This blend of planned, deliberate preparation within the program and performance focused preparation is ultimately what enables higher level performance. Robinson’s key message – athletes have to learn to manage a fierce competitive desire with grit and race IQ. For Maw, it’s all about performance. “Performance is the true measure of how the program is working,” he says.

    This pre-Olympic season, Bloemen no doubt has his work cut out for him, but rest assured he is well prepared – freshly inspired, well-trained and ready to race.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto
    21/09/16

  • For Olympic coach Les Gramantik recovery days are not optional, they’re a must. It wasn’t always this way for his training group, especially when Gramantik first came through the coaching system 40+ years ago.

    “Athletes were trained very hard and not enough thought was given to recovery”, says Gramantik. “Now as we know, recovery is an integral part of training; without adequate proper recovery it is impossible to train and perform well”.

    Gramantik relies on a team of professionals, an Integrated Support Team (IST), to assist his athletes in optimal recovery strategies. Qualified service providers at CSI Calgary contribute to this leading edge approach in addressing the individual athlete’s needs and supporting coaches in decision-making. As Gramantik explains, “It doesn’t matter how much I read, I stay away from giving advice about anything I’m not trained for, so it’s helpful to be able to direct athletes to experts in other fields.”

    Performance Dietitian Kelly Drager is one of those professionals accessible through CSI Calgary. Drager sets athletes up for success by focusing on a maximum of three new modifications at a time to foster consistency, not perfectionism. This approach removes the daunting task of trying to follow a strict meal plan, which can be discouraging for anyone who is trying to create new habits.

    “Because we work in an athlete-centered approach we want to get the athlete to pull off something they can take charge of and feel like it would benefit them at the highest level,” Drager says. “Little successes can create a cascade effect of other positive changes.”

    For example, Drager says the critical question for athletes to consider is “what are you eating and what are you missing?” when addressing their daily food intake: during heavy training days replenishing energy stores appropriately in relation to what energy was expended.

    The same consideration is made for lighter training days and having a plan that enables them to adjust accordingly.

    Though a coach can tell an athlete to rest and a dietitian can guide an athlete to refuel, one of the hardest parts of recovering for an athlete with a competitive mindset is to convince them to mentally shut down.

    Derek Robinson is a Mental Performance Consultant who has been based at CSI Calgary for more than a decade. “The biggest thing about recovery is a mindset that allows the athlete to give themselves permission to turn their mind off.”

    In his role as an IST Service Provider for a team sport, Robinson addresses the mental side of recovery by implementing a designated 15 to 20 minute evening recovery session when the team is on the road. This includes a protocol of handing in their phones (after connecting to family) allowing athletes to mentally commit to actively engaging in the relaxation session — literally, “turning it off”. These sessions promote a state of relaxation in order to prepare their bodies and minds for a good night’s sleep, which Robinson says can be often overlooked as a recovery tool but is key to a holistic athlete-centered approach.

    Robinson describes it as a bit of a catch-22, in that sleep should be stressed for optimal recovery, but it shouldn’t be stressed about. “You can control your habits surrounding sleep but you can’t control when you fall asleep. That’s when you have to just let go. That’s when you just trust you will fall asleep and you do not worry about it because worrying about it is psychological insomnia.”

    It’s sound expert advice such as this, in areas that were once thought of as trivial, that coaches such as Gramantik are now able to implement as a part of a well-rounded IST program, supporting athletes in getting them to the podium.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Jessica Zelinka
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto
    15/02/17

  • The Canadian Sport Institute Calgary (CSI Calgary) recently witnessed a boost of youthful energy as members of the Slopestyle team made use of the facilities for a training camp.

    The team took advantage of a wide range of CSI Calgary services, including physiology testing, mental performance training, nutrition workshops, medical assessments and a Game Plan presentation.

    National team athlete Mark Hendrickson found great value in the experience. He said that his highlights were “learning healthy recipes that even someone who is not skilled at cooking can whip up. We also worked with strength and conditioning coach Jamie McCartney. He taught us skills and techniques to improve our dryland training. I enjoyed his approach because of his experience in various sports.”

    Olympic Champion Dara Howell also utilized the CSI Calgary services in conjunction with the WinSport facilities. She credits the training facilities for being a component to her Olympic success, saying, “Calgary has always been a great spot for me! Coming into the Olympic year, the training facilities that were open to me were amazing. It’s really neat to see the CSI Calgary and WinSport taking slopestyle under their wing.”

    Leading into the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, the younger generation will likely be able to gain even more from the facilities. There are promising discussions about offering a fully integrated training base for Canadian slopestyle athletes in Calgary. The advantages to this type of relationship are evident, with WinSport providing an ideal facility, the WinSport Academy contributing technical and tactical coaching, and the CSI Calgary contributing to the athletes’ training, sport science and medical requirements.

    Adrian King, Director of Sport Science and Medicine for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, emphasizes that this partnership would be a big win for his team. “We want to link as closely as possible with the CSI Calgary because of the professional expertise. They are major players with respect to sport science services. This is complimented by the terrain at WinSport, which is ideal for slopestyle.”

    Hendrickson agrees, saying, “I love the idea of having WinSport as our home training facility. The features on the hill keep getting bigger and more precise year after year. Having all the resources in one place such as physiotherapy, strength training and trampolines make it an amazing place for our athletic development. I am stoked to be able to utilize these resources."

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Brittany Schussler: @BSchussler
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto
  •  

  • The Canadian Long Track Speed Skating Team is doing extraordinary things, both on and off the ice. Recently wrapping up a breakthrough season for many athletes, the team has found a formula for success.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary Mental Performance Consultant Derek Robinson has been a catalyst for the new team culture. Among a number of new ideas, Robinson implemented a new team custom which has athletes sign the Canadian flag when they qualify for a racing team. The athletes then have a second signing ceremony if they win an international medal.

    Robinson, who works with teams including Speed Skating Canada, Alpine Canada and Hockey Canada says, “One of the great things about the CSI Calgary is how they foster personal development. The CSI Calgary encourages its staff to work with established industry leaders, coaches, and support staff. I have learned more about the psychology of performance from working with people who truly understand what it takes to win the right way than I ever did in graduate school.”

    What prompted Robinson to create this unique tradition? He believes, “The psychology of performance is about the team culture. In reality, to compete against the best in the world under pressure you must be a team. You cannot do it by yourself. The challenge is how do we become a unified team? It starts with knowing the values that drive our culture and the foundation of what we are about and how we do things. The Canadian flag is signed by members of this team because there is deep personal meaning for our athletes to compete for Canada. It is the identity of the team that matters.”

    One of Speed Skating Canada’s new stars, Heather McLean, took the world by storm this season winning four World Cup medals. Of the flag signing ritual, she says, “It's such a unique and Canadian tradition! I am inspired by the flag ceremony because I am so focused on my own races during the competition that I lose track of the bigger picture and the flag signing always brings it back. I love to observe and learn from other elite athletes and hearing what they have to say about their performances is really inspiring.”

    As the team’s custom proves, talk is trivial unless it is backed by a strong belief and daily embodiment of the ideals. Robinson emphasizes, “Unless you are in the room with these people, you can not really appreciate what these words are saying, let alone the passion and emotional experience of the athlete who signs the flag.”

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Brittany Schussler: @BSchussler
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto

  •  

  • (Arianne Jones, Luge)

    In a world where we have never been so connected, many of us have moments, days, weeks or months where we feel wholly disconnected and utterly alone. This disconnect is evident across a broad spectrum of mental health issues – sometimes it means having a bad day, sometimes it means struggling with severe depression.

    In high performance sport, athletes are generally perceived as strong and unbreakable. But like everyone else, athletes are not immune to mental illness. Many struggle with issues such as eating disorders, substance abuse, anxiety or depression and may feel that seeking help for mental or emotional problems will make them appear weak.

    Today however, the landscape surrounding mental health is shifting dramatically. In fact, mental illness has emerged as a legitimate and serious medical issue in society.

    One of Canada’s most successful Olympians has worked tirelessly to bring the issue of mental illness to the fore. Clara Hughes, cyclist, speed skater and CSI Calgary alumnus, has spearheaded the Bell Let’s Talk campaign for the past five years, aimed at raising awareness and erasing the stigma of mental illness. By sharing her personal struggles with depression, Hughes has humanized mental illness and inspired countless others to speak up and seek the help they need.

    At the CSI Calgary, mental health and well-being has long been upheld as a priority and support services have been readily available through Game Plan. “We’ve always had a good ability to provide mental health services to athletes,” says Cara Button, Director of Stakeholder Relations and administrator of the Game Plan Program. “Athletes have appreciated it because it has given them a place to go when they need help. President and CEO Dale Henwood deserves a lot of credit for enabling this process.”

    Frank van den Berg, Director of Mental Performance, has worked with his team to incorporate general mental health into their scope of practice. This has led to the development of intervention and programming options in areas such as optimizing performance enhancement, managing performance dysfunction and addressing performance impairment.

    “We focus on ‘Winning the Right Way’,” says van den Berg. “We pay attention to the human side of sport.” This holistic approach ensures that the “winning at any cost” mentality does not sacrifice an athlete’s long-term health, relationships, and well-being.

    Both van den Berg and Button have seen an increase in athletes’ willingness to come forward with mental health issues. “It’s much easier to bring up the topic of mental health or illness now,” says Button. “I see way more athletes initiating the conversation with me than before.” Adds van den Berg, “I have these conversations regularly with athletes to address their mental health – what is their passion, what do they want to accomplish in sport, are they able to cope and respond to expectations and pressures in sport and life?”

    When problems do arise, van den Berg stresses that early intervention is critical. “It should not be underestimated that a lot of cases can be dealt with effectively before issues become severe.” Button agrees, “There is evidence to support that depression can be well managed if it is caught early enough.”

    Today, the CSI Calgary is supporting Bell Let’s Talk Day by hosting a lunch with the ultimate comfort food – grilled cheese and tomato soup – for CSI Calgary staff and athletes. The idea is to come together for a meal, share some time together and have a conversation. Simple, yes, but sometimes all it takes is a communal experience to open the door for each other to share.

    “It’s a way for us to support Bell Let’s Talk Day and to encourage that sense of community at CSI Calgary,” says Button. “We want to recognize the day and work on building our own community.”

    On January 25, 2017, Bell will donate $.05 more towards mental health initiatives in Canada when you use social media. For more information: Bell Let’s Talk.

    Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
    Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
    Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto
    25/01/17

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