Blazing a New Trail in Para Sport
There is an unfortunate reality within the realm of para sport that athletes have to contend with – they don’t always have access to services from their National Sport Organization, either due to a lack of resources or too few athletes to invest in a dedicated program.
“In para alpine skiing for example, there are not enough athletes to develop a specific para alpine training group and program”, says Reid Bilben, Manager at the Alberta Sport Development Centre (ASDC). “This gap has left many para athletes from several sports on their own, without a place to train or team to train with.”
Fortunately, the CSI Calgary, in partnership with the ASDC, is looking to change this reality with an innovative new program geared towards para athletes of all ages from any sport. The Para Sport Training Program is launching this fall at the CSI Calgary and will focus on providing sport science services to para athletes.
The central idea behind the program is to bring para athletes from a variety of sports together to form training groups that will have access to high performance sport services from experts at the CSI Calgary. Bilben says that the intention is to fill a gap in the system for developing athletes. “We are trying to get more athletes who are the only one from their sport in a training region, into a training group with other para sport athletes.”
Tessa Gallinger is an Adaptive Strength Specialist at the CSI Calgary and will lead the new training groups. She says the main goal is to bridge that gap within the para-sport system. “There isn’t a lot of availability of sport science to athletes prior to reaching the high performance level,” she says. “Most of the athletes I work with are already carded and on the national team. We’re trying to get athletes into the stream sooner.”
Gallinger, who is also pursuing a master’s degree studying muscle physiology in athletes with cerebral palsy, says that they are looking to help athletes build the right foundation in strength and skill in order to help ensure they have long careers in para sport. “We want to get these athletes in the program when they are in between sports and haven’t specialized yet, but still need functional strength work and help with structural basics,” she says.
This dedicated support will help the athletes stay healthy and strong in their sport for a long time. “We want to see them go to more than one Paralympic Games. We want their careers to be long lived,” says Gallinger. In a sport environment where athletes enter the stream at a later age and peak in their 30s or 40s, this program will serve to help younger athletes get started on the high performance path at an earlier age.
In addition to having a place to train, training partners and sport science support, one of the key benefits for the athletes is simply being in an environment where excellence is the main pursuit. For Gallinger, it doesn’t matter how impaired or abled athletes are, they all have big goals and being exposed to others with similar attitudes and goals pushes everyone to be better. “There is a huge development piece to this program,” she says. “Athletes can see other athletes who are where they want to be, and can see what it takes to get there.”
The Para Sport Training Program fall session began last week, there is still room for participants. Winter session starts January 9, 2017. For more information on the program or to register, contact the ASDC office at 403-440-8668.
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto