Performance Program expanding on ice and snow

SOBC Performance Programs
Photo by Mark Schnurr

It’s been a busy winter for the Special Olympics BC Performance Program, as 2015 opened with a successful first foray into figure skating, great development in the training camps for snow sports athletes and coaches, and strong work by powerlifting coaches.

Held March 21 in Vancouver, the first SOBC Figure Skating Performance Program Camp brought together 11 athletes and coaches from programs around the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Together they worked on dryland training exercises, on-ice stroking and skills, and program enrichment, and SFU varsity track and field athlete Jerry He joined them to work on developing fitness techniques and off-season training plans.

Landis Graham, Special Olympics Team BC 2016 Training Squad Head Coach for figure skating, said the athletes and coaches worked very well together, building invaluable connections that will support future development across the province. Graham is one of several SOBC figure skating coaches who are also professional mainstream figure skating coaches, and they are generously very willing to support and share skills with fellow volunteer SOBC coaches.

“That’s what’s so cool about Special Olympics – we’re so willing to help each other to benefit the athletes,” Graham said. She is looking forward to seeing SOBC figure skating coaches coming together through the Performance Program and learning from each other. “Coach collaboration and coaches getting to know each other across the province is really important. … It will be good to share and make everyone stronger across the province.”

Graham said the first Performance Program figure skating camp gave the athletes and coaches the opportunity to work together on a wide range of elements, ranging from warmups, cooldowns, dryland fitness routines, and nutrition to on-ice acting and theatre techniques to enhance performances. The skaters had the chance to benefit from team coaching, as the coaches worked together as a panel on ice to review the skaters and brainstorm ideas to develop.

“The coaches don’t usually have a chance to get together and brainstorm and share ideas, so I thought that was really important,” Graham said.

Graham had filmed the athletes’ performances at the 2015 Special Olympics BC Winter Games, so the group also had the opportunity to review and discuss those videos together.

“The athletes loved seeing each other’s programs and they loved giving positive and constructive feedback,” Graham said.

SOBC – Surrey skater Stephanie Divin said she took home a lot of ideas about exercising and stretching she can do before and after her on-ice practices, and about healthy eating, which she plans to continue implementing. She also particularly enjoyed the theatrical exercises where the skaters worked on enhancing the acting in their performances.

“I tried hard and the songs were pretty good, so it fits with everything,” she said.

SOBC – Nanaimo skater Lucas Bell said he too enjoyed the acting work.

“They helped me learn how to do my bunny hop better, and I also liked doing those free-acting parts. … I also learned about sections of the blade and where to put the pressure on when you’re skating,” Bell said.

Bell was one of two 12-year-old skaters to participate in the camp, along with Arianna Phillips of SOBC – Nanaimo. Both had strong performances at the Provincial Games in Kamloops, where Bell was proud to be the youngest winner of a solo gold medal, capturing gold in Level 1 Men.  

Divin attended the camp after a big winter in which she won two gold medals at the 2015 SOBC Winter Games in Kamloops and a bronze medal at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Divin said of the competitions. “[Provincial Games] was great – I got to see a lot of people I know. … I got two gold medals, so that’s a great sign for me. I was excited, it was awesome really.” She added that the Canada Games experience was all-around great and she felt “bronze is a pretty good place to be from all across Canada.”

Out on the snow on March 27 to 29, the SOBC Alpine and Cross-Country Skiing Performance Camp brought together 30 athletes and coaches from all over the province to continue building their skills, following up on the first Snow Sports Performance Camp last December and the second camp in January for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

At Silver Star Mountain Resort, the alpine athletes and coaches practiced racing technique on brush gates. Thanks to a grant from the Government of Canada, SOBC was able to purchase enough brush gates to give to four local ski programs to help with their training. Meanwhile at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, 10 minutes down the road, the cross-country skiing athletes and coaches rented skate skis and broke down each athlete’s individual technique on iPads for almost instantaneous improvements.

It was an enjoyable weekend for all, and both athletes and coaches were able to take valuable tools home for improved performance in the next season. Please click here to check out video tools created through the Performance Program that are now available for all to use.

More tools in the Resources section

Also in March, SOBC powerlifting coaches came together for another day of skill-building and development. And the 2015 Performance Program action opened with the latest camp for swimming athletes and coaches January 9 to 11.

Our thanks to all the coaches, athletes, and experts giving their time to make these sessions so valuable and helping develop skills around the province! Stay tuned for more stories, as May will see the largest Performance Program camp yet hosted for athletics and snowshoeing athletes and coaches, and the first golf camp will be staged. In June, functional testing sessions will be held in Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Cranbrook, and Prince George.

About the Performance Program

SOBC’s Performance Program is a 10-year plan for enhancing the skills and performance of coaches and through them, all of the athletes of Special Olympics BC. The goal is to elevate everyone’s level of sport and performance by providing training and tools to participating coaches and athletes so they can share them with everyone in their home communities.

The program involves three components:

  • by-invitation camps where athletes and coaches from all over the province work with sport-specific experts and sport science experts to help develop their skills and knowledge and give them tools to share;
  • functional testing sessions hosted by the SOBC provincial office and open to all athletes in the Region where the session is being held, which provide direct feedback on where the athletes are in their fitness and how they can improve, helping motivate the athletes and guide training; and
  • coach-only camps and summits where coaches come together to learn from experts, share their experience with others, and talk about their sports.

The Performance Program was introduced in 2011, beginning with aquatics and athletics, and this year SOBC plans to implement it in all sports.

The Performance Program benefits from significant support from the Government of Canada. For more information on the Performance Program, please contact Jean Tetarenko, SOBC Competition & Youth Coordinator, toll-free: 1-888-854-2276.

More Performance Program stories