The Special Olympics BC Curling Performance Camp in December 2015 marked a milestone for the Performance Program: By expanding into curling, the program now reaches coaches and athletes in all 18 SOBC sports.
Last year saw the first Performance Program camps for 5- and 10-pin bowling, bocce, curling, figure skating, golf, and rhythmic gymnastics, new dryland practices for cross-country skiing, the first Performance Program team sports camp for floor hockey and soccer, and the Athletics and Snowshoeing Performance Camp that was the first such event to bring together summer and winter sports athletes and coaches.
In 2015, SOBC also hosted Performance Program camps in alpine skiing, athletics, cross-country skiing, powerlifting, snowshoeing, soccer, and speed skating.
The first Performance curling camp saw 13 coaches from around the province come together in Richmond to work on and off ice, learning from each other and experts in their sport such as Olympic curling bronze medallist Kelley Law and Curl BC Coach Instructors Penny Coyle and Karen Watson. The camp raised new tools and techniques that the coaches can apply in their home programs, such as using the FloorCurl equipment for dryland training. They also had the opportunity to work directly with Law, practicing the drills she used while training for the Olympics.
SOBC – Quesnel curling coach Dave Robson said the camp provided valuable information and great opportunities to connect with fellow coaches.
“There were many ideas that we brought home with us, [such as] the use of lasers for a line of delivery, the use of cones so that the person delivering the rock can slide with the rock between the cones, setting yourself up in the hack and then the slide out of the hack. The strategy portion of the game was also very interesting for me,” Robson wrote in an email.
In their home curling program, he and coach Wilf Smith have already begun implementing some of the ideas shared at the camp, while others will be introduced gradually.
“What we have been working on is setting up in the hack and sliding out of the hack for those that deliver the rock this way. For those who deliver the rock with a stick, we have also been working with them on delivering with a stick. … We talk with the skips each session about strategy. The sweeping we try to correct that each session, but that is going to take some time. We do have warm-up exercises that we have started doing before the practice starts.”
One of the most valuable parts of the Performance Program is the opportunity for SOBC coaches to have the time to speak with each other and share best practices for working with Special Olympics athletes in their respective sports.
Robson, who has participated in Performance Program camps in several different sports, says he values the important information provided on physical, mental, and nutritional training as well as the chance to connect with other SOBC coaches and discover shared experiences and new ideas.
“Having been on numerous training camps, some with athletes and some with just coaches, I have found that most of the camps have been very informative and useful, with information gathered from the facilitators and from other coaches,” Robson wrote. “The nutritional information from these camps has been great and a real eye-opener for me, which I am trying out to get our athletes to try and change some parts of their diets. The warm-up and cooldown exercises have been great and explaining the difference between dynamic and static stretches and when you should do each.
“Talking with another coach I found out about Club Fit and started a Club Fit program, which is going very well. When we take athletes to these Performance camps I find that some of the information being given to the group is more than the athletes can handle or understand, but when we get home and start talking about it they are willing to make the change because they are heard it from someone else other than their coach.”
SOBC’s Performance Program is a long-term plan for enhancing the skills and performance of coaches and through them, all SOBC athletes. The program is not just for elite athletes – it’s for coaches who are open to new training techniques and athletes who are committed to training. Participating coaches and athletes take the skills that they learn back to their local programs to benefit all athletes, not just a few.
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. We believe that by giving coaches better resources and tools, they can then train athletes better, who in turn raise the level of competition making everyone’s performance level rise.
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 that 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 collaborate on ideas.
In addition to connecting coaches with their SOBC peers and other sport and training experts, the Performance Program teaches valuable new techniques to athletes and coaches alike. It pushes the boundary of what we think is possible for training.
Videos are produced about training tips and techniques introduced at Performance camps and are posted on the SOBC website to benefit all coaches and athletes. To view them, visit the “Videos” pages in the sport-specific manuals and resources sections on the SOBC website.
In January 2016, a Performance Program athletics camp marked a first of a different kind – participating coaches and athletes tried out the mini javelin and hurdles events for the first time. Mini javelin is a new event for SOBC (and Special Olympics globally), while hurdles has previously been available to be offered but interest was low. Both events will be available for competition in this year’s Regional Qualifiers, and significant interest is already being expressed.
The Performance camp brought the SOBC athletics coaches and athletes together with Simon Fraser University track and field athletes in these disciplines who helped introduce the events.
Performance Program opportunities in the coming months include the next aquatics camp at the end of January, as well as training events in speed skating, rhythmic gymnastics, golf, and athletics.
Significant support from the Government of Canada and a $20,000 grant from RBC Foundation help make SOBC Performance Program opportunities possible.
Watch the SOBC Performance Program intro video: