Blog: How does CEC plan to develop high performance athletes?

Apr 26, 2023

Since posting my first-ever blog post on Monday, I took the time to read and reflect on every single question and comment received and posted online. I want to take a minute to truly and sincerely thank everyone who contributed to the debate. Regardless of what started the conversation, and whether we agree or not, the fact that you can voice your opinion and know that CEC is listening is the most important piece that I hope you all can take away from this.

The main feedback I received was how valuable it is for the community to better understand the “why” behind decisions made by CEC. In that sense, if you humour me, I’d like to write this new blog post to answer the question “How does CEC plan to develop high performance athletes and improve the level of performance in Canada and internationally?” It is a loaded question, one that will likely create division of opinions again, but a very important question for the CEC, and for all of the athletes. A question that we have spent a lot of time asking ourselves, and will continue to challenge for years to come.

High Performance Development Pathway

Participants in climbing (and other sports for that matter) will engage with multiple organizations and stakeholders in their development pathway. From their beginnings with their local gym and their Provincial and Territorial Sport Organizations (PTSO), participants will engage with their National Sport Organizations (NSO) and their International Sport Federations (IF).

We can likely agree that the mandate of PTSOs should be a mix of 85% development and 15% performance (give or take), while the IF should be 85% performance and 15% development (give or take). But what about your NSO? What should be its mandate?

The CEC is the NSO for climbing in Canada, and we believe that, at this point in our sport’s development, we are somewhere in the middle, maybe 65% performance and 35% development. You may be asking: why is our focus split in this way? Why are we not focusing more on performance? Don’t we want Canadian athletes to “win” and be more competitive?

We need depth and long term planning in our sport. Right now, Canadian climbing has 4 well established PTSOs. But what about the other 9 provinces and territories? What about the potential athletes in smaller or more remote regions? How can we help these regions grow and provide more depth to our nation? That is a mandate that CEC must take for now, up until these regions develop their PTSOs. I am very proud to report that in the past 3 years, we have grown from the original 4 strong PTSOs, and now we have newer and emerging PTSOs in all but 2 territories!

Meaningful Competitions

Now that we all have the above progression in mind, let’s see where every single CEC event fits within the pathway. As pointed out in my previous blog post, every single competition held by CEC, as well as every single ROUND in a competition, must have MEANING and FOCUS. We do not host competitions “just because we have to” or “to make money”. We host competitions that fit at a clear point within the progression of high performance development.

When introducing the North American Cup Series (NACS) in 2021, and the High Performance Competitions in 2022, we had the intention of “adding steps” to the performance side of the progression to reduce the margin between CEC Nationals and the World Cups. We are also considering adding a Youth Division to NACS in 2024, which would be a great preparation event for the Youth World Championships!

In the next five years, we will be introducing more steps to that progression, starting with Training Camps. These camps will be essential to supporting the growth of our athletes, and must take place provincially, regionally, and nationally. Our first stab at this happened this year, with the Speed Development Camp in February 2023.

Once we have placed all competitions in the Pathway, we need to determine a FOCUS for each single competition, and for each round of a competition. Who is this competition for? What is the level of difficulty this competition should have? What opportunity should each round present? Who should attend or not? These questions could be the topic of another blog post.

Athlete Support

Another very important step we are taking to improve this progression and to support our athletes is the creation and development of training resources for coaches, setters, officials, belayers, national practitioner network, etc. Everyone supporting the athletes must continuously be better, the same way we ask our athletes to show continued improvement.

Who loves insider information? Here is an awesome new piece of information: on Friday, we received conditional approval from the Coaching Association of Canada of our TWO new coach training workshops: the NCCP Community Initiation workshop, and the NCCP Competition Introduction Workshop! A lot of work went into creating these programs, and we can’t wait to start delivering them throughout the country!

As for Routesetters, everyone can agree that the quality of our Canadian routesetters has increased tremendously over the past years. We have a very strong pool of setters, and we continue to support that growth by sending our Canadian setters to Continental and International events, and bringing International setters to work alongside with our teams at Canadian events.

In conclusion

All of this information is provided as a “snapshot in time”. If you ask us the same question 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we will have a different answer. Changes and improvements will come over time, as resources continue to grow.

I know I haven’t addressed the feedback regarding funding yet. That’s another big topic that I could cover in a separate blog, but please know that CEC does the most it can with the very limited funding we have. And we are always looking for help to approach new sponsors – if you have any contacts for us, we would be forever in your debt!

Christiane Marceau
Your Executive Director

PS: Please continue to engage in this debate in a RESPECTFUL manner. Reach out to CEC to voice your concerns and ask your questions. Also reach out to the CEC Athletes’ Commission, which is ACTIVELY involved in every single decisions made by CEC.

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