Redefining Climbing Canada’s High Performance Program

Mar 11, 2024

Over the past 5 months, we have conducted a Strategic Review of our High Performance Program. We initiated this process in response to less than satisfactory feedback we received from our athletes last year. First of all, we would like to say thank you. Thank you for voicing your concerns, and keeping your organization accountable to who matters most – the athletes. The CEC continues to put athletes at the centre of everything we do, and your feedback, positive or negative, is extremely welcomed.

The Review Phase

Following a Request for Proposals in August 2023, we selected and hired Julie Steggall as an external and independent consultant.

Julie Steggall is a seasoned, high performance sports professional. Julie is a former Olympic athlete (1994 Lillehammer Winter Games in mogul skiing). She has a diploma from the National Coaching Institute Program from the University of Calgary. She was the National Team Coach with Canada’s Freestyle Ski Team before moving on to the roles Director of Domestic High Performance Athlete Development and then High Performance Director. She has a successful track record of working with Sport Canada and Own The Podium on High Performance Programs.

Julie’s mandate was to create a meaningful consultation process with our community, and submit recommendations to the CEC board of directors. From September to December 2023, Julie engaged in conversations with the following stakeholders:

  • Community Survey: 76 respondents
  • One-one-interviews: 12 leaders
  • Athletes Focus Groups: 15 athletes over 2 groups
  • HPP Lead Focus Group: 8 leaders
  • PTSO Focus Group: 8 representatives

“An extensive consultation with 119 athletes and community members to understand views of the current program and opinions to make the program better was conducted. This report provides an adequate summary of these discussions to the Board of directors.” Says Michael Finn-Henry, co-chair of the CEC Athletes Commission.

Julie’s conversation focussed on the same high performance pillars used by Own the Podium (OTP) to evaluate National Sport Organizations (NSO): Coaching & Technical Leadership, Daily Training & Competition Environment, Performance Science, Research & Innovation, Podium Pathway, Athlete Pool, and HP Governance.

The Report

Our consultant’s final report was delivered to the CEC board of directors on January 23, 2024. The 32 pages long report presented a clear snapshot of our High Performance Program, with its success and failures, and where we needed to improve. An Executive Summary of the report is available here.

Overall, the report recommends maintaining the major pieces of the program, such as the Continuous National Ranking (CNR), while understanding that those pieces need updates. The report also included an impressive list of recommendations, ranging from improving the governance of the program (creating a new HPP Vision and Mandate, hiring leadership to lead the HPP) to investing more in training opportunities (creating partnership for better training venues, develop a strong Next Generation program, and so much more).

Here are a few examples of recommended changes from the report:

High Performance Committee

Having the input of community experts is essential, but our current structure did not achieve the best outcome. Instead, the High Performance Committee will be replaced by 3 distinct groups:

  • A Performance Advisory Group (sport science),
  • a HP Selection Committee, and
  • a Ranking System Working Group

Clear Terms of References for each group, as well as an open application process, will be posted shortly. Everyone interested will be welcomed to apply.

Continuous National Ranking

The CNR is a good objective way to rank athletes, but it’s not all there should be. Once in place, the Ranking System Working Group will be tasked with running scenario based on data to create 3 different rankings:

  • The currently used Continuous National Ranking (CNR), with improvements to the calculations,
  • A World Cup Quotas Allocation Ranking, to allow for a better understanding of athletes’ readiness to compete (injuries, LTD considerations, etc),
  • A Major Events Ranking List to allow for major games projections (Olympic Games, PanAmerican Games, World Games, etc).

The National Ranking Working Group will evaluate the CNR calculations and propose options for improvements, such as: review the size and strength of field calculations, review the period for collecting points and the number of events allowed in the calculation, determine a transparent way to show calculations, etc.

All of these different ranking systems will come together to give us a more accurate understanding of the Canadian pool of athletes, its depth and versatility, based on data-driven calculations. Once the objective ranking process has been improved, the Performance Advisory Group will advise CEC on how to take into account subjective criteria in the ranking and selection of athletes.

Invest in Athlete Development

A strong recommendation from the report is to invest more time and energy in developing the HP Athlete Pathway. This will include:

  • Creating a strong identification program and Next Generation Program to find and foster promising young athletes in climbing,
  • Educating our coaches, routesetters, and officials with world-class opportunities,
  • Using data to develop a Gold Medal Profile (benchmarks and thresholds),
  • Creating a network of climbing gyms willing to support high performance with better adapted training environments,
  • Hosting more events such as High Performance Competitions and training camps, etc.

Next Steps

Using the Report, we have created a 2 years Implementation Action Plan. We have outlined 64 actions that will take place in 2024 and 2025, to bring us closer to a World-Class High Performance Program that is athletes-centered and data-driven.

As previously stated, we are aiming to implement changes with limited impact in 2024, while planning for the most significant changes to take place ahead of the 2025 HP season.

“We are excited to see the reaction of the CEC Board of directors, under Christiane’s leadership – they are showing openness, understanding, and excitement to move forward with the restructure.” Says Babette Roy, co-chair of the CEC Athletes Commission.

To achieve this ambitious restructure, we will need help. We are excited to announce a new full-time employment opportunity at Climbing Canada – we are looking for a High Performance Coordinator. Deadline to submit your resume and cover letter to is March 31, 2024.

In conclusion

The last 6 months have been pivotal to Climbing Canada. We have heard the frustrations of our community, and have seen the trust shattered between us. I strongly believe that we have a clean slate ahead of us, and the HPP Review provided us with a road map to move forward. Let’s work together to bring Canada to the top of elite climbing. Take this journey with us, and keep us accountable.

With gratitude,

Christiane Marceau
Your Executive Director

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