I have recently read a blog post written by fellow Canadian track and field athlete Natasha Jackson regarding Athletics Canada’s recent changes to programming. After speaking with some of my training partners and teammates, we would like to offer another viewpoint in hopes that we can move forward together and help improve track and field in Canada.
University of Gramantik,
We are sorry to hear the news of how Athletics Canada’s recent changes have affected your training group. Les truly is a caring coach with a wealth of knowledge and we hope he can find a way to continue to do what he loves to do – namely to coach you guys. It is unfortunate and frustrating we’re sure, and our heart goes out to each of you. Natasha, you did an excellent job writing this blog and really getting your story across to those who may be unfamiliar with the way track and field works. We also commend you on your bravery for using your voice and speaking up about what you believe it right – excellent job!
We would like to respectfully offer our opinion. Although your new situation will not be ideal, it is also not unique. In fact, your impending new circumstances (in terms of not having financial support, not having a paid coach, and not being a center) is the same situation that every other track and field athlete in Canada has already been dealing with for years – with the exception of the selective few who were at a center. To be blunt, your new situation is the norm for a lot of Canadian athletes (although admittedly an unfortunate norm).
I train in London, ON with a rather impressive training group which, like yours, boasts many up and coming talented athletes. This group includes Damian Warner (3rd at this years World Championships in the decathlon), Taylor Stewart (Canadian champion in long jump), Matthew Brisson (2012 Canadian champion in 110mH), Jen Cotten (4th at Canadian championships in the heptathlon), Alicia Smith (2nd at Canadian championships in triple jump), Robin Bone (Canadian junior champion in pole vault), and myself, the Canadian champion in triple jump. We have all been on multiple national teams and like you said about your group, we are on the “developmental path to being world class”.
Our training group has never received any type of financial support from our sport governing body. Our coach Vickie Croley is the head track and field coach at Western University but does not have a contract with Athletics Canada despite being the coach of nearly every athlete listed above. Furthermore, our facility is far from being a ‘center’. Our tight-cornered 4 lane track from the 1970s (aka the 1800s) encloses a hockey rink. When we aren’t dodging hockey players who are crossing the track or steering clear of incoming hockey pucks that are flying over the boards, we are doing our absolute best to stay warm between runs or jumps. There are no heaters, no icebaths, no access to free physiotherapy. We certainly aren’t funded to attend training camps or competitions. Really, we have nothing but eachother. But somehow we find a way to make it work. Is it ideal? No. Is it frustrating? Yes – more than anything , but we have worked hard to make the most of it.
Your pursuit will no doubt be a little more difficult without the support you have become accustomed to. Although we’re sure the support is certainly helpful, we think we speak for many other athletes in Canada in similar situations when we say that it is not vital. It is the hardwork, dedication and perseverance that has already gotten you this far that will help you find solutions and allow you to reach your goals.
It is understandable that as our national sport governing body Athletics Canada must allocate their resources as efficiently as possible. Their job is not easy, and it is simply impossible to please everyone. This new hub system may not be the best, but it may be a step in the right direction supporting the most athletes possible. The truth is, we just have to wait and see. It may be hard to see at times, but Athletics Canada is on our side and they do want us to succeed. I think it’s great that you have brought this issue into light. Let’s keep talking – athletes, coaches, Athletics Canada, …the Queen of England – and we are confident that we will find a way to reach our common goals.