Sleep – Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development Plan (LTAD)

Last month I wrote an article on athlete stress and recovery. One of the topics touched on was the importance of sleep for athletes. Did you know that Canada has an LTAD for sleep?  Written by leading experts, the ‘Sleep LTAD’ is a guide for parents, athletes and coaches interested in the role of sleep in human performance. The ‘Sleep LTAD’ covers the following topics:

• The importance of sleep for recovery and performance
• Sleep length and sleep quality
• Sleep disorders
• Sleep requirements at different stages of LTAD

Here’s a short excerpt regarding sleep and teenagers:

“It is very important for athletes, parents and coaches to be aware of the fact that at the time in life (12–18 years old) when adolescents require the most amount of sleep (9–10 hours per night) they tend to develop a delay in their biological clock (circadian sleep phase) that reduces the amount of time available for sleep. This results in a chronic sleep restriction during a time of increasing training demands, growth and development.”  Charles and Alexander.

http://canadiansportforlife.ca/resources/sleep-recovery-and-human-performance

If you are interested in reading more about sleep, here are some references:

• Samuels C. (2008) “Sleep, recovery, and performance: the new frontier in high-performance athletics.” Neurol Clin 2008;26(1):169-180.
• Coren, S. (1996) “Sleep Thieves.”
• Mednick, S.C. (2006) “Take a Nap! Change Your Life.”

All for now,

Andrew Lambert, BCA Director Sports Science

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Athlete Stress and Recovery

STRESS! It is something we all encounter on a daily basis and it is impossible to avoid. In fact, in order to be successful, we need to encounter stress and deal with it appropriately. Failure to do so can be highly detrimental to performance in sport and in life. If we fail to deal with stress appropriately in the long term, we may suffer health consequences from chronic stress.

Stress is required for ADAPTATION to take place. If you want to improve your fitness, you have to stress physiological systems. Most importantly, physical adaptations do not take place during the training itself, but afterwards as the body works to normalise itself and be better prepared for the next (anticipated) effort.

When I think of recovery and communicating with athletes on this issue, I think of both the physical AND emotional stress they are under and the strategies they can use to reduce these stressors. It gets a bit more complicated when you consider that at times in the year you WANT your athletes to be under physical stress, and an incomplete recovery is often desirable to induce adaptation.
General adaptation syndrome was a response termed by Hans Seyle in the 1930s and is still highly relevant today. The model explains our response to stress in 3 stages:

1. Alarm reaction – this is our bodies initial reaction to a stressor when homeostasis is disrupted. During this phase our bodies ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in which essentially prepares us for the stressor.

2. Resistance phase – the body reacts to the stressor which it is exposed to. As an example, if there is a shortage of food, the person may experience a loss of desire to exercise in order to conserve energy.

3. Exhaustion stage – if the stressor continues our ability to adapt is reduced and the result may be chronic fatigue, illness etc. Or over-training in an athlete.

This theory is still highly relevant and is the basis of recovery principles for athletes. If we don’t push them hard enough, then there is no ‘alarm’ phase – homeostasis is not disrupted and adaptation cannot take place. However, if we do not plan sufficient rest, they will likely fall into the ‘exhaustion’ phase which in exercise physiology is termed over-reaching and can be followed by overtraining.

Over-reaching is a necessary goal of training during some periods of the year and is characterized by a highly demanding 3-6 week training block where either volume OR intensity is increased each week. I usually put a couple of over-reaching phases into my off-season program for more experienced athletes. Usually I will see the athletes performance go down as the weeks progress, below the level of fitness they started with. By the end of the block, they are totally baked! However, following an appropriate regeneration period, the athlete bounces back and we get what most conditioning coaches consider the holy grail of training which is SUPERCOMPENSATION. It is a bit unpredictable at times and highly individual. The benefits of training (e.g. an improvement in fitness) may be measured in the weeks and months that follow.

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Over-training can occur when the athlete is in the exhaustion phase too long, and does not have appropriate recovery periods. The athlete may present some of these symptoms:
• Decline in exercise performance
• Persistent fatigue, muscle soreness
• Reduced heart rate variability
• Increased susceptibility to illness
• Mood changes
• Difficulty with sleep

Over training is different from over reaching in that the athlete does not bounce back following a regeneration period – I have heard of cases where the athlete took years to recover. From experience, I have seen over training occur more in endurance athletes whose training volumes are too high. I have not encountered a definitive case of over-training in 20 years of alpine coaching. I have seen coaches push the athlete well beyond what I thought was possible and still they recover. It may not have been OPTIMAL training, but it was not OVER TRAINING.

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Stress is regulated through the autonomic nervous system. In response to a stressor (e.g. competition) the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode – the sympathetic nervous system causes a host of physiological responses to occur, including increased heart rate, increased blood flow to muscles and lungs, and decreased blood flow to the digestive system. Our arousal level is increased so we are better able to deal with the stressor that is presented. The parasympathetic nervous system promotes a ‘rest and digest’ response. That is, heart rate is reduced and heart rate variability increases. In terms of the athlete, when they are in a parasympathetic state, they will feel relaxed and sleep and recover more effectively.

Chronic emotional stress can have a profound effect on the autonomic nervous system. The athlete’s arousal level should be dominated by a parasympathetic nervous system response when not training. Athletes who are constantly in a sympathetic arousal state do not recover very well from training. Most typically, I see this in athletes who are under emotional stress and have not found balance in their lives. They may be constantly stressed out about competition and results, about school, work, family, their health or relationships with others. Most important, constant emotional stress affects sleep which affects recovery. So, when I think of designing a recovery program for my athletes, the physical and emotional aspects of their lives must be considered. There are many ways in which you can plan recovery training for a more ‘parasympathetic’ response. Here are some examples of methods I use:

-Warm bath
-Swimming
-Listening to relaxing music; learn a musical instrument
-Deep breathing
-Yoga
-Meditation
-Spending time with people who are ‘energy gainers’ – good friends, family.

Ultimately, your athletes will feel less stressed if they feel well prepared, have had sufficient time to recover, and don’t feel overwhelmed by school and other commitments.

An important aspect of coaching is to monitor your athletes for signs of fatigue and/or emotional stress. I have used many highly sophisticated tools over the years (the Normatec ‘Space boots’, heart rate variability measurements; accellerometry). However, I still find a simple athlete questionnaire to be most effective (e.g. Hooper Mackinnon Questionnaire). When monitoring your athletes be sure to cover the following:

• Mental state (irritability, stress level, training enjoyment, sleep)
• Physical state (muscle soreness, fatigue, body weight, resting heart rate).

What strategies can the coach employ to promote recovery following training?

Given the information super-highway now available on the internet, there is a lot of information out there on recovery techniques and how/when to use them. I think it is very important to use an evidence based approach and so I lean towards methods which have been shown in peer-reviewed research to be effective over time. I also tend to recommend strategies which incur little or no cost or equipment as this is a barrier to most athletes. Here are the tried and tested methods:

1. SLEEP. It should not come as a surprise to you that consistently getting enough quality sleep is absolutely essential to recover. Everyone is individual in how much they need, although the average person needs ~8 hrs. Athletes often need more than this while some people seemed to do fine on 6-7 hrs. It is pretty easy to track your athlete’s sleep – if they fall asleep within 30 mins of getting into bed and sleep through the night with minimal disturbance, their sleep is likely sufficient. If you would like to learn more about sleep, recovery and human performance CLICK HERE AND DOWNLOAD THE PDF FROM DR. CHARLES SAMUELS

2. NUTRITION. During training, muscle glycogen and blood glucose are depleted. Failure to eat carbohydrate at regular intervals can result in lower than desirable stores of glycogen and poor performance. A goal of training is to cause damage to tissues. With the correct recovery period muscles can then adapt and become stronger and bigger. Proteins are found in every cell of the body and are needed to promote growth and repair of damaged cells and tissue. Without sufficient protein intake the recovery process may be delayed and adaptations may be sub-optimal. Here are some rules of thumb I follow with my athletes:
a. Eat 4-6 times per day (each feeding should contain a quality protein serving)
b. Lighter, easily digested meal 1-2 hrs before training
c. High GI carbs during training (if >1 hr) and after training
d. Carbs and protein should be taken within 30 mins of finishing a training session. This is when uptake to the muscle is optimal.
e. The brain can only use glucose for fuel and so maintaining blood glucose levels is crucial during training sessions. This is where higher glycemic index (more sugary) snacks are appropriate.
Nutrition is a huge part of recovery and adaptation and impossible to cover fully in this article.  CLICK ON THIS LINK AND YOU WILL FIND A VARIETY OF ARTICLES WRITTEN BY EXPERTS FROM THE CANADIAN SPORTS INSTITUTE
3. HYDRATION. Poor hydration can have a dramatic effect on sports performance. Effects may be both cognitive (e.g. slowing of decision making) and physical (early fatiguability). An average person is composed of around 60% water, while highly trained athletes are up to 70% water. In winter sports, we are faced with additional challenges. Cold dry air must be warmed and humidified before it can be taken into the lungs – this causes water loss. A person’s drive to drink, especially cold water, will likely be reduced. Add high altitude to the equation and it is very easy to become dehydrated. Here are some tips I give my athletes:
a. Aim to pee light lemon colour. Urination should be every few hours. Aim to drink most of your fluids by early evening to prevent waking up during the night.
b. Be prepared with fluids. Start packs allow you to keep sipping fluids every run.
c. Water is fine for shorter training sessions in normal temps.
d. Use an electrolyte beverage (e.g. Gatorade) if training for longer sesisons and / or in cold/ heat/high elevations.
e. Have a flask and bring teas to the hill with you. Add Gatorade and you have a palatable recovery drink.
4. PLAN REST DAYS AND RECOVERY WEEKS: As I talked about earlier, if you have your foot on the gas too long, your body does not have the opportunity to recover. Planning of recovery needs to occur throughout the training cycle – during microcycles (a training week); mesocycles (every 3-6 weeks) and macrocycles (the training year.)  Often you will try to employ recovery techniques to promote a faster rebound. I rarely prescribe passive recovery (complete rest).

5. METABOLIC RECOVERY: Otherwise termed a ‘flush’. These sessions should be employed following repeated high intensity training (e.g. ski full length courses multiple times). The athlete should do sustained low intensity work for 15-20 mins. This promotes the oxidation of the by-products of anaerobic work (e.g. hydrogen ion) by increasing oxygen delivery without causing additional fatigue. I ask my athletes to look for variety in how they achieve this – sitting on a spin bike after each session is not a great form of mental recovery for many athletes (although some love it). Try other forms of aerobic exercise including swimming, jog / hike, a light game or snow shoeing. I prefer unloaded methods (e.g. swimming).
The best way to ensure metabolic recovery is to attain a high level of aerobic fitness in the off-season. An athlete who has good aerobic fitness will recover much faster than an athlete who is weak in this area. This is the rationale for including a lot of targeted aerobic training in the summer/fall months – they will be more resilient during the competitive season.

6. COLD WATER IMMERSION: This form of recovery would be useful if you are anticipating muscle soreness. Research has shown that the optimal temp is around 10-15C (not an ice bath!) and the athlete should stay in there for 6-10 mins. This is quite accessible as anyone can run a cold bath at home!

7. SOFT TISSUE RECOVERY: Mobility is most important to athletes as it corresponds to athletic movement. The primary difference between mobility and flexibility is neuromuscular control.  And different sports require different levels of mobility.

If you goal is recovery, then static stretching is NOT the answer. Stretching is unlikely to reduce muscle soreness and may actually interfere with adaptation processes following training. Static stretching may help improve flexibility. However, dynamic stretching can have a greater impact on mobility (this is most important to athletes.)

Self-myofascial release (e.g. various rolling techniques) have gained great popularity in recent years. I incorporate various methods of rolling for recovery following workouts as they have a positive impact on mobility and may reduce the impact of muscle soreness. I am also a strong believer in sports massage as a form a tissue recovery. Different types of massage perform different functions. If you are looking for myofascial release, the massage therapist will likely have you in tears as they attempt to reduce fascial adhesions. A lighter more global massage helps to move fluids around the body.

8. WORKOUT! Many people think I’m crazy when I prescribe a hard and heavy workout for recovery and preparation for competition. However, done in the correct way an intense workout can bring you back to life. The goal of lifting during recovery and prep phases is to potentiate all available muscle fibers (e.g. slow and fast twitch). This requires the body to be under heavy load (e.g. intensity is high) so all available motor units (fast and slow) are recruited. The key thing to success with this type of workout is to pay close attention to frequency, intensity and volume. I would only prescribe these types of workouts to more experienced athletes who are well past the growth spurt and have trained at this intensity before.
Frequency: every 3-6 days per muscle group. If you delay longer than this, you may find yourself sore for training or competition.
Intensity: Warm up to 2-4RM.
Volume: 2 sets, 4-6 exercises.
Younger athletes should do strength sessions 2-3 times per week in the competitive season but work in a higher repetition range (6-12R) for whole body movements and generally following training when they don’t expect to ski the next day. Core/hip and upper body work can be done before a ski training day.
De-training is a huge issue for athletes during the competitive season. If we are constantly in a cycle of recovery (e.g. the classic ‘spin and stretch’), then it is likely that factors such as strength and endurance are suffering which means as the season progresses, your fitness will suffer. Regular maintenance training can not only increase energy levels, but can also reduce de-training effects.

All for now,

Andrew.

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Happening in BC – CSCF Development Level courses

Hello coaches!

 

There are 2 CSCF Development Level courses advertised on the CSCF website taking place in BC

http://www.canskicoach.org/en/home

Without a minimum of 5 participants, the courses might have to be cancelled. I would encourage all coaches interested in taking the course to register as soon as possible. Early registration is still in effect for the 2 courses so make sure to register soon to take advantage of the lower price!

Courses available:

Sun Peaks: January 5 – 9, 2015

Whistler: January 12 – 16, 2015

 

Development Level Course

The Development Level course is an intro to coaching at the “Learn to Train” and “Learn to Race” levels of development.

This 5 day course includes topics such as slalom and giant slalom basics for U14 and U16 athletes. You will learn strategies utilizing drills and exercises that bring desired skill acquisition in free skiing and gates. You will learn setting principles in slalom and giant slalom courses, modified for this age group. Teaching and learning principles and safety considerations are also covered. Practice coaching sessions are part of the course for each candidate.

The evaluation portion of the course assesses the candidate’s ability to demonstrate free skiing and gate skiing skills as well as drill setting. Candidates must pass the skiing and drill setting evaluation to successfully complete the course. Re-evaluations for skiing and drill setting are available.

Click here to view a document that outlines things candidates can do to prepare for this course.

Prerequisites:

– Entry Level TRAINED status (successful completion of the Entry Level Course) and
– 18 yrs old on first day of course OR Entry Level CERTIFIED status (new)

Do not hesitate to contact me may you have any questions or concerns,

Justine  – justinep@bcalpine.com – 250.602.9077

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BC Coaches blog – Pain science and an interview with a Legend

Hey everyone,

A couple of interesting reads I looked at the last week I’d like to share.  The first one discusses issues surrounding ‘pain science’ by Dr Derek Griffin – in particular how pain could be exacerbated by lifestyle factors (stress created by anxiety, depression , poor sleep, nutrition etc) which can cause greater ‘sensitization’ to pain.  There are three excellent videos to watch also.  The final video is a documentary on Haile Gebrselassie and shows how he won some of his major championship titles and Olympic medals while in excruciating pain – there is evidence here to support the concept that the brain is a very important tool in overcoming, as well as succumbing to pain.  The author is not suggesting that athletes should be pushing through musculoskeletal pain, nor is he implying that techniques such as manual therapy and corrective exercise are not important.  The therapist plays a hugely important role in the athlete’s health.  There may, however, be some other factors at play here which we should all be aware of.

http://www.running-physio.com/why-do-i-hurt/

I also enjoyed an interview with veteran strength and conditioning coach Vern Gambetta on www.sportscoachradio.com In this interview, Vern shares a number of the key mistakes he made over the course of his (long) career as a coach.  These include:

  • Too much, too soon
  • Overloading the spine – Too often and too young
  • Too many exercises or drills in a training session.

http://sportscoachradio.com/speed-sc-coach-vern-gambetta-resilience-training-lots/

All for now,

Andrew Lambert • Director of Sports ScienceBC Alpine Ski Association

 

 

Snow Stars Academies…what’s coming?

logo_redSo it begins…

The time of year where clubs are in full action mode, new and returning coaches are rolling in the door of the club cabin, looking fresh and ready to roll!This is prime time to get their full attention about the new changes made to the SNOW STARS program.

Since the end of October, the North Zone and the Coast Zone have been (re) introduced to the new and improved SNOW STARS program. So far, more than 80 coaches are ready to put their new acquired knowledge of the program in action. Thank you to all the coaches present for your time and dedication to the sport, your athletes will certainly benefit from your commitment to further your education about Ski Racing!

As the start of the Nancy Greene Ski League programs are nearing, so are the end of the Snow Stars’ Academies. The East and West Kootenay will get to know more about the program this weekend, and the North and South Okanagan will have their taste of it next week.

I really encourage coaches, parents and board members to take part in these remaining 4 Academies. The more knowledgeable a club is about the foundation of building essential ski racing skills, the easier it is for the coaches and athletes to perform.

Please join me at these locations to find out more about the building blocks of Canadian Ski Racing.

Saturday December 6 :  Fernie, Alpine Ski Team club cabin @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

Sunday December 7 :  Castlegar, Super 8 hotel @ 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Tuesday December 9 :  Kamloops, Tournament Capital Center @ 6:30pm – 8:30pm (in collaboration with Pacific Sport Okanagan)

Wednesday December 10 :  Kelowna, Kinsmen Fieldhouse Hall @ 6:30pm – 8:30pm

 

Coast Zone Snow Stars Academy – Sponsored by Fidelity Investements

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See you soon, Justine

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BC Coaches Blog – Coaches meetings and AGM Summary

We had some interesting and informative educational sessions this past weekend at the 2014 BCA Fall coaches meetings and AGM in Kelowna. Dr Donna Mockler (Fortius Health) has provided Performance Vision Services to Alpine Canada for 25+ years and is the country’s resident expert on diagnostic and performance enhancement vision for sport. She gave our coaches and general membership a talk on sports vision and concussion management. In her presentation she talked about the importance of assessing various parameters of vision for both health and the potential for vision training and diet to enhance performance.
I presented the topic ‘developing power in alpine ski racing’. Specifically, I presented the coaches with information regarding injury reduction training methodology and how to progress strength and plyometric training with development level athletes. I included a number of videos showing these progressions.
All of these presentations can be viewed by going to www.bcalpine.com; resources; forms and files; general meeting; 2014.
The CSCF has now released the Development Level Physical Conditioning Concepts module. This has been a 3 year collaboration between the CSCF and FITSolutions. It is available by following this link http://www.canskicoach.org/en/professional-development/on-line-modules/quick-links-to-modules If you are interested in looking at the material, but do not want to take the course or pay fees, click on demo mode. The Physical Conditioning Concepts module is required for Development Level coaches to become certified.
Finally, as I mentioned in a previous blog, the BCA Fitness testing protocols have been updated. In many ways, the protocol has been simplified to allow coaches to conduct testing with minimal equipment. The assessments are now congruent with the AIM2WIN LTAD document. An addition is the recommendation for coaches to include a basic medical and movement screen as part of their assessment.
All for now,
Andrew.

 

 

Coaches Blog – Warm Up

Last month  I was at the Okanagan Sports Leadership Conference and we had some great workshops, including a presentation from Carmen Bott on strength training and screening developing athletes.  Then  I read an informative article by Eric Cressey on dynamic warm up.  Check out the video here Dynamic Warm up.

This made me reflect a bit on my warm up practises with the various age groups I work with (from 11 to 21 years) and what is appropriate.  I won’t talk here about the ‘physiological’ reasons for a good warm up, but rather focus on the general principles and what goals they may achieve:

  1. Warm up prepares you mentally for your workout.  If you just went in the gym and straight into max squats, I doubt that would go well from either a physical OR mental perspective.
  2. Warm up will reduce the risk of injury in either in the gym or in your sport.
  3. Warm up is an opportunity to work on some of your weaknesses – whether they are issues of stability or mobility, warm up allows you to mobilize certain joints while stabilizing other joints.
  4. Warm up is an opportunity to ‘groove’ movement patterns.  By this I mean we first work on more isolated, controlled movements to mobilize / stabilize certain joints and then progress to more dynamic movements (e.g a ‘lunge’ pattern).  By increasing mobility and /or stability in particular joints that need improvement, we then see reduced compensation patterns in full body movements.
  5. Warm up can contribute to conditioning.  Warm up can last from anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the training phase and the goal.  I change my warm up routines regularly for 2 reasons 1) it is more interesting for the athlete 2) after 3-4 weeks neural adaptations have occurred and so a new stimulus is required.

Here’s my ‘general’ process for a good warm up that I follow in a team setting.  I will have a more specific, individual process in many cases:

  • If time and facilities allow, there is normally an activity at the start to get blood flow going.  This may be biking, treadmill or low intensity skipping for 5-10 mins.
  • Rolling.  Take 5 minutes to work on areas of tightness (self-myofascial release).
  • Corrective exercises (if you have been prescribed these).  These may be in the form of rolling, mobility or stability work.
  • Floor work (rolling, planking, quadruped, crawling etc).  Working joint-by-joint to mobilize.
  • Controlled dynamic.  Athletes work through a series of closed-chain movements (lunge, squats, hip hinge, push).
  • Athletic dynamic.  Typically I’ll do some running-type drills or lateral drills (A-step, lateral shuffles etc).  In the phase, the velocity of movement is increased.
  • Explosive dynamic.  As the first part of the main training segment usually involves some sort of explosive movement (e.g. jumps, Olympic lifts) the final portion should prepare you for this.

If the athletes are going into Olympic lifts, they will then work on ‘movement prep sequences’ which prepare them for that.  For example, if they are doing a clean they might do 4 reps each of front squat, RDL and high pulls at a sub-max weight.

Of course, the warm up must prepare you for the demands of your workout.  So, my warm up will be different depending on what stressors the athletes will encounter in their workout.  Warming up specifically for your sport may look very different from this.  As an example, skiers may work through the first 4 phases of warm up at their hotel/home first thing in the morning.  However, given that there is usually significant lag time between finishing this portion of warm up and then getting to the top of the ski hill (can be 1-2 hrs) much of the warm up needs to be conducted at the top of the hill.  However, the early morning work should not be neglected.

One last thought – I follow this process with athletes regardless of age.  With the young ‘uns, engagement is usually an issue and so I often incorporate some games that work on this stuff while keeping their attention.

All for now,

Andrew

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FIS Athletes: we want you! (cash incentive)

As an incentive for FIS athletes (current or recently retired) that have Passion for ski racing, BCA is offering a FIS ATHLETE bursary of $150 to help kick start an alpine ski coaching career.

Steps & Criteria:

  1. Have been FIS registered with BCA (Alpine or SX) between 2012 to current.
  2. Register for CSCF Entry Level course & pay registration fee (Bursary applicable for EL courses only).
  3. Apply before April 30th, 2015
  4. All applications will be processed by May 15th, 2015
  5. Email application : justinep@bcalpine.com

MUST INCLUDE: Full name, Mailing address, Telephone #, FIS card #, year, Date and location of course taken.

Coaches – How to: EL Mentor-Evaluator

You have taken the Mentor-Evaluator Training, now what?!

So a fellow coach has asked you if you could be his Mentor?

Or the club has asked you to become a Mentor to help Entry Level Trained coaches to attain their Certified status?

Did you know…BC Alpine will award $50.00 per EL CERTIFIED coach to the Mentor-Evaluator that made it possible during the 2014-15 season. 

Click on this link to see a step by step instruction on how to enter Coaching Evalution online through the CSCF website.

EL Mentor-Evaluator_How to

Please contact me if you need more info.

Justine Parent  ·  Club Development Coordinator  ·  justinep@bcalpine.com  · 250.602.9077

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Coaches – How to: become Entry Level Certified

Hi Coaches,

A good number of you have done your CSCF Entry Level course withing the last few years and have been prompted by the course facilitator and your club to pursue your coach education by becoming Entry Level CERTIFIED.

But how to become certify is still a mystery to you? Here’s how to do it!

When you “passed” your CSCF Entry Level course and became an Entry Level Trained coach, you got yourself a group of young ski racers to coach. Now WHAT?! The club has asked you to become CERTIFIED but where to start?

Click on the link below for a PDF explaining every steps.

EL Certified_How to

Please feel free to contact me,

Justine Parent  ·  Club Development Coordinator  ·  justinep@bcalpine.com  signature justine· 250.602.9077