Five Canadian universities have been selected to help develop Canada’s future Olympic rowers. Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) designated Brock University, Trent University (with Peterborough Rowing Club), University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and Western University as NextGen Hubs under their Next Generation Athlete Strategy.
Adam Parfitt, RCA’s director of coach and athlete pathways, says the overall goal for the NextGen program is stronger, faster athletes who are ready to join the national team and compete at the Olympics or Paralympics in the next five to eight years.
Universities were a natural partner in the program as they have historically played a key role in developing Canada’s national rowers, Mr. Parfitt says. Roughly 95 percent of Canada’s Olympic rowers come up through the university system –about half of them from Canadian universities, and the rest from American schools.
Mr. Parfitt, who rowed for Team Canada at the Summer Games in 1996 and 2000, says the NextGen program may make Canadian universities more attractive to Canadian high school athletes. “If their ultimate ambition is to be on the national team and represent Canada, they can see the pathway in front of them because the university becomes a hub of development activity,” he says. “It presents opportunities for high school students who are looking at their options when they graduate. Canadian universities are a strong, viable performance option.”
The universities were selected through an application process which considered each university’s existing rowing program and factors such as facilities, coaching, strategy, partnerships and budget. The university partner pays an annual fee to host a NextGen Hub, and in return the RCA subsidizes a high-performance coach and enhanced programming.
Deborah Bright-Brundle, director of athletics and recreation at Trent, says the university sees being part of the NextGen program as an opportunity to further support Trent athletes. “I think amateur sport in Canada is really important and it’s all about partnerships for us at the university,” says Ms. Bright-Brundle. “To partner with Rowing Canada and the Peterborough Rowing Club, I think it shows the power of amateur sport in Canada and what we can do to support our athletes on the national and international stage.”
RCA and the NextGen Hubs are working with Canadian sports institutes and universities to include sport science and sport medicine support for athletes in the program. RCA further hopes that skills development will extend beyond the rowers and include applied opportunities for students in programs such as kinesiology and psychology.
“Even though we’ve identified five universities, the strategy is about the importance of the network across Canada,” says Mr. Parfitt. “There’s a huge regional outreach component to enable and empower clubs and other universities.”