Some participants drove as long as 10 hours from parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta to attend a recent Para athletics training camp for wheelchair athletes and coaches at The Steadward Centre for Personal & Physical Achievement in Edmonton.
The event was funded in part with a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s 2023-24 Paralympic Sport Development Fund (PSDF), which is supported by the Paralympic Foundation of Canada.
The two main parts of this initiative were coaching education and athlete development.
Geneva Coulter, the Partnerships & Para Sport Development Coordinator at The Steadward Centre for Personal & Physical Achievement said the objective with the PSDF funding was to encourage athletes and coaches to come together to learn from, train with, and build connections with each other.
“This was achieved by subsidizing travel costs for athletes and coaches travelling from outside of Edmonton to attend our spring Para athletics training camp,” she said. “It decreased the financial burden on athletes looking for Para athletics training opportunities. With coaches also supported to attend, athletes were able to access a wide expertise in coaching such as in sprints, throws, wheelchair racing.”
Coulter said there are important benefits for the participants at the camp, who were as young as nine years old.
“Para sport opportunities are harder to find especially for someone from a small town in Saskatchewan for example who might be the only Para athlete in their community,” she said. “There are so many different aspects to wheelchair Para athletics and to see how diverse the athletes are, and how the coaches work with them, it is just a positive environment for growth and excellence in sport.”
The three-day camp was held in late April. There were practice sessions all three days as well as strength and conditioning sessions and classroom education.
“It was the first time we brought out of province athletes to a camp, and we plan to do that more often in the future because it is such a great opportunity for the participants. Those connections they make are very important.”
In addition to the camp, the PSDF grant will also be used to support three athletes and two coaches in attending the Bell Canadian Track & Field Championships later this month.
“Support for travel to this event will continue to bring our athletes and coaches together with others from other provinces to compete and build connections with one another,” said Coulter.
“Both the camp and nationals will support quality experiences in sport and build towards stronger relationships through Para athletics.”