HOW ATHLETICS IS CHANGING
Article by Donna Harris, Director, Coach Development, Athletics Canada
Human growth and development happens in very predictable patterns. The various systems within our bodies develop and mature at different times, providing important opportunities to take advantage and optimize the development of certain capacities. For example, the nervous system develops at a very fast rate from birth until puberty. It is well known that this is the best time to learn language skills and to play an instrument. This is also the best time to develop fundamental movement skills and sport skills.
At Athletics Canada, we know that running, jumping and throwing are not only skills for track and field but also are the basis for proficiency and enjoyment in many sports. Using the Long-term Athlete Development framework, we have designed our track and field curriculum to promote excellence within our sport while also developing athletes to enjoy other sports. Prior to the Athletics Canada Competition Review, all athletes whether they were 10 or 35 were competing in the same events. For athletics the issue was an adult competition structure transposed on children.
Learn more about the idea: Kids Don’t Play Like Adults
We know that the events in a track and field meet drives the type of training the athlete does. By changing the events to better suit the growth patterns of children and adolescents, we can make sure that the training is developmentally appropriate for athlete development.
Key changes to the event structure include:
• Replacement of the standard distances with the progressive increase of distances in the sprints and endurance events, so by the time an athlete reaches the Junior category (Under 19) they are competing in the traditional events.
• Encouragement of competing in multiple events across event groups in the Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget age groups.
• Implementing weights in the throws were changed so there is now an age appropriate progression from the Pee Wee category to the Junior category. Implementing weights at each age group are now the same across Canada.
• Hurdle heights and spacings were adjusted to ensure the same spacings and heights were used nationwide across all age groups.
• Removal of the water jump in the steeplechase event at the Midget age group. This is to remove the threat of injury and allow a focus on skill development at clearing the steeple (it is in at the Youth age group, Youth follows Midget).
Because a multi-sport approach is best..
Athletics Canada recognizes that not all children will always participate in athletics. However, all children should participate in sport and physical activity, and physical literacy is really important for that ongoing participation. Therefore, Athletics Canada and the provincial branches offer Run, Jump, Throw programs across the country. Furthermmore, The Pee Wee category at track and field events promote fundamental sport skills that include running, jumping and throwing. By having a wide range of skills, the athlete will have many sport choices.
Children should be participating in a number of sports that teach them a variety of skills in a number of different environments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the multi-sport approach best?
What role does age play in these changes?
Is this happening just in Manitoba?
How are track and field meets different today than years ago?
How are practices changing?