When should athletes start a training plan?

By Kent Bastell, MSc, CSCS Strength and Conditioning Coach

As a strength and conditioning coach, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had enquiries from athletes, or an athlete’s parent, about starting a training program when it’s only six weeks before the athlete’s competitive season starts. Most of the time the main goal of the athlete is to increase fitness or speed. But what people fail to realize is that physiology isn’t an instant process – it takes time. “Rome wasn’t built in 6 weeks”.

Kent Bastell is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at WinSport's Performance Training Centre. Kent’s sporting background includes playing varsity soccer for two years for GRPC in the ACAC division and seven years of soccer coaching experience at the U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 levels, earning gold and bronze provincial medals with his hometown of Peace River.
Kent Bastell is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at WinSport’s Performance Training Centre. Kent’s sporting background includes playing varsity soccer for two years for GRPC in the ACAC division and seven years of soccer coaching experience at the U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 levels, earning gold and bronze provincial medals with his hometown of Peace River.

Why do we train? The simple answer is that we are asking our body to adapt to some sort of stimulus (using weights, doing cardiovascular work, movement training, etc.). The human body is smart. When it is repetitively exposed to a stimulus it begins to respond by changing to better deal with its environment. How does it change? That is a few university classes worth of information, however, I’ll break it down into neurological adaptations (muscles coordinate better to produce movement), muscular morphological adaptations (increase in muscle mass), cardiovascular adaptations (heart can pump more blood per beat). The problem with adaptation is that it usually takes a minimum of 4-6 weeks of repetition for it to meaningfully occur. That means if you only allow time to train for 4-6 weeks, you can only pick from a limited number of adaptations to target. The other problem is that adaptations such as speed, usually require some foundational capabilities before it can be optimized.

Let’s think of training in simple, analogous terms. We are going to imagine a training program as a pumpkin pie recipe. As a strength coach, it’s my job to ensure we have the correct ingredients, correct amount of ingredients, that they are prepared and added in the proper order and lastly, to ensure it is baked for the right amount of time. Just like in baking, we create layers by which we build an athlete. Below is a simplified example of one of our training programs:

Pie Crust (foundation) – We begin with endurance and structural tolerance to ensure athletes move properly and have the work capacity to sustain training and competition

Pumpkin Filling – We try to build muscle mass and increase muscular/cardiovascular ability to handle a variety of more demanding loads

Whipped Cream – Once an athlete has work capacity and better muscular properties we can then train for max strength, speed and power.

An athlete who comes for a 6 week “speed” program is like saying you made a pie, but in the end only served a plate of whipped cream. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not a pie.

So, what does this all mean? Here’s our recommendations:

To give us enough time to build a proper athlete, a training program should ideally start in the off-season of sport. This means winter sport athletes should be training during spring, summer and fall months, while summer athletes should be training during the fall, winter and spring months. Once athletes are competing, the goal is to maintain the athletic characteristics they developed in off-season training. For optimal results and adaptation, it is recommended to train each muscle group at least two times per week. For some perspective, our elite WinSport Academy ski and snowboard teams train three times per week from June through to November and once per week from December to May.

If you’re interested in training, the WinSport Performance Training Centre (PTC) offers personal (1 on 1), small group (three to six athletes), or team training (seven or more athletes) all under the guidance and supervision of a certified strength and conditioning professional.

For more information or to set up a consultation with one of our coaches, please contact the PTC by calling 403-247-5405 or emailing train@winsport.ca

A day in the life of WinSport’s Early Childhood Development program – The Perfect Mud Cake

WinSport’s Early Explorers program – an early childhood development program for children ages three to five – builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment. The idea to create the program was inspired from WinSport’s legacy, which was formed by relentless, bold, and fearless individuals. The organization’s goal is to continue that legacy by creating the next generation of leaders – children who will make an impact and continue to inspire their community. The outdoor play component of our ECD program is complimented by the newly designed calm and nurturing indoor learning space. Below is an example of a learning story written by WinSport Early Childhood educator Brittany Caldwell.

It was a warm Winter day and the snow was slushy and the dirt was peaking out. The draw of the mud, snow, buckets and shovel seemed strong. “E” found a large bucket of dirt and began mixing all the water she could find into the bucket. Using a small spoon, she had transformed the bucket from dry dirt, to a fabulous mixture. I offered her a rake to keep her mittens and sleeves dry and she turned the rake into a propeller for mixing. “A” joined in the mixing and claimed they were making batter to make a “Mud Cake.”

“We don’t want it to be too hard or too soft.”

“We need more water, we are putting dry stuff in it.”

“I gotta get more water, that’s what bakes the cake, so that’s the problem.”

“Snow is made of water, let’s add more snow.”

As we continued our work on our perfect mud batter, we finally reached a consistency that the girls agreed would make the perfect cake. Then the girls began to make their cakes. They worked on filling each pot. No matter how big or small. They made hot chocolate, muffins, heart cakes and more! Soon every dish in our mud kitchen was full of the perfect batter. We had found the best way to spend a warm winter afternoon. No matter what projects we develop and the fun we have, we can always rely on making mud to be the best way to spend a warm and wet day outside.

The way mud lures in the children is fascinating. It seems reliable for the Explorers’ – something they can always depend on. No matter the day, no matter the weather, no matter the mood, we can always rely on playing in the mud. Getting dirty seems to be the favorite outdoor activity and shouldn’t it be?

For more information on WinSport’s Early Explorers program, visit: https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/earlychildhood.cfm

How Can We Set your Kids up for Athletic Success?

There is an epidemic of kids quitting and dropping out of sport too early. According to a systematic review published in the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration by Tek Dangi and Peter Witt, two of the major reasons that kids quit are: 1) they have a self-perception of low physical competence and 2) they are getting injured. So how can we ensure our kids continue to participate and enjoy sport into their teenage years and beyond? By giving them the necessary tools to develop the skills that increase their competence and confidence to engage in physical activity and to prevent injury throughout their participation.

WinSport has programs designed for youth to help them develop a life-long love for sports.
WinSport’s youth programs are designed to help them develop a life-long love for sports.

Dr Avery Fagenbaum, a leading researcher in youth strength training, cites two types of skills that kids need to develop – as early in life as possible – to increase competence and confidence in physical activity:

Fundamental Movement Skills: Having the capacity to perform primal movements properly. Squats, lunges, pulling, pushing, twisting, bending, and gait (how a person walks or runs) are examples of primal movements that form the foundations for development of athletic skills such as balance, locomotor skills (running, jumping) and sport skills (catching, throwing, kicking).

Primal Muscular Strength: Having strength to perform the aforementioned functional movements against some sort of resistance (i.e. body weight). Being able to do a push-up, climb a jungle gym, or lifting something up from the ground would be considered primal strength development.

WinSport Recommends:

  1. Get kids involved in activity early

Activities such as gymnastics are great for giving your kids a head start in their functional movement capacity and coordination.

WinSport’s Sport FUNdamentals Camp (Ages 4-5) is a jumpstart to foundational movement and sport skills using games and activities, all under guided instruction. Click here for a full program description.

  1. Get kids involved in activities that have a multi-sport focus.

Kids should be playing at least 2-3 different sports until their mid-teens to reduce the number of overuse injuries and so they can develop a complete athletic skill set.

The Sports Skills Camp (Ages 6-8, 9-11, 12-15) offered at WinSport introduces kids to 3-4 different sports where they will learn the physical, technical, and tactical components of each. Click here for a full program description.

  1. Get kids in the gym to develop strength.

Our Sport Performance Camp (Ages 12-15) is a week-long curriculum focusing on mastering the physical, psychological, cognitive, tactical and technical aspects that are required for athletic excellence. Kids will develop leadership skills, be introduced to sport nutrition, hydration, visualization and goal setting while training at the Performance Training Centre (PTC) under the direction of our strength and conditioning coaches. Click here for a full program description.

Our Junior Athlete Development Program (Ages 9-12) is an 8-week weight-room focused program that explores age-appropriate resistance training and conditioning. This is a great sport education program for those not involved in organized sport or a supplemental “dryland” program for those who are. Click here for a full program description.

Another option is the Athlete Development Training Program (Ages 13-17). Upon meeting for an initial consult with one of our strength coaches, a customized strength and conditioning program will be created. The program is tailored to the individual’s performance goals and executed independently by the athlete under direct supervision on weekday afternoons in the PTC. Click here for a full program description.

For any program inquires please contact Sport Services at 403-247-5405 or by email at train@winsport.ca

Reach your fitness goals at WinSport’s Performance Training Centre

The Performance Training Centre (PTC) is a world-class sport training facility built in 2014 by sport visionaries who wanted to create a truly unique place to develop athletes. The centre is an athlete-centric gym and the training and equipment focuses on one concept – athlete development.

This means:

The performance training centre features best-in-class equipment equipment, indoor sport turf, squat racks, a running track along with strength and cardio classes and personal training. There are membership options that cater to all lifestyles.
The performance training centre features best-in-class equipment equipment, indoor sport turf, squat racks, a running track along with strength and cardio classes and personal training. There are membership options that cater to all lifestyles.

 

  • We provide every individual the opportunity to be “Better than yesterday”
  • We are a community of people that believe in hard work; not only when training but in life.
  • We believe everyone is an athlete
  • Everything we do supports training these athletes: the equipment, the daily training environment, the coaching staff, customer support and the programs and services
  • We directly train individuals, small groups and teams
  • We offer both public and athlete memberships for those looking to train in this type of environment and be around like-minded people
  • Our Philosophy; Performance by design, not chance

Here are some things you may not know we do:

  • Drop ins
  • 2-week trials
  • Punch passes
  • Personal training
  • Public strength and conditioning classes (included with our memberships) – “Train like an athlete”
  • Annual and monthly membership options
  • Junior Athlete Development programs (ages 9-12)
  • Athlete Development programs (ages 13-17)
  • Olympic lifting programs (ages 16+)
  • Adapted Strength and Conditioning programs
  • Sport specific training programs; hockey, football, rugby
  • Team training
  • Sport performance services including sport nutrition and mental performance coaching
  • On-site sport medical clinic via Group23 Sports Medicine
  • We offer discounts on 5-punch passes if your kids are in WinSport programs

We’re located in the Markin MacPhail Centre and are open seven days a week. Come visit our team who can take you for a tour and further explain the many features and great benifets of our gym. For more information, visit https://www.winsport.ca/performancetrainingcentre/ptchome.cfm

A day in the life at WinSport’s Early Childhood Development Program

WinSport’s Early Explorers program – an early childhood development program for children ages three to five – builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment. The idea to create the program was inspired from WinSport’s legacy, which was formed by relentless, bold, and fearless individuals. The organization’s goal is to continue that legacy by creating the next generation of leaders – children who will make an impact and continue to inspire their community. The outdoor play component of our ECD program is complimented by the newly designed calm and nurturing indoor learning space in the Markin MacPhail Centre. Below is an example of a day in the life of a student written by WinSport Early Childhood educator Brittany Caldwell on Loose Parts and Outdoor Play.

WinSport’s Early Explorers program – an early childhood development program for children ages three to five – builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment.
WinSport’s Early Explorers program – an early childhood development program for children ages three to five – builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment.

This semester at Early Explores the children have been engaged with our loose part’s materials. While sheltering from the cold and warming up our fingers we are often drawn to making various play items from our collection of found and natural materials. One Thursday, one little boy wandered over to the carpet to begin building. He sat down and using a clothes pin, a craft stick, and a small wooden ring, he built a toy airplane. Puttering the airplane around, he drew the attention of several of his classmates. As more children joined he shared with his friend how he had created his new toy and began teaching all the children to build little airplanes of their own. Soon after, a game of airplane racers had erupted and the children were zooming around the class wielding there new creations with beaming smiles.

Loose parts by definition are: open-ended materials designed to ignite creativity, ingenuity and collaboration in children. When contrasted with traditional toys, loose parts provide more opportunity for deeper learner and more creative play. In the example of the children and their toy airplanes, by providing them with simple materials versus plastic airplanes, we were able to expand the moment to include more skills and an opportunity to express their creativity. The children practiced fine motor skills while building – they used communication and collaboration skills to teach each other the best methods for building, and they expanded there understanding of shape, line, and size by replicating airplanes in model form.

This play is not limited to indoor moments. We also often use loose parts on both small and large scales when playing outside. We forge men/ action figures out of sticks; we construct life size forts from logs and stumps, and we use loose parts to conducts experiments on how to slide the fastest. Most importantly, we use the loose parts to ignite a love of learning that extends beyond the walls of a classroom and into the outdoor world.

WinSport’s Early Explorers program is holding an open house so parents and children can explore the learning space and ask questions to facilitators. It takes place on February 20. Click here to register.

 

It’s never too late to learn a new sport at WinSport

When Theresa Sanchez learned her son’s PeeWee hockey team was holding a scrimmage game between the parents and players following the season, she knew she wanted to play. The only problem was, she along with many of the other moms, had never played hockey.

WinSport's Discover Hockey program teaches kids to adults basic hockey skills and rules of the game.
WinSport’s Discover Hockey program teaches kids to adults basic hockey skills and rules of the game.

But the mother of three exercised the advice she would give her kids and showed everyone it is never too late to learn a new sport.

“This was a big goal for me – to get somewhat good enough to play and stand my ground in a game of hockey,” says Sanchez.

She learned about WinSport’s Discover Hockey program, which runs 12 weeks and teaches basic hockey skills, including the rules of the game in a group setting. Sanchez said the program would prep her for her son’s game, but was also an opportunity to understand and appreciate a game her three sons were so passionate about.

“I got a bunch of the moms together and said, ‘let’s do a sport that our kids love so much and we’ll appreciate the sport even more,’ ” Sanchez says. “It’s also something active we can all do together and we’ll get to know each other even more. It was almost like a nice team builder for us moms.”

During the fall, Sanchez and a bunch of her ‘hockey mom’ counterparts suited up for the first time and hit the ice for the Discover Hockey program.

“Going on the ice for the first time was the biggest challenge because we were all different skill levels – some people had some hockey, skating or figure skating experience, where for others, it was one of their first times on skates.”

She said the instructors paid close attention to what each player wanted to get out of the program, so a lot of the instruction was tailored to individual goals. Sanchez also said despite being elite hockey players themselves, the coaches were patient with the group and took the time to demonstrate and re-demonstrate drills.

“The instructors were amazing because, being new, we all had different skill levels and they evaluated the group as a whole and actually asked us what each of us wanted to accomplish,” says Sanchez.

Similar to an actual hockey team, the group began to bond and the experience extended beyond the ice. Sanchez says she became friends with many of the participants, who often went for beverages following their on-ice lessons.

“I got to meet so many people – learn how to play hockey with them and know them personally,” she says. “It was interesting to hear how everyone just wanted to get something out of the program for themselves – it’s not all about their kids necessarily – it’s having a sense of being able to say ‘I’m able to do this.’ ”

And she did in fact do it. Sanchez says her hand-eye coordination and skating improved and she can now perform a ‘hockey stop.’ But most importantly, she played in her son’s parent-team scrimmage.

“It was so fun and I actually scored,” she explains. “My son said to me in a very delicate way that I wasn’t good, but I wasn’t that bad – so I’ll take that as a compliment!”

WinSport’s Discover hockey program runs throughout the year beginning at age 4 and also includes women’s-only programs. For more information, visit: https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/iceprograms/hockeylessons.cfm

WinSport’s Ryan Sommer wins bobsleigh medals

Ryan Sommer, one of the strength and conditioning coaches at WinSport’s Performance Training Centre (PTC), now has four more medals – three gold medals and a bronze – to put in his trophy case.

The first-year pilot/brakeman for Canada’s two-man bobsleigh team recently returned from his first North American Cup in Whistler, where he had the opportunity to slide with Olympic gold medallist Justin Kripps.

“Winning those medals early in the season was an amazing relief knowing that all of the work I put in this off-season was starting to pay off,” says Sommer. “I was dealing with some injuries right before the team Canada selection process, so to get through that six-week selection process, including physio testing, push testing and selection races, and then be able to come away with some medals at the first race series was pretty special.”

Like the sport, Sommer’s career took off fast and has involved a lot of twists and turns. After graduating from the University of Lethbridge in 2016, Ryan spent his first summer forest firefighting in B.C. After meeting somebody who told him about a bobsleigh recruitment camp in Vancouver, he decided to give the sport a try and drove from Peace River to Vancouver.

He then received an invitation to try out for the Alberta development team in Calgary and went on to compete in the full North American Cup circuit.

Following his first season, Ryan began training with WinSport PTC trainer Brett Walker. In 2017, Sommer had improved his push time by two-tenths of a second and joined the North American circuit for Canada’s development team. However, on the first stop he was involved in a serious crash which forced him to pull out of competition for the year.

He then rehabbed and trained for the next eight months and was selected to the national team.

When he’s not competing and training with the national team, Sommer is helping others reach their fitness goals as a trainer at the PTC. He says Walker and the rest of the PTC team has given him support to succeed.

“Just being immersed in the culture is great,” says Sommer. “People are always asking how you’re doing and taking an interest in what I’m doing.”

Sommer is now going to Germany for the European Cup and then back for the World Cup in January.

“The whole journey so far has been surreal for me, everything from selection races to being named to the World Cup team to winning our first set of races,” says Sommer. “It has been something I have working towards for a few years now and the first taste of success has definitely made me hungrier and is driving me to make an impact on the international level.”

Follow Ryan Sommer on Twitter @Ryansoms to keep up with his journey!

WinSport’s Snow School Continuum – LTAD approach to developing snow lovers

If your child plays hockey or swims, most parents would agree the sport system is relatively easy to navigate as there is a defined system or path for parents to follow. The levels are progressive and instructors often refer you to the next level.

However, other sport systems are challenging. Skiing and snowboarding programming has no governing body that clearly defines the levels and progression.

Each resort sets the progression levels and does their best to build a progressive scale that outlines pre-requisites and the skills that your child will learn in each class.

WinSport creating a clearly defined path of progression for skiers and snowboarders

WinSport has tapped into their sport scientists to build snow school levels to meet the age and physical development of children. The system is rooted in the Long-term athlete development model (LTAD).
WinSport has tapped into their sport scientists to build snow school levels to meet the age and physical development of children. The system is rooted in the Long-term athlete development model (LTAD).

The LTAD is a sport framework that is designed to ensure children – beginning before puberty – do the right things at the right time in sport activities to develop a life-long love for sport and successfully participate at elite levels, if they choose to do so.

Snow School at WinSport is quite simple to understand. Our website displays the levels outlined by age. It indicates the skill set your child needs to have so you can place them in the appropriate level. If you need help, our guest services staff is available to guide you through this process. Even if your child is placed in the wrong level on the first day of lessons we will quickly place them in the appropriate group. The instructor will check off the prerequisite skills your child has achieved on their progression card which you will find attached to their jacket. At the end of your lessons, we encourage our instructors to connect with you and share with you the next steps for your child.

We would love to tell you that progression is linear and your child will move easily from one level to the next. However, that’s not always the case. Your child may need to repeat levels to ensue that they gain the appropriate level of mastery over specific skills. Our priority is twofold – ensuring that your child can navigate the terrain safely and that they have the confidence to perform specific skills.

As a parent your child has progressed through lessons and they love being on snow. Their skill set will certainly improve as they spend more time on snow. It is at this moment that parents seek out more information on what is next. They go online, talk to friends and try to find out how they get their children to the next level.

Progressing to the next level – WinSport Club programs

Parents who have grown up in the sport understand that the next step is either recreational or competitive club programs. Club programs are long-term, ranging between 11 weeks and season-long opportunities. They include multiple sessions per week and your child has a coach instead of an instructor. Our recreational club offerings are different than most clubs.

  • The first type of club is all-mountain. This is rooted in exposing your child to multiple disciplines (alpine & freestyle) so they can determine which discipline works best for them.
  • The second type of club is focused on one specific discipline.

How our clubs differentiate

WinSport clubs are different than other ski teams that you see across the province. Most of these groups are operated by volunteers and do have paid coaches. Our recreational club program is operated by the same leadership team that guides our snow school. We have them linked to ensure the progression and development is rooted in appropriate stages of the LTAD model. We work closely with both provincial and national sport organizations to ensure that we are incorporating the latest progression in each discipline so that your child is learning the latest skills. In addition, we have a training environment where your child can practice specific skills at a specific progressive level. We also search for opportunities to introduce your child to competitions.

The next step: Performance teams

As your child progresses through our system and have a passion and natural aptitude for a discipline, your recreational club coach will take the time to identify them to our performance coaches. Our performance coaches and administration team will have a discussion with you and your child to determine if they would like to move to a competitive level club. If there is an interest and fit, an invite will be extended to your child to join one of these teams.

The performance teams are where we develop the next generation of Olympians. These are year-round programs where your child will take part in dryland training, international training and participate in high-level competitions. We are proud to have had more than two dozen athletes and coaches graduate from the performance teams to national programs.

Our most successful recent graduate, Cassie Sharpe, had an exceptional performance at the Games in PyeongChang, taking home gold in the half-pipe.

We are proud of the progressive LTAD-based system we have built at WinSport because of the foresight from the founders of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

Get involved

Let us help you navigate your snow journey. Our team in Guest Services and snow sports are available to connect with you and answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to seeing you on the slopes this winter.

Fore more information, contact our Guest Services team at 403-247-5452 (ext. 4) or visit winsport.ca.

 

Why we’re “gaga” over Gaga Ball

It may sound cliché, but if you ask any child what they think about gaga ball, they will literally go ‘gaga’ over it.

“They actually chant and cheer when we go play gaga ball – it’s probably the one activity they look forward to most at camp,” says Kyler Tritter, a Team Lead for WinSport’s summer camps. “They really cheer during the game while playing and then cheer on their friends when they’re eliminated from the game.”

Gaga ball is a fun, intense, fast sport played in an pit with rules similar to dodgeball.
Gaga ball is a fun, intense, fast sport played in an pit with rules similar to dodgeball.

Gaga ball is best described as a simple form of dodgeball played in a partially enclosed octagonal pit that contains short walls, so the ball stays in play. Participants have to strike the soft ball with their hand to hit opponents. If a participant is hit with the ball below the waist, they are eliminated from the game and leave the pit. Due to the enclosed space, it’s an intense, fun and fast game.

“It’s a good game for all skill levels and it’s fast paced, so the games usually last two or three minutes which gives the kids a lot of opportunity to play,” Tritter says. “If they are eliminated quickly, they’re right back in playing another game in only a few minutes.”

According to Sport Resources Group, gaga ball originated in Israel and was popular in Jewish camps and community centres in the 1970s. Recently, it has quickly grown in popularity in North America and is in use at camps and schools.

WinSport incorporated the game into summer camps last year using makeshift gaga ball pits. With it being such a hit with the kids, the organization purchased official pits this year.

Tritter says despite the game’s simplicity, it supports a component of the organization’s sport philosophy which focuses around teaching kids how to lose.

“It’s important to learn how to lose – and in gaga ball, even if you do lose there’s a lot of opportunity to try again and do better,” Tritter says. “That’s one of the things we want to achieve in our camps – to build resiliency so that the kids know if they lose, it’s not a big deal and they just need to do something different next time.”

Gaga ball also aligns with WinSport’s use of Teaching Games For Understanding (TGFU), which is a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic. Read all about it here.

“The kids are working on a lot of fundamental skills – striking, dodging and other tactics,” says Tritter adding that these same skills are used in sports such as soccer, hockey and lacrosse. “It’s really fun to watch as well when you’ve been eliminated because you can pick up on other peoples’ tactics. The kids can also can create their own strategies. We’re not telling them the strategies – they are learning on their own which is much more impactful.”

Gaga ball also separates itself from other sports in that it is more inclusive and puts everybody on an even playing field.

“You don’t have those kids dominating as you see in lacrosse, soccer and ball hockey where you get a couple of kids with previous knowledge and tend to dominate the game,” Tritter says. “Gaga ball is more of an open playing field where to large degree everyone can be competitive and have fun.”

TGFU. It’s not a bad word – it helps kids learn

The acronym TGFU is not something you say to somebody, it’s rather something that kids do at WinSport that helps them develop essential sport skills.

Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) is a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic.
Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) is a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic.

TGFU stands for Teaching Games for Understanding. Simply put, it’s a way of teaching kids sport-related skills through playing simple games that later get more complex and become more strategic. It’s essentially an indirect method for teaching skills and rules that kids will later apply to specific sports such as hockey, rugby and soccer.

“The biggest piece is that it makes the games fun and it teaches kids about rules and why they are in place, so they gain an appreciation and an understanding for them,” says Chris Lane, a Team Lead for WinSport’s summer camps. “It focuses on what to look for in certain situations, so they can make strategic decisions.”

TGFU always starts simple and progressively gets more complex, so kids learn strategy and tactics. For example, a game of tag may start with everybody being “it.” When a participant is tagged, they sit down. In a second game, the kids would be partnered and only that partner can tag the participant in order for them to be able to stand up and get back in the game. In the third game, teams of four are built, and only one participant can tag somebody back into the game, prompting a team to think about who should be tagged back in first.

“This is where we start building upon skills and tactics,” says Lane. “It develops a broad set of skills, it’s engaging, and kids learn the ‘why’ about a game.”

Lane says that once these tactics are developed, kids are inherently learning specific skills for sports.

“Think, for example, in a game of hockey how important positioning is,” Lane says. “The importance of positioning is taught when we play tag, along with other skills such as the importance of keeping your head up and how to get to an area as quickly as possible – which are key skills in hockey.”

Some other examples are playing net-wall basketball and gaga ball – both are trying to get a ball in a specific place and can be applied later to hockey, where it’s important to strategically aim the puck at a specific point in the net.

Lane says for TGFU to be successful, it’s important to talk with the kids to ensure they understand why certain rules were implemented into the games. He says it’s equally important to debrief the kids on the tactics they exercised.

“Between games and at the succession of the games, we pose questions to the group,” Lane explains. “How did the game change when we introduce a rule set? We really get them to understand the thought process.”

Lane says since TGFU integrates strategy and tactic into sport, success isn’t completely reliant on athleticism, so it puts everybody on an even playing field where they learn while having fun together.