Updated February 25, 2020.
NEW: Updated Implementation Plan. Watch your email for the survey to provide your thoughts.
The Pursuit of Excellence program is designed to support the following outcomes:
- support the development of athletes with long-term high performance goals
- help individuals fulfill their potential, whatever that may be
- help individuals learn and live the athlete lifestyle for future benefit within or outside ringette
Pursuit of Excellence is for athletes who wish to participate in a program that:
- Offers universal program standards designed to help athletes become their best
- Requires all involved (athletes, parents, coaches and support personnel) to commit to and maintain a high-quality, science-based, long-term development process
- Provides meaningful competition with similarly skilled athletes
Ringette Today – Why Change?
As part of Ringette Canada’s High Performance Summit, a background document, Current State of High Performance Ringette in Canada was produced. The document’s introduction articulates the state of High Performance Ringette in Canada:
There has been no clear definition of High Performance Ringette in Canada. From one province to the other, from one conversation to the next, the agreement as to ‘who is part of High Performance Ringette in Canada?’ is never reached. Additionally, athletes competing at the same level and part of the same development phase are not being given the same daily training opportunities from one area of the country to the other. How is it that programs built to achieve the same goals have such varying structures and priorities?
With Alberta, there is little recognition (and ownership) of the need for local programs to align with the goal of preparing athletes to enter Ringette Canada’s High Performance Programs or simply to become their best, whatever that may be. In a 2016 survey of AA clubs in Alberta, only one indicated it felt any responsibility to contribute to the success of Ringette Canada’s national teams through athlete development in the years preceding the athlete trying out for a national team program.
Excellence Ringette in the Future
Athletes in Excellence Ringette will be immersed an environments specifically designed to help them become their best.
The delivery of these programs will be curriculum based using the Athlete Development Matrix as the guide.
The programs will be fully aligned with Ringette Canada’s high performance pathway.
Program operators will be accountable for providing the high quality environment expected.
An in person Pursuit of Excellence stakeholder meeting took place November 17, 2019. Here is a summary of that meeting. The contributions of the participants will help Ringette Alberta develop an Excellence Ringette implementation plan.
Implementation Plan – Draft (February 25, 2020)
Taking information from the November stakeholder meeting and other discussions, a revised implementation plan has been developed for stakeholder review and feedback. You can access it here.
Leveraging the Own the Podium framework and fully aligned with Ringette Canada’s high performance plan and curriculum, athletes will be given the support to help them to become the very best player they can be and, for some, to compete for a roster sport in one of Ringette Canada’s High Performance programs.
Athlete Enrollment Standards
Only / all athletes who meet or exceed the minimum enrollment threshold may enroll in the Pursuit of Excellence program. For U16 & up, assessment is based on the Train to Train stage in the Ringette Athlete Development Matrix. For U14, enrollment criteria will be extrapolated from the U16 & up criteria.
Centre of Excellence
In Alberta, Pursuit of Excellence programs will be delivered by licensed Centres of Excellence. These are virtual centres meaning the program delivery will take place throughout the region as facility access, athlete location and other factors dictate.
Talent ID vs Talent Development
Underlying the transition from today’s AA ringette to a true Pursuit of Excellence environment is the need for us to shift from a talent ID model to a talent development model. The notion that we can “see talent” in children as young as 12 years of age, or younger, is not supported by the research. We can only observe performance at a given moment in time which is, particularly for developing athletes, a poor indiciation of ultimate potential.
Below is a podcast (in two parts) featuring Dr. Joseph Baker from Canada’s York University, who is one of the world’s leading researchers on talent identification and development in sport. The podcast is called Coach Your Best and can be found at the links below or on Apple podcasts.
Real World: Example of Talent ID vs Talent Development
show This is an example of what the Talent ID model might look vs the Talent Development model at U16.
|Talent ID Model||Talent Development Model|
|Total athletes interested in program||60||60|
|Teams: Number and Tier||1 U16AA team, predetermined||
Through registration numbers, the organization sees the maxium number of athletes they may need to accomodate.
The number of teams at specific teirs is not pre-determined.
Unique to each organization/coach.
|Derived from the Athlete Development Matrix (ADM) and used by all Excellence programs|
45 players cut from the team
Feedback to athletes unknown
|15 are deemed not ready for the program yet. Provided feedback to understand where they can improve. Encouraged to return if they do the work.|
|Team Tiering and Competition||
Team is designated AA
No known definition of AA
Meaningful competition is unknown
15 at Train-to-Train Late, e.g., AA
Similarly categorized teams are grouped for games increasing the likelihood of meaningful competition
General Context Questions
I’ve heard about different participation contexts. What are they and what is their purpose?
There are six different participation contexts defined in the Ringette Canada Competition Review and Restructuring Report (2018).
Alberta has taken these contexts a little further and adjusted their titles and descriptions to align with what we heard in our research into what the athletes want:
- Learn to Skate (children, youth and adult)
- Intro to Ringette (children, youth and adult)
- Children’s Ringette
- Classic Ringette (youth and adult)
- Flex Ringette (youth and adult)
- Pursuit of Excellence Ringette (youth and adult)
Where can I learn more about the differences between the participation contexts?
How is the Pursuit of Excellence context different from High Performance?
High Performance is a part of the Pursuit of Excellence context. High performance exists in the later stages of athlete development, i.e., Train to Compete and Train to Win.
Depending on which provinces or sports you’re looking at, you’ll see programs for kids as young as 12 being called ‘high performance’. This is simply incorrect. There is nothing high performance about 12 and 13 year old ringette players. There is a time when it is appropriate for athletes to enter an environment which would help them pursue a high performance goal in the future. So, one can be enrolled in a pursuit of excellence program but not be a high performance athlete, yet.
What are the objectives of Excellence Ringette?
From the Ringette Canada Competition Review (2018):
“Excellence Ringette provides systemic (throughout the ringette system across Canada) and systematic (progressive, intentional) training and competition environments, based on Ringette Canada’s Athlete Development Matrix (ADM), with the intention of helping athletes achieve their highest level of performance, and preparing them to represent their province at Canada Games, play in the NRL, and represent Canada at the World Ringette Championships.”
Beyond preparing some athletes for entry to high performance programs, the Pursuit of Excellence context also exists to:
- help individuals fulfill their potential, whatever that may be
- help individuals learn and live the athlete lifestyle
What does Excellence ringette look like?
Excellence ringette will prepare athletes for the environment to become their best while being mindful of their stage of development. The Athlete Development Matrix (ADM) lays out the attributes ringette players should exhibit at each stage of development across all areas:
- Life Skills
Based on the ADM, athletes in Excellence ringette will be provided general, stage-appropriate development benchmarks. With the support of their coaches and other support personnel, athletes will then set personal goals (using the benchmarks as a guide). Coaches and other support staff are responsible for providing an environment for athletes to achieve these goals. Support staff may include coaches, athletic therapists, dryland fitness trainers, nutrition consultants, or mental performance experts. These people are also responsible for appropriate measurement and reporting of athletes’ progress relative to athletes’ goals. This data should be recorded and maintain over the long term using, for example, each athlete’s Personal Sport Record which Ringette Alberta introduced in the 2019-20 season.
The yearly training plan, which all coaches in this environment should have in place for their teams, will be congruent with the overarching purpose of Excellence Ringette and support individual development goals. Ringette Alberta will put systems in place to support coaches in the development and delivery of quality yearly training plans.
Athletes in Excellence ringette should anticipate spending considerable time on the ice or in training. Younger athlete will still be provided time to remain a multi-sport athlete if they wish.
Are we are getting rid of AA?
When people ask this question, it is unclear if they are asking about AA the tier or what they perceive to be a unique (from non-AA) program. We are also not sure if they are concerned about losing what is perceived by many to be an exclusive group and that they want to retain this exclusivity or if they are concerned about what might happen if there were to be ineffective grouping of athletes.
So, here is what we are doing:
- We are ending the confusion between tier and program. We are clarifying the difference between the AA tier and the Pursuit of Excellence Program. From this point forward, AA (and A, B, C) are tiers only.
- We are ending the practice of arbitrary exclusion of people from a type of program.
- We will maintain appropriate grouping (tiers) of athletes for optimal training and meaningful competition.
Who "gets to play" Excellence?
What divisions is Excellence for?
A full time Pursuit of Excellence program will be available for qualifying athletes at U16 and up.
A part time Introduction to Excellence program will be available for qualifying athletes at U14.
While everyone is invited apply to the Pursuit of Excellence program, not every athlete will be accepted. Athletes must be at or above a defined threshold of readiness (standard) for the program.
For U16 and up, readiness will be assessed using the attributes in the Train to Train stage of the ringette Athlete Development Matrix as a guide.
For U14, a stage-appropriate assessment will be extrapolated from the U16 & up method.
The qualifying standards and enrollment process are currently being developed.
I am not interested in playing Excellence ringette; how will this impact me?
You will be able to choose the experience you want, and the coaches and associations are responsible for providing it.
You should see, particularly in Northern Alberta, an improvement in meaningful competition.
I am interested in Excellence ringette; how will it impact me if I choose that environment?
You will be in a program that expects every enrolled athlete to act with a pursuit of excellence mindset. You will be with a group of like-minded and similarly skilled individuals. You will still have teammates and the social connections that athletes value so highly.
You will be connected with coaches and sport science professionals. This is what we call an Integrated Support Team (IST). The IST will help your coaches design and implement (and adjust) an appropriate yearly training plan and keep you healthy throughout the season.
You may see more people at your off-ice activities beyond just your teammates, but all of the athletes will be members of your Pursuit of Excellence program. (i.e you might do large fitness training sessions or nutritional sessions to maximize resources.)
Transitions and Timeline
When will the Excellnce Ringette context be implemented?
Implementation will take place over the next three seasons as various elements of the program are phased in. Below are the highlights of the proposed timeline.
- Final season for U14AA at status quo
- U16 & U19 access status quo
- “AA” teams may be retreated to A based on performance
- Centre of Excellence Application
- Minimal POE program standards in effect
- YTP including monitoring training to competition ratio
- Standardized fitness assessments
- Athlete off season (summer 2021) plan
- 1st year U14s – Intro to Excellence
- 2nd Year U14s – remain full time
- U16 & U19 access is status quo
- Centres of Excellence begin preparations for 2022-23 operations
- POE program standards increase
- All U14s– Intro to Excellence
- U16 & U19 threshold criteria in effect
- Centres of Excellence Operations begin
- All POE program standards in effect
- Alberta specific: Only teams from a recognized Centre of Excellence eligible for the Canadian Ringette Championship
- Eligibility for WCRC to be determined (conversations with other western provinces)
Will Alberta be the only province doing this?
Some, like Alberta and BC, have already started the transition. Others are a little later in the planning process but have started. Some haven’t begun the conversation yet, but it is on their radar.
Eventually, only programs that meet the Pursuit of Excellence program standards set by Ringette Canada will have access to the Canadian Ringette Championship.
I’ve heard there will be standards which Pursuit of Excellence programs must meet. What are they?
Ringette Canada has established a working group to define these standards and is aiming to have this work complete by June 2020.
The provincial associations and Ringette Canada have already had initial discussions on proposed standards and there is general agreement on most. Ringette Canada’s work group will use these proposed standards as its starting point.
How will the standards be enforced?
Each athlete and parent must sign an agreement as a condition of enrollment in a Pursuit of Excellence program. Equally, the program operators will also formally commit to the athletes (and parents) to meet the standards.
Through these agreements, athletes (and parents as advocates) will be the primary watchdog.
Regardless, there will be periodic audits of each program and formal review. If a program operator is below or struggling to meet the standards, an improvement plan will be put in place.
How will the standards in place in Alberta compare to the rest of the country?
Ringette Canada will set the minimum standards for all Pursuit of Excellence Programs. Ringette Alberta may set additional standards.
Where these programs are located and how many there will be?
There will be two Ringette Centres of Excellence in the province. These are virtual centres operating in the Calgary region and Edmonton region which will support satellite programming in other areas of the province.
How will Ringette Alberta ensure a fair and transparent process for deciding who will run one of these programs?
Applicants will be provided the assessment criteria in advance and appropriate weighting of the various criteria will be established. This will all be put into a standard application.
Who, if anyone, is going to oversee the implementation of the program and follow the athletes’ progress?
Ringette Canada will set the standards. Only organizations that meet these standards will be eligible for the Canadian Ringette Championship. This alone should provide much of the oversight necessary for programs to comply.
About athlete tracking; Ringette Alberta has already introduced (2019-20 season) the concept of recording athlete data. One of the standards we’d like to see Ringette Canada adopt is that athlete data be kept over the entire time an athlete is enrolled in the pursuit of excellence program. We’d like to see this expand beyond basic fitness assessments.
How will teams be formed to be competitive at the provincial and national level?
Because Ringette Alberta does not control how teams are formed outside of our province, we can only advocate for an improved system on the national stage. For example, Ringette Alberta has already made the point to Ringette Canada that meaningful competition at the Canadian Ringette Championship has eroded in recent years due to an improper implementation of the opern format of CRC. We will continue to advocate for changes to rectify this.
Within Alberta, teams in Excellence and Classic will be tiered as usual with one significant difference.
Today, any association can declare one or more of its teams to be AA regardless of how those teams compare on the score board to other teams who also declare themselves AA.
Part of resolving this issue is separating program from tier. Teams can be within the Excellence Ringette program but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are equal (tier) to all other teams in the same program. Additionally, there may be teams in different programs (Classic vs. Excellence) that are equal to one another on the ice.
Today, a team that has declared itself AA is highly offended when it is suggested that, for improving meaningful competition, it play at the so called A level even though the scoreboard indicates that is the better fit. Conversely, when an extremely strong A team would be more suited to play against AA teams, it responds with ‘we don’t want to play AA’. The objections in these scenarios are mainly based on the confusion of tier and program.
So, working with our stakeholders we will build a basic guide for initial tiering of teams and, once play begins, make allowances in the team advance / retreat policy for teams to be retiered to create meaningful competition, regardless of what program those teams may be from.
Which teams will go to the Canadian Ringette Championship? Western Canadian Ringette Championship?
Understand that Ringette Alberta does not control either of these competitions. We must work within the eligibility policies these competitions have in place.
If nothing changes with the eligibility policy for these competitions, U16 and U19 teams from the Excellence Ringette program that are designated AA, will be eligible for the Canadian Ringette Championship. Teams from the Excellence Ringette program designated as A will be eligible for the Western Canadian Ringette Championship.
Why the change? If it ain't broke don't fix it.
Below are some key areas where the current ‘AA’ system is not serving our athletes well.
Daily Training Environment
In all divisions, the daily training environment and expectations vary depending on which club you play for and who is coaching the team. This is exacerbated by not having a clear understanding of the differences between a ‘program’ and a ‘level’.
The Daily Training environment may include team practices, dryland training, mental training sessions, warmups, and fitness expectations as they fit in to the team’s Yearly Training Plan. This environment should look different depending on the development stage of the athletes and the context they wish to play in. Defining expectations of a daily training environment provide-wide aligns with our strategic goal to define expectations for athletes and provide the resources for coaches to meet those expectations.
Standardizing the daily training environment has happened recently at the NRL. For the 2019-20 season, Ringette Canada had to take drastic steps to mandate that all National Ringette League teams were meeting minimum quality assurance standards. This in turn will elevate the expectations of this high-performance league. By outlining some minimum standards, Ringette Canada has allowed athletes across the country to expect a high-quality training environment no matter which team they wish to play for.
6 of 7 AA associations in Alberta do not feel any responsibility to contributing (by ensuring their athletes are learning what they should be) to national team success. If programs are not preparing athletes for these later stages, National team coaches have to run a remedial training program. Time spent trying to address gaps in athlete development robs time from what high-performance programs should be focusing on. Even worse, the opportunity to compete for a spot on these higher teams is not available for all Alberta athletes if associations do not see this as a responsibility. The opportunity to compete for a spot on a Canada Games team or a National Team should not depend on where you live and which association you played for.
A survey was sent out to U14, U16 and U19 A and AA coaches. Of the 6 respondents, 3 indicated they did not have a yearly training plan (YTP) for their team this season. (As of Nov 1)
For those who indicated they have a YTP, a cursory analysis shows only one reflects the standard established in the National Coaching Certification Program Competition Introduction course.
This indicates to us we need to be providing better resources and education to our coaches about the importance of a YTP. A yearly training plan helps coaches design a sport program that meets the training and competition needs of their athletes. They can develop a program structure based on opportunities for training and competition, establish indicators of athlete development, and develop practice plans that reflect seasonal training priorities. It’s meant to be a working document which a coach can adapt as needed. It lends credibility to the coaching staff and leadership abilities, as well as providing parents with insight into what their athletes should be learning.
Of 17 U16AA and U19 AA teams in Alberta, 0 have provided information or used Personal Sport Record (PSR). This tool was not made mandatory as it represented an extra (albeit extremely low) cost to athletes. Ringette Alberta worked to provide this resource to teams so athletes could begin to understand what is expected of them at their current stage of development and future stages in all areas of the game (technical, tactical, physical fitness, psychological)
Success at the Canadian Ringette Championships, for example, includes showing up for competition healthy, fit, and physically prepared for a week-long competition. Without measuring fitness, or knowing what level of fitness is required, how can a coach or athlete know what they need to work on? How can we know if our athletes are developing and improving if we don’t even have a starting point?
How much time will be participating in this program require?
Generally, an athlete should expect to spend about the same time as they do now. In some cases, athletes may end up spending less time due to a shift towards quality over quantity.
How much is this going to cost?
The Excellence Ringette program is being designed to cost no more than it costs today and, ideally, less per participant than the typical AA program does today. This will be accomplished in two ways:
- Fewer program operators serving more athletes within a region means spreading fixed costs over a broader base of athletes.
- Eliminating / reducing expenses that provide a questionable developmental benefit.
What is the plan to support the coaches?
Coaches (and parents) are obviously integral to athlete success so there will be a parallel parent and coach support system installed with the basics in place for 2020-21 and building from there.
First we determine stage-appropriate markers and expectations for athletes across all facets (defensive/offensive skills, goaltender skills, physical fitness, tactical knowledge, etc). The Athlete Development Matrix (ADM) will be used as a guide.
With awareness of what the High Performance programs need as a baseline, which includes Ringette Canada’s HP personnel defining the “winning style of play”, an annual and formal transfer of knowledge from Ringette Canada HP staff and others to the Pursuit of Excellence Programs across the country will take place. This is to set and re-affirm expectations, i.e., ‘hey coach, in your U16 program this year, you need to be doing this…’.
With expectations set, we can build stage-appropriate yearly training plans (YTP). The support for parents and coaches is then aligned with what they need in order to deliver the on and make adjustments to the YTP.
We will approach it systematically. We’ll look at the quadrants of the ADM to give ourselves structure and then, over time, build the support that coaches and parents need. This support can take on many forms, from face to face information sessions to webinars to video resources… As we progress, we create the curriculum and build and retain the library of resources.
Overall, we’d like to see a progressive and intentionally designed curriculum (for lack of a better word). Some in today’s AA programs say things like, ‘we already do fitness testing and we already get a talk from a mental performance coach or dietician so what will be different?‘ In some cases, there might not be a big difference. However, in this systemic approach, we will design these elements of the program so they are fairly consistent from program to program (location) are progressive as athletes move from stage to stage and are aligned with the objectives of the progrm. Coaches and parents can have peace of mind knowing they are on the right track in supporting their athletes.