Athlete Enhancement Program expanding to service more athletes in Southwestern Alberta

By Aaron Mahoney (@Mahones93 on Twitter)
August 15, 2018 - 1:41pm

LETHBRIDGE - The Alberta Sport Development Centre Southwest is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year with a renewed commitment to developing local athletes through the Athlete Enhancement Program.

AEP was originally launched in 2008 with a focus on sports sciences and high-performance training to individual athletes between the ages of 12 and 18 at no cost to the athlete.

ASDC will be launching a revamped AEP in October with an expanded program for teams, coaches and rural athletes.

Joshua Hoetmer, the Centre Coordinator, says the new structure of the program will provide more athletes in Lethbridge and rural areas, teams, and coaches with the opportunity to take part in AEP.

"Going into the 10th year of the program, we felt that there would be a need to access more athletes. We felt that it was time for a refreshing of the program, and in working with the University of Lethbridge we were able to access more training times here which also allowed the opportunity for more athletes to take part," Hoetmer said, adding he believes it's a combination of good timing, the evolution of their centre and the strengthening of their relationship with the university as well as the support from Alberta Sport Connection that allowed this growth.

There are now six AEP programs in total:

AEP Base - which provides foundation strength and conditioning support and introduces athletes to sport science support in psychology, nutrition, injury prevention and more. Athletes train twice a week for 10-weeks and the cost of training starts at $175.

AEP Selects - continues with advanced physical development and sport science support from the Base program. Athletes are required to submit an application and meet requirements to be eligible for this free program.

AEP Plus - is geared for individuals who are interested in training over the summer months. Athletes continue to work on their strength and conditioning program completed in the Base and Selects programs.

AEP Rural - provides strength and conditioning support to athletes unable to travel to Lethbridge. This program will utilize Volt Athletics to create a customized strength and conditioning program monitored by UofL HP coaches.

AEP Team - provides support to organizations, schools or groups up to 25 wanting to improve performance and enjoyment of sport through strength and conditioning and sport science sessions such as sport psychology, nutrition and injury prevention.

AEP Coach - is a unique way for coaches to gain knowledge, skills, and connections to help develop and enhance athletes through networking events. The program includes four breakfast and four Winning Edge seminars between Oct. 2018 and April 2019. The cost is $150 for the year.

"I think it's huge [to have programs like this available to young athletes]. Traditionally athletes, 10-15 years ago, would have to drive to Calgary to get services of this calibre. They would have to be travelling all over Alberta, travelling to various centres to get this kind of training experience. To stay home, or even if you're a rural athlete, to just drive one hour is a huge advantage and it keeps the athlete close to home. It allows the athlete to prepare for those bigger game events like the Alberta Games or the Canada Games without having to go very far," Hoetmer stated.

Team Lead at the High-Performance Centre, Heidi Shaw, says they have a multitude of different athletes that come through the facility.

"Our main focus is to just develop all aspects of athleticism, so obviously speed power, endurance and conditioning. We approach every athlete differently depending on the needs of their sport which is kind of what we do best here, so we can have all different kinds of athletes come through here."

Trainers conduct intake testing when the athletes first come into the program to see how the program changes them over time.

"We always see positive growth with most of our athletes that come through the door in Year 1, hopefully, we get to keep them for more than one year, and we definitely see that huge growth in Year 2," Shaw added.

With all of the new programs being offered this fall, Shaw says it doesn't really change the job, it just makes it more exciting for the athletes to have the potential come and train with them.

"In the past, they've had to apply, and some don't make it, whereas this year we're going to allow all athletes to come to us and get the experience," Shaw continued. "It also allows us to expand into the rural area which is the most exciting part about the changes here because now we can reach athletes that aren't in the city, and then we can satellite coach them through the Volt Program that we have."

Another benefit is with ASDC being a non-profit organization, they're very affordable for training and they try to make AEP as accessible as possible for athletes to receive services that kids in Calgary and Edmonton get at a reduced cost.

Hoetmer says the Team, Coach, and Rural programs are things that have been needed locally.

"Traditionally the coaching support is through the NCCP program which is recognized worldwide, but we felt there was a need to make it a bit more informal and maybe a bit more accessible for the coaches," Hoetmer continued. "They can still get the information and the development that they need, but through one another building relationships in the community and the region.

It's a different approach, but it's one that Hoetmer and others are excited about, and one that they've been getting a lot of excited feedback about from the community.

Trying to be creative in how they can access rural athletes has also been challenging in the past according to Hoetmer.

"Now with technology and software and being able to utilize programs that are available like the Volt Program will help us access those athletes in those communities that are farther than 30 minutes to an hour away from town. A lot of new things happening, but we really feel it's going to help support the region and those athletes striving towards their athletic hopes and dreams," Hoetmer added.

Over 400 athletes between the ages of 12 and 18 have taken part in the program since 2008, with notable alumni including Olympic swimmer Rachel Nicol, speed skater Kaleb Muller, Pronghorns basketball player Kacie Bosch, wrestler Joel Demaere and Pronghorns rugby player Keegan Brantner.

More information on AEP and other programs offered by ASDC can be found here.

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