It may be 19 months away, but the work for the 2011 Jeux du Canada Winter Games starts now.
Judo Saskatchewan is holding a training camp for 22 of their best athletes eligible for the Games at the Koseikan Club in Moose Jaw. The intensive three day camp features athletes between the ages of 14 and 17 who will be eligible for the Games in Halifax. It follows a week long camp for all of Judo Sask's elite athletes.
"We're continuing work we did at our other camps," said Ewan Beaton, the high performance coach for Judo Saskatchewan. "We're laying a foundation for the beginning of the year, which is right around the corner. We're letting them know what to expect as a potential Canada Games athlete."
Team Sask can take as many as seven boys and seven girls to the Games, but Beaton doesn't expect to have a full team for Halifax in February of 2011.
"Saskatchewan doesn't have a huge depth of athletes," said Beaton. "When we look at it, we're probably not going to send all 14 athletes. In some of the heavier divisions we don't have a female who fits the mold. For the Games we're probably looking at a team of 11 or 12."
The goal now is to make sure that those 12 athletes are all ready as possible to put their best foot forward. They're putting in a lot of hard work to make sure they have the best possible season a year before the Games.
"Last year was a learning year because I was new to the province," said Beaton. "And this year is a foundation year . . . by next year at this time we need these athletes to be 20 per cent or 30 per cent better than they are now. We need the work to be done now.
"Trying to play catch up doesn't really work. It's like cramming for an exam - you know you're not really prepared."
While the Games are a nice target, Beaton quickly adds that the development doesn't stop at the Games and he wants to see the athletes continue to develop after the Games as they continue their careers.
"Canada Games is just one event," said Beaton. "We want these kids to continue beyond that and past that and past that. Canada Games is a great stepping stone as part of their career, but it's not the end of their career."
The camp will focus on skill development for the age group, but considering they're still very much in pre-season mode, there will also be a lot of fitness training as well.
"We will be focusing on skill development, but we're also definitely putting an emphasis on conditioning and making sure their base in terms of conditioning is at a good level, so during the year they can avoid injury," said Beaton.
Moose Jaw's Haley Walz, Rebecca Hanson and Brock Pearson are all taking part. Walz and Hanson both attended the juvenile and cadet nationals earlier this year.
"(Walz and Hanson) both went to nationals last year and both are developing athletes and both have their own strengths," said Beaton. "We looked at both girls a year ago and there's no comparison in how much they've improved. Part of that is the provincial program, but it's also the work here and the coaching at the judo club that they get on a daily basis."
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald August 29, 2009