The Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) may not be a household name yet, but the by-product of the recent World Cups held in Canmore, Alberta, has made moves in that direction. This past winter the program sent two athletes (Gord Jewett and Madeleine Williams) to the Winter Olympic Games, as well as several to Under 23 World Championships and World Junior Championships.
Now, as a result of Cross Country Canada (CCC) revising the development system in Canada, the AWCA has been made an official National Development Centre. It is now included in the Canadian high performance system, and is the same as the other training centers in Callaghan Valley, Quebec, and Thunder Bay. In a recent interview with Gord Jewett, retired Olympian and now a member of the AWCA steering committee, described CCC as “quite keen” to include the AWCA in the high performance system.
“Ever since the Academy started we recognized that at some point if we’re part of the high performance development system with Cross Country Canada we will be in a better position to fund, support, and in the end, develop athletes,” Jewett said. “It was something that has been evolving over the last 12 months and really it was something both CCC and the Academy recognized was a step in the right direction, it was just a matter of figuring out the details of how it would work.”
The two details which Jewett highlighted were the financial aspects and team selections.
On the financial side, the AWCA has three primary funding sources. Athlete fees make up close to half the budget, while the Alberta World Cup Society, and now CCC funding fill out the remainder.
The athlete scholarship structure has changed slightly this year. The AWCA offers three tiers of funding this season, which range from a tier one scholarship in which the athlete pays $8,000 annually, to the tier three $12,500 annual fee. The rest of the roughly $24,000 cost of the program is subsidized by the Academy’s other financial partners. The size of scholarship varies depending on the criteria the athletes meet, such as a certain level on the Canadian Points List (CPL), or placing in the Top 3 or 5 at Canadian National Championships.
Previously the Academy had four tiers of athlete fees, the lowest being roughly $22,000, or the full cost of the program without any subsidy. “We were able to eliminate tier four funding, which was basically unsubsidized athletes, which means we can deliver better programming to the athletes, and the athletes don’t have to pay as much to be a part of the program” said Jewett.
On team selections, Jewett said “That [team selection] was one of our big concerns going into this” said Jewett “we were a little concerned that we would lose control in the selection process.” To some degree, they have lost control, as the training center selections in Canada are all done by CCC High Performance Committee but, “at the end of the day we probably had a very similar team to what we would have had if we chose it ourselves,” said Jewett.
For Jewett and the AWCA, maintaining what they call “responsible athlete development” was crucial. “If an athlete comes into our program, commits to our program, improves in our program, then they stay in our program,” said Jewett. The AWCA has managed to secure that freedom, and feel that they can continue to “produce better athletes, and treat athletes as people as well.”
The team remains based in Canmore, and has expanded the coaching staff to three, hiring former Canadian Olympian and now coach Chris Jefferies. Furthermore, the affiliation with the CCC program has resulted in some expanded opportunities this winter, as AWCA members will have the option to be included in more Canadian National Ski team trips.
While the partnership is just a few months old, Jewett is enthusiastic about the results. “Overall, it hasn’t been a huge impact…but it’s been positive” he said.