Canada Artistic Swimming (CAS) offered a virtual Technical and Leadership Conference on September 17-19, in conjunction with its 2021 Annual Meeting.  More than 70 technical leaders, both coaches and officials, took part in the online sessions, which covered a variety of topics related to the Rise Up! culture project.

One of the highlights was a panel discussion around Intersection of Safe Sport and Diversity and Inclusion. Three panelists shared their life experiences facing discrimination, racism, ableism, and exclusion while participating in high performance sport.  The panel members were Stephanie Dixon (nineteen-time Paralympic medalist and recently Chef de Mission for Team Canada’s at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games), Katie Miyazaki (former head of the Saskatchewan wheelchair basketball program and coaching staff member of the Canadian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team at the 2016 Rio Paralympics), and CAS staff member Ryan Gushulak, Safe Sport Manager.

The very real-life examples provided by the panel to illustrate the type of issues athletes and others often face in sport today were greatly appreciated by everyone participating.  The panel was moderated by Andrea Carey, Chief Inclusion Officer with INclusion INcorporated, the education and training partner of CAS.  Andrea also led the conference participants through an extensive two-part session on Inclusive Leadership – helping technical leaders to better understand their own strengths and gaps in leading athletes and others during this important period of social growth.

Another popular session was an introduction to the new judging/scoring system that is currently being developed by FINA. Canada is fortunate to have delegates at the committee table where this innovative new system is being constructed.  It was presented by FINA Technical Committee Chair Lisa Schott, FINA Coaches Committee member Sheilagh Croxon, and Innovation Committee member Kara Heald. They were joined by Maria-José Bilbao from Spain, Chair of the Innovation Committee. These leaders outlined the principles and objectives of the new system and the committee’s progress-to-date on the cataloguing of difficulty which will be critical to the design of how athletes and routines are scored in the near future.

Participants were treated to an overview of the complexities of performance analysis – the measurement of key performance metrics that is allowing Canada to strategically target gains on its nearest competitors.  Kara Heald, CAS Artistic Swimming Programs Manager and lead analyst, along with National Team Head Coach Gábor Szauder, shared how this work is helping Canada move forward in its goal to reach the Olympic podium by 2024.  A successful step forward was taken this season with the movement up in the world ranking by Team Canada in both Duet and Team competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

One of the final sessions featured Joelle Carpentier and Jean-Paul Richard, from Quebec-based innovator reROOT Collective. This was the first in a series of educational sessions to give insight into athlete autonomy and the role of coaches in providing an environment that uses self-determination theory. By applying this directly to the elite athlete context, it will stimulate athletes to achieve their best, while emphasizing human growth and the pursuit of excellence.

The conference was a continuation of the CAS’ commitment to leadership in demonstrating that sport is critical to the well-being of Canadians at all ages and with greater attention to emerging work in key areas can be delivered in a way that fosters individual safety, development and excellence.