Canadian Sport for Life and Long Term Athlete Development

Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L) is a movement to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Canada through improved athlete training and better integration between all stakeholders in the sport system, including sport organizations, education, recreation and health.

The Canadian Sport for Life philosophy is being embraced by the sport community as an important and effective way to address physical fitness and health for the Canadian population while improving the quality of sport throughout Canada.
Canadian Sport for Life is also a way to optimize talent identification and athlete preparation for competition at their highest level. CS4L impacts the entire sport continuum, from physical literacy to active for life to reach the podium. The approach includes all players and stakeholders in the sport world: participants, coaches, parents, schools, clubs and community recreation programs.

A key feature of CS4L is Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD), a developmental pathway whereby athletes follow optimal training, competition, and recovery regimens from childhood through all phases of adulthood.

Ten Key Factors
Long-Term Athlete Development is based on sport research, coaching best practices, and scientific principles. LTAD expresses these principles, research, and practices as 10 Key Factors essential to athlete development:

  • 10 year rule
  • FUNdamentals
  • Specialization
  • Developmental Age
  • Trainability
  • Physical, Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development
  • Periodization
  • Competition Planning
  • System Alignment and Integration
  • Continuous Improvement

Cross Country Canada (CCC) has developed a sport-specific Long Term Athlete Development model that is consistent with the generic Sport Canada version but customized to our sport and the structure of our sport system. The LTAD concept has become the touchstone against which the relevance and effectiveness of all operations, functions and supporting systems within CCC are measured. As such, CCC’s coach and athlete development programs are fully aligned with this new doctrine.

CS4L Resource paper

Cross-country skiing’s Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model consists of eight stages:

  1. Active Start (0-6 years old) – Develops fundamental movements and links them into play.
  2. FUNdamentals (6-8 girls, 6-9 boys) – Builds all fundamental movement skills, overall motor skills and all basic cross-country ski skills.
  3. Learn to Train (8-11 girls, 9-12 boys) – Refines basic cross-country ski skills and further develops fundamental movement and fundamental sport skills.
  4. Train to Train (11-15 girls, 12-16 boys) – Establishes an aerobic base and develops speed and strength.
  5. Learn to Compete (16-20+/- Males, 15-19+/- Females) – Develops aerobic capacity and power, sport-specific and individual-specific skills, and self-awareness and independence.
  6. Train to Compete (20-23+/- Males, 19-23+/- Females) – Optimizes fitness preparation and masters both individual and sport-specific skills
  7. Train to Win (23+/-) – Maximizes preparation for high performance results.
  8. Active for Life (Everyone) – Transitions high performance athletes into a participatory role and encourages everyone – whether competitive or recreational athletes – to remain active for life.

More resources:

Download Cross Country Canada’s LTAD brochure (1 MB)
Download cross country skiing’s LTAD Guidebook (3.7 MB)
Visit Cross Country Canada’s Athlete Development web pages for a wealth of information.
Learn about Canadian Sport for Life
Learn about Fundamental Movement Skills
Download Developing Physical Literacy – A Guide for Parents of Children Ages 0 – 12)
Read The Role of Monitoring Growth in LTAD
*New* CS4L Blog

Skill Development Programs for Children

The Skill Development Program (SDP) is comprised of three levels or stages, Bunnyrabbit, Jackrabbit and Track Attack. The overall objective of the program is to assist children in the development of a love of the outdoors, a healthy lifestyle, excellent technical skills and a good level of physical fitness within a sport environment.

The Bunnyrabbit Program (five and under) is directed at children in the ‘Active Start’ stage of development. This is the first level of the program. The objective is to introduce cross-country skiing and a healthy lifestyle associated with organized activity and active play. The program is designed to develop fundamental movement skills (with a focus on balance and agility),  coordination, self confidence, imagination and social skills. It encourages children to be active and helps them develop an awareness and appreciation of our natural environment. Coaches are trained to meet the needs of children at this stage of development by taking the Intro to Community Coaching NCCP workshop.

The Jackrabbit Program (six-nine years) is directed at children in the ‘FUNdamentals’ stage of development. This is the second level of the program. The objective is for children to learn basic cross-country ski skills (both classic and skating) and to instill a lifelong interest in the sport, thereby enhancing their quality of life and health. The program is designed to develop fundamental movement skills, build overall motor skills, confidence and social skills, and encourage fun and participation.  Low-key competitions are introduced, as are inter-club social, skill and fitness oriented ski activities (e.g. on-snow ski camps). Coaches are trained to meet the needs of athletes at this stage of development by taking the Community Coaching NCCP workshop.

The Track Attack Program (ten -12 years) is directed at children in the ‘Learning to Train’ stage of development. This is the third level of the program. The objective is for the participants to become technically competent cross-country skiers and to utilize those skills to explore a wide range of cross-country ski activities, from back country excursions to Ski Tournaments. The program is designed to further develop and refine all the cross-country ski skills. Develop skills, speed, power and aerobic fitness, develop strength and flexibility as well as good ski habits, building adventure based activities into the seasonal plan e.g camps on and off snow. Coaches are trained to meet the needs of athletes at this stage of development by taking the Competition Introduction NCCP Workshop.

Skill Development Camps
A Skill Development Camp is an integral part of a progressive club athlete development system. Camps can help children learn ski related technical skills, teamwork, self reliance and good eating habits. They can facilitate the recruitment of new participants, motivate, promote friendships, influence lifestyle choices and provide a positive introduction to activities that encourage physical fitness.

Racing Rocks!
Racing Rocks! is a Skill Development program dedicated to introducing children to the fun aspects of competition. A Ski Tournament, Team Sprint or Double Cross is a one-day extravaganza of special activities. The objective of the event is to encourage participation, teamwork and technique. 

Midget Championships
The objective of  the Midget Championships is to bring young skiers together for a weekend of cross-country ski competition, fun, encourage achievement through team effort and good ski technique. This is a special competitive activity for skiers in the 'Learning to Train' stage of development.

Ski S'Kool Programs
There are a number of ways in which children can be introduced to cross-country skiing through their school. 
Getting started
Do you want to get involved with organizing a Skill Development Program (SDP) for your club? The Skill Development Programmers guidebook has all the information that you need to develop a program for your club. Get involved TODAY!

SDP Programmers Guide Book: Click Here

More Resource on Ski Playgrounds: Click Here

Ski Fit North / Ski Fit South

The Ski Fit North Program was first developed in 1989 as a means to promote and develop the health, lifestyle, sport and culture of Cross Country Skiing in northern Saskatchewan communities through school and community-based ski clubs. Now past its 15th season, the program continues to work in partnership with Cross Country Saskatchewan and other sponsors to achieve this goal. The Ski Fit North Program directs its energies towards youth, where cross country skiing is part of the school curriculum in northern Saskatchewan. The Ski Fit North program is actively supported by teachers in northern communities and ignited by the ever-enthusiastic field workers. It is a program of the Northern Recreation Coordinating Committee. Each year, an average of 2500 students participated in Ski Fit North activities. 

A staple on the Ski Fit North Calendar is the Great Northern Ski Quest Loppet Series. These loppets are enthusiastically supported by northern communities, and are a focal point of the season for young skiers, with schools making pilgrimages to ski on trails outside their communities, meet new friends and renew old friendships along the way.

The School Championships, which introduced more of a competitive component to the program, is held annually in La Ronge. An event that attracts more than 250 youth skiers and teachers every year, the School Championships grow every season attracting groups from northern communities. Mark your calendar for your school or Jackrabbit Club to come have some fun at this year's event!

 Keep having fun, and the kids will Keep On Skiing!

 Program Goals

  1. To promote healthy lifestyles for northern residents of Saskatchewan through the life-long activity/sport of cross-county skiing.
  2. To motivate students to stay in school by enhancing the school program through the delivery of ski events and programs in northern school and communities.
  3. To promote the development and benefits of community clubs through CCS. 
  4. To work with CCS and local clubs to host a ICC/NCCP coaching session in the North. 
  5. To continue building high performance development, working in conjunction with CCS and Northern clubs. 
  6. To be a knowledge source and support community ski club development. 

Long Term Goals (5 years +)

  1. To maintain consistent fieldworkers
  2. To have the fieldworkers trained as learning facilitator for the NCCP/CCS program helping sustain coaches in the North and conduct clinics as necessary.
  3. To expand the development of sustainable Northern clubs. These clubs will guide further development in skiing beyond the school and fully engaging community so they can function independently and secure needed resources.

For more information contact the Northern Sport, Culture and Recreation District (NSCRD) at