Thorold Elite back on track
With Niagara designated a red zone under the provincial COVID-19 protocols, the Thorold Elite Track Club is excited about being back on track.
Indoor training resumed this week and the club is hoping to be able to host its indoor competitions that were cancelled earlier this winter.
The club does all of its jumps training at Bullet Proof Sports Park in Welland and its throws, sprint and hurdles at Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada, the former Merritton High. Before the pandemic hit, Thorold Elite athletes traveled several times a week to Guelph and to York University in Toronto to train on an indoor track or to use high jump mats or long jump pits through the winter.
“The chance to train on a real track was worth the 90 minute drive each way,” Thorold coach Steve Fife said. “It was always important for us to have a dedicated space and place for our athletes to train indoor where it is warm and safe. They aren’t competing outdoors in sub-zero temperatures so training in these conditions is a chance for injury that we don’t want to take.”
The switch to Niagara facilities was prompted by COVID restrictions that made all of the facilities the club previously used for indoor training unavailable.
“This dilemma prompted coaches to go back to the drawing board and to re-envision what their indoor season would look like by transforming local facilities into spaces for track and field.”
It has turned into a win-win situation for the club.
“We have instead brought track to us in Niagara by tapping into some facilities that we wouldn’t otherwise have used,” he said.
The club now has: indoor circles for discus and shot put and an indoor runway for javelin; a space for jumps, including its own high jump mats; and, lanes for sprints and hurdles so the kids can train in their spikes.
“Everything is done right here in the region which makes for less time spent in the car and more time actually training,” Fife said.
Prior to the Dec. 26 provincial lockdown, Thorold Elite had about six weeks of uninterrupted indoor training, offering practices seven days a week split between locations in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Welland. The club offers about 25 practice sessions throughout the week to accommodate nearly 50 active athletes who range in age from age 7 to 21 and includes numerous provincial and national medalists and record holders.
“Most clubs in the province and in the country you kind of have two or three practice times throughout the week for all members and you’re looking at maybe four to six hours,” Fife said. “We offer almost 40 hours of programming in a week so it’s very much a giant jigsaw puzzle putting it all together and making it work for all of the events but it allows for a lot more flexibility and individualization when it comes to training.”
The club’s high-school aged athletes train about five times a week doing conditioning, weight training and event specific practices. Included in their weeks are rest days and an active recovery days at home.
The lockdown was difficult for the club.
“We went to great lengths to provide a great indoor season for our athletes and everything has been locked down in facilities that have been closed for two months,” Fife said. “In the last two weeks, we have seen other regions of the province get back to indoor training and we have been stuck in quarantine overtime so that made it even tougher on our athletes because they’ve seen other competitors already get back into regular practices.
“It’s certainly a disadvantage that we will have to try to make up for.”
During this most recent lockdown, the club’s distance athletes continued to train outside. Coaches met with small groups in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Welland to keep athletes closer to home and minimize travel within the region. All the club’s sprinters, jumpers, throwers and hurdlers followed quarantine training programs that include strength and conditioning, core, and event-specific components done at home.
Thorold Elite has also partnered with Iron Performance Centre in St. Catharines for high performance and specialized weight training twice a week and Crossfit905 in Niagara Falls for strength training for the club’s younger athletes.
“The No. 1 thing that an athlete can do in the winter is just get stronger and more powerful by putting in time in the gym or weight room and our athletes have an amazing opportunity to do that in a small group setting with certified strength and conditioning coaches,” Fife said.
The club’s indoor program is costly and COVID has amplified that financial burden.
“Each practice requires renting facilities and restrictions limiting the number of participants allowed at one time have increased the amount of practice time needed,” Fife said.
Red restrictions currently limit indoor groups to 10 participants but the club feels the vast array of opportunities provided will always outweigh the costs.
“We’ve always said that opportunity comes first. It hasn’t been easy but we are making it happen and continuing to overcome.”
A full club schedule is available at www.thoroldelitetc.ca/indoor.