Thorold Elite growing in jumps and sprints
The roots of the Thorold Elite Track Club can be traced back to 2011 when a then-Grade 10 student at Thorold Secondary School, Amy Browett, went around the school asking teachers if they were interested in restarting the school’s track and field team.
“At that time, I didn’t really have any interest or knowledge other than what I had done myself in elementary school,” Thorold Elite head coach Steve Fife said. “I wanted to help out with a team and since I was the only person who said so, I ended up being the one that was in charge of it.”
Fife, an occasional teacher in the District School Board of Niagara who teaches across the board, ended up serving as the head coach at Thorold for five years.
By the end of his five-year reign, the Thorold program was strong in both numbers and results and there were a number of Thorold kids who expressed an interest in training in track and field year-round instead of just the high school season from March until May.
“A group of students and myself we created a club so they could train throughout the year and not just in the school-defined season,” Fife said.
At the beginning the club was made up of DeAndre Fournier, Colton Spencer, Tyler Broderick and Tristan Christie. All four remain active with the club as volunteers and assistant coaches. At the peak of its short history, the club reached a peak of 70 athletes and right now, because of the COVID lockdown and the onset of winter, the club has about 40 members. The members range in age from seven to university-level athletes.
“Once it warms up and we get back outside, it should get back to 60 or 70,” Fife said.
Most of the club’s activities centre around Oakes Park in Niagara Falls, but the club does book some of the high school tracks on occasion. In pre-pandemic times, Fife and his athletes traveled three to five times a week to train at indoor tracks at the University of Guelph or York University.
“This year, one of the silver linings to COVID has been we’ve created our own places around Niagara to be able to do things which we otherwise never would have done.”
The club now 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.
Fife’s overall philosophy is that Thorold Elite is part of something bigger and that training is done with a purpose and as part of a bigger picture.
“It’s about making sure that each athlete feels valued and supported and that they matter and that’s why we do so much training on an individual or very small group basis,” he said. “We are developing not just athletes but leaders and doers, and beyond track, whether they continue with it beyond high school or not, they are learning skills for life through our sport.”
The club has plenty of success at the national and provincial level has come through identifying athletes with potential and then providing the comprehensive training to help the athletes achieve that potential.
“Because we offer such a significant training opportunity, it pays off really well,” Fife said.”My goal as head coach is to ensure that everyone gets to the destination that they want to in the best and safest path possible.”
A number of Thorold’s athletes are multi-sport athletes.
“When they become a better runner and get faster and stronger, they are not only better on the soccer field or basketball court but they jump higher in volleyball, react faster in football, and skate more powerfully in hockey, and we see a lot of transferability to what we do in track,” Fife said. “It is the foundation of all other athletics.”
The coach staff includes: sprinting coach Christie; distance/cross country coach Cheryl Rosts, Tammy Gaspich and Kelly Uskin; jumps coaches Jason Pilkington, Fournier, Kelly Saldutto, Mark Goveia and Broderick; throws coaches Amanda Evans, Saldutto, Spencer, Nathan D’Costa and Matt Collevecchio; hurdles coaches Dave Lavictoire, Spencer and Trinity Lougheed; and, athletic trainer Hannah Lyons.
“Our primary goal has always been to grow the sport of track and field and to make it something that everyone can participate in,” Fife said. “We want to keep growing that way and, as far as long-term goals, there’s really not too much that we haven’t accomplished other than maybe producing an Olympian.”
The club is currently still accepting new members and will resume in-person training as soon as restrictions allow. You can register online at www.trackiereg.com/thoroldelitetc2021 or visit the club’s website www.thoroldelitetc.ca for more information.