Rowing Canada Aviron – 2016 High Performance Review

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In the fall of 2015, Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) initiated a review of its High Performance Program following the 2015 World Rowing Championships. This review had the full support of the RCA Board of Directors, leadership team and Own The Podium (OTP). The mandate of the review was to evaluate the planning and execution of performance strategies during the quadrennial leading up to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the intent of establishing a plan for success at the 2020 and 2024 Summer Games. The report was to help to determine and identify potential program shifts required for implementation during the 2016 – 2017 competitive year. The specific objective of the review was:

To conduct a thorough review of Rowing Canada Aviron’s (RCA) High Performance Program with the intention of identifying areas of best practice as well as those in need of improvement.

The review surfaced 13 specific key findings, that were grouped into three categories titled; Athletes, Structure and System, and Culture. The report then went on make 28 recommendations grouped into six categories titled; Strategy, Leadership, Athletes, Coaching, Daily Training Environment, and Performance Management.

There is a summary of the report available for review that can be accessed by following this link.

RCA has taken the findings of the review very seriously and the recommendations have formed the basis of a template by which we are remodelling our High Performance Program. A number of steps have been taken to ensure that recommendations are followed and areas where there are opportunities for improvement are being addressed, specifically in the areas of:


A six-year rolling quadrennial plan is under development, led by RCA’s newly appointed High Performance Director (HPD). This plan will ensure all key result areas and indicators are closely monitored and effectively tracked to ensure consistent progress with an uncompromising approach to performance. This rolling plan will ensure continuity is maintained in the lead up to, during and most importantly following the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As part of this plan, both short and long term goals will be established and continually evaluated against clear performance standards. Leading into the 2017 season athletes, coaches and high performance (HP) support staff were consulted in the development of RCA’s high performance strategic objectives resulting in the creation of the HP Program’s Core Covenants that underpin the delivery and interactions within RCA’s performance environments.


In March 2017, RCA appointed a new HPD to oversee its High Performance Program and to reaffirm the program’s organizational structure, inclusive of the realignment of all roles and responsibilities. Within the coaching team the Performance Director roles established within each National Training Centre (NTC) have been removed and initially replaced with a collaborative coach leadership structure. This approach has evolved to the creation of an overarching Year Training Plan, supported with Head Coach roles for both the Men’s and Women’s National Team Programs, ensuring specific program direction and accountability.

In the fall of 2017, RCA also appointed a Director of Sport Science/Medicine as well as a Director of High Performance Athlete and Coach Pathways. Throughout the planning and redevelopment of RCA’s HP Program staff, an accountability framework has been implemented and utilized to monitor improvements. This framework is informing and supporting regular monitoring within the daily training environment as well as the overarching 2017 program debrief and evaluation process.  


RCA has committed to providing all carded athletes with NK Speed Coaches and heart rate monitors to assist in their on-water assessment of speed and training zones as well as working to affirm other physical, technical, tactical, mental/lifestyle markers. The HP Program is working closely with the expertise of a data analysist from Canadian Sport Institute Pacific to ensure Canadian rowers are compared against the latest trends measured within World Rowing events. These analytics are supported with data collected by Canadian Tire’s Sport Analytics Team as well as race data provided directly to RCA from FISA. This information is utilized regularly within daily training as well as informing the selection of the highest performing athletesand crews to the 2017 National Team Programs (Under-19, Under-23 and Senior).

In 2017 RCA brought back its traditional Speed Order Trials, to assess individual athlete speed within small boats (1x and 2-) in order to achieve an invitation into the 2017 National Team Selection Camp where athletes were tested in various crew combinations. The crews generated from these selections were those that represented Canada at the Lucerne World Cup and/or the World Rowing Championships. Additional trials will take place in August, to affirm crew selections for the 2017 Senior World Championships


Collaboration is evident within the interaction of all Senior National Team Coaches at/between the respective NTCs. Weekly Senior Coaches meetings have underpinned this collaboration ensuring these coaches are aware of the overarching HP program’s expectations, planning and processes.

Under the leadership of the Men’s and Women’s Program Head Coaches, seasonal coaches have been hired to support 2017 crews following RCA’s request for expressions of interest. In August 2017, under the direction of the HPD and Head Coaches RCA will commence a recruitment process to confirm additional full time positions within the National Team’s HP coaching structure. We have set up a Performance Coaching Mentorship Program for the development of a targeted group seen as the next generation of coaching talent.

Daily Training Environment

The NTCs have re-engaged in an open-door process to on-water sessions, providing these training opportunities to all-comers to ensure the competitive environment is maximized. RCA’s Sport Science Sport Medecine support staff were fully embedded within the development of the HP Program’s Yearly Training Plan (YTP) and the implementation of this plan and their services at the boathouse and dryland facilities.

All carded athletes are responsible for their online daily health/physical monitoring and the downloading of the NK units following each practice session. The HPD, HP Athlete Pathway Lead and SSSM Manager are within the daily training environments on a regular basis to ensure firsthand support and direct interaction with athletes and coaches. 

Performance Management

RCA’s HP Program is fully committed to undertaking a formal annual debrief and evaluation process across all key performance areas (Leadership, Athlete Pool, Daily Training Environment, SSSM, Camps and Competitions). In August 2017, the SSSM structure will undergo a full needs analysis to ensure the most effective structure and processes are in place.

At the conclusion of the 2017 Senior World Championships, the HP Program will undertake a coaching review to ensure the required technical expertise is present within the coaching structure and any identified gaps are resolved through the proposed August to October recruitment phase. 

RCA has set up a High Performance Panel for the purpose of providing oversight of follow through and implementation of the recommendations of the review. The terms of reference is available for review.

While it is clear that some of the deficiencies surfaced by the review have been more straightforward to address, others are more complex in nature and will take longer to find the right solutions. It should also be noted that it will take time for the changes to impact the results of the programs.

We are confident that we have significant talent within and close to our current programs. Even as we continue to develop and enhance the people, the systems and the processes, we are seeing success on the water. The recent performances of the senior team at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne and the Under-23 team at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Plovdiv provide evidence of what our athletes and coaches are capable of.

We have a lot to do and much to learn. The attitude within the programs and among the coaching team as that we need to work hard to stay on a positive trajectory of learning and developing. We know that the better we get at improving our performances on a daily basis the more competitive we will be for Tokyo and beyond.