I’m Chris MacPherson, Head Coach at Sackawa Canoe Club. If you haven’t already heard, early specialization in sport leads to greater risk of long-term sport related injury and early mental burnout but multi sport training leads to happier, healthier athletes with greater critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In canoe/kayak, we get this concept, and due to the nature of our sport and living in Canada, it is virtually impossible to specialize early. Our “specialized training” – if you can call it that – is limited to 7 months of the year, leaving about half the year to develop multi sport strength and conditioning.

Sackawa’s specialized training in canoe/kayak actually comprises of canoe, kayak, polo, running, yoga, calisthenics, and swimming; so even in the 7 months of specialized training, we are still very much multi sport. Throughout the rest of the year, we incorporate specific strength training, spin, cross fit, skating, as well as ski and snow board trips. Training in a specified canoe or kayak takes up less than half our total training time! While early specialization is a bad thing, almost ironically, youth sport is critical to development of self-esteem, regular exercise, leadership skills, teamwork, stronger relationships, better communication, respect, and time management.

Year-round training at Sackawa Canoe Club will set your young athlete off in the direction of life long multi sport in a socially healthy environment. As one of Canada’s leading Olympic sports, sprint canoe/kayak is heavily funded and there are plenty of scholarships and funding for training as athletes reach the elite level. Reaching the elite level in our sport comes with years of training but is very achievable, as we, in HRM, are one of the largest paddling communities in the world.

At Sackawa Canoe Club, we believe in athlete directed progress. Not all athletes develop on the same trajectory. The early years are focused on showing up, having fun with friends and challenging physical limits on a daily basis. When an athlete is ready to go to the elite level, we adapt their training and still stress the importance of community and enjoying the training process.

How much does it cost?

Simply, Year-Round training is $1705 or 11 payments of $155 includes a Sackville Sports Stadium membership and is inclusive of all summer membership dues and fees.

There are Seasonal programs, as well. Full time per season is $250 for each season (Fall/Winter/Spring) but summer registration dues and fees apply, and there is no Stadium membership included.

There is a Pick Three seasonal option. $125 for each season but again, no Stadium membership included and all summer dues and fees still apply.

What is the commitment / schedule?

In the fall and spring the club is open Monday-Thursday at 4pm. On water practice starts at 4:30 and continues until 6pm. From 4:00-4:30, there is a warm-up run. Although the warm-up run is part of the training program, it is ok to use that as an extended window to make the paddling practice. The athletes are welcome to join in at 4:30.

Friday at 4:30pm is soccer, usually at Cavalier Drive School. Club is open at 4:00pm

Saturday morning is from 10:00am until noon and often involves a large volume paddle. It is important that everyone be on time for this practice.

Early morning practice is often only for older athletes and is 2-5 times per week, depending on targeted volume. Our philosophy is that proper sleep (10 hours) is far more beneficial than early morning practice. As time goes on, athletes learn time management to make the morning practices work with their schedule and realize its added benefit.

My expected commitment is that the athletes show up ready to work with their appropriate equipment. A time commitment is not necessary in the early years but we expect that athletes will follow the schedule they commit to. If an athlete is missing practice for other commitments or sports, we encourage multi sport versatility, but practices should not be seen as “show up when I feel like it.” If we are doing our job right, the athletes will want to be there anyway.

What is appropriate training load?
  • U12 – FUNdamentals and Foundation, 3-6 sessions per week. Focus on technical and learning proper training practices. Heavy emphasis on social aspects of the sport.
  • U14 – Training to Train, 4-8 sessions per week. Focus on intermediate paddling skill and conditioning. Emphasis on coach/athlete feed back.
  • U18 – Learn to Compete, 8-12 sessions per week. Focus on sport specific strength endurance and speed. Emphasis on goal setting and competition visualization.
  • U23 – Train to Compete, 9-12 sessions per week. Focus on sport specific strength endurance and speed. Emphasis on race planning and tactics.
  • 23+ – Train to Win, sessions per week are individualized. Focus on technical and endurance maintenance. Emphasis on mentoring and elite competition.
  • Mature – Active for life, 2-12 sessions per week. Focus on being active. Emphasis on life long activity.
Weight training?!?!?

First off, we weight train. All groups will experience some weight room training but it is age and developmentally appropriate. There has been, in the past, mis-information about weight training and stunting growth. What the science tells us is that teens are ready to do targeted strength training during peak height velocity. This is the time when they are growing the fastest and not when they have reached their maximum height. All that said, we take a very conservative approach to weight training and the load on any of our U14 athletes would not be more than push-ups or chin-ups. The strength training in the U14 age group is based on calisthenics, cross fit, and yoga training. They would only be in the weight room learning proper technique and using low weight high repetition. U16 through U23 do more targeted weight training, focusing on building mass, power, and strength endurance. Strength training is still heavily focused around cross fit and yoga training.

Spring Training Camp in Florida?

The Spring Florida Training Camp this year will most likely be from March 7th to April 4th and is open to approved athletes in grade 8 or older. Acceptance into the camp is not guaranteed and is based on the maturity of the athletes and the likelihood they will contribute to the positive training environment at the camp. Some athletes are not ready or do not have the ability to endure the camp.

Boats and paddles?

We have plenty. All you need is running shoes, a life jacket, and weather appropriate clothing. With time, you will want to start investing in equipment and used equipment can be quite affordable. The typical chain of events goes from year-round training, paddle purchase, Florida, then boat purchase. This does not always happen in the same year or in that order.

If you have any questions please contact me via email cmacpherson@hotmail.com


Chris MacPherson