AFTER 25 YEARS CENTRALIZED TRAINING STILL DOESN"T WORK The High Performance Training Centre has become a drain on Canadian badminton and the sooner we replace it with a better program, the more competitive we will be as a nation. Our current HPTC is a drain on Canadian badminton because: 1. it spends over $60,000.00 a year on 16 athletes PLUS over $50,000 a year for the coach (Badm. Cda. budget 1995-96) 2. it retards the coaching development program by removing the top players from clubs across the country and thus prevents our coaches from growing with and learning from their athletes 3. the athletes in the Centre spend most of their time in Alberta thus preventing the other top athletes in their home clubs and provinces from training and competing with them on a frequent basis 4. we are always arguing among ourselves as to whether or not the National Coach is 'allowed' to coach HPTC athletes in domestic tournaments, whether or not Quebec should have its own HPTC, whether or not a particular athlete is 'deserving' of selection to the HPTC, whether or not team selections are biased toward HPTC athletes, whether or not the National Coach should be on the road in Canada or overseas with a team or coaching the HPTC group, etc. The current national "central" training program is not a new idea for us. The first one was in Calgary also in the late 60's. At that time, it was the thought that as the biggest country in the world, we had to solve the distance problem by bringing the best players together to train. Under the watchful eye of an expert coach in a first class facility, our athletes could be catapulted into international prominence. Since that time, we have seen the passing of a national training centre in Ottawa at the University of Ottawa and a national training centre in Toronto at the Strathgowan Club. Three centres with three sets of athletes in three cities with three different coaches from Thailand, Indonesia and England. The current HPTC in Calgary (for the second time) started in 1985 after Canada hosted the Worlds with yet another set of athletes and a new coach from Scotland. This most recent centralized training centre has spent well over a million dollars since its inception; about $250,000 from the province of Alberta and over $500,000 from the goverment of Canada. With the coach's salaries (1 full time and 1 part-time until last year), that is a staggering amount of money. So the obvious question is, how much have we improved our standing as an international force? In 1970 we won a gold and a bronze at the Commonwealth Games. In 1982 we won a gold and a bronze at the Commonwealth Games. In 1994 we won a silver and a bronze and Deng Sian, a non-HPTC athlete won both of them. In 1994 we failed to even win a medal in the team event, having won four silver medals in a row since 1978 when the team event was started. We all know the Commonwealth Games is not the ultimate test for our national team, but other measures of success like the Thomas & Uber Cups, the All-England and World Championships show just about the same results. Proponents of the current HPTC reason that the athletes would have no place to train if the Centre shut its doors. "They" say the funding would disappear, the players would quit and badminton in Canada would slide backwards. Well, we ARE sliding backwards. Perhaps it is because most of the best players live in various parts of the country, opting out of the HPTC. Maybe if all of the best players were at the centre, we would get better results. But the fact is they're not, and yet we continue to invest in a national training centre as we watch the caliber of the average athlete there decrease. Recommendations: 1. Set up Regional Training programs (Note that the word "Centre" was not used) run by certified coaches that have a record of helping produce athletes season after season. Help clubs and provincial associations develop solid training and competitive opportunities that dovetail with national objectives and programming. Provide these coaches with a degree of ownership over the national agenda in their small but significant way. Give strength to our roots. 2. Operate the HPTC on a part-time basis. The top athletes, and I mean THE top athletes rather than a few good juniors looking for adventure, would train with any one of the coaches in any one of the clubs across the country identified by Badminton Canada as where "the" program was working. Every few months, these TOP athletes would come together at the HPTC for group training, competition, assessment by the national coach and to receive training prescriptions until the next session, weeks or months later. When the athletes are not together like this, the Centre would not be in operation. The CENTRE, in fact, could move at will, thus stimulating more than one regional badminton economy and also equalizing travel costs. 3. Modify the job description of the national coach to reflect the above. Our national coach is excellent working with coaches in a leadership role. Rather than coaching on court every day in Calgary, he would be working WITH his Regional coaches in a team-coaching approach; helping, guiding, planning, assessing, recommending, leading, teaching. Much of this could be done from a base (office) but additional time would be needed "on the road"; actually in the trenches with the coaches in Canada producing the athletes. Our national coach has much to offer and we all need to have contact with him more frequently, especially the top players. We cannot afford to sustain a glorified club program under the guise of a national training centre. The costs are too high. It is time to rely on our strengths as a badminton country. We boast an excellent coach education program and a well developed club network across the country. Let's put them to work with assistance from the national and provincial associations. For me, even a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games is just not good enough.