From finding fresh new talent to providing new opportunities for older athletes, RBC Training Ground is changing lives
Published Thursday, November 5, 2020 7:30AM EST Last Updated Wednesday, December 2, 2020 7:38AM EST
Now 26 years old and with her sights set on Tokyo 2020, Mitchell credits RBC Training Ground for reviving her career as an athlete. (Handout photo)
TORONTO -- When Kelsey Mitchell finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta in 2017, she felt lost. After playing soccer at the collegiate level for five years, Mitchell was disappointed to see her career quietly fizzle out.
“I wasn’t ready to be done with sports and being an athlete,” Mitchell said. “That’s when I found out about RBC Training Ground.”
Mitchell, then 23 and working a summer job in her hometown of Edmonton, knew she had to try the program. Since its inception in 2016, RBC Training Ground has enabled National Sport Organizations (NSO) to test the speed, power, strength and endurance of more than 8,500 Canadian athletes
“It was one last shot at making the Olympics… one last shot to live the dream of an athlete,” Mitchell said.
As it turns out, she was right. Mitchell completed a series of standardized tests at RBC Training Ground and was quickly noticed by talent scouts for the sheer amount of power and strength in her legs — the product of nearly 20 years of soccer training. She was asked to join the national team at Cycling Canada, and soon after, she was breaking World records and qualifying for the Olympics. At the time, Mitchell had zero cycling experience.
Now 26 years old and with her sights set on Tokyo 2020, Mitchell credits RBC Training Ground for reviving her career as an athlete.
“You can definitely say that 23 is probably too old for an athlete to start a new career and try to pursue it at the highest level. A lot of (athletes) retire at that time,” Mitchell said. “I just loved training and sports in general, so I was willing to see what was out there.”
Mitchell is just one of several athletes discovered by RBC Training Ground who are now emerging as Tokyo 2020 medal hopefuls. Pierce LePage, a Whitby, Ont. native and decathlon athlete, always played sports growing up, but he didn’t start track and field training until he was 17 — then he broke the junior national record.
“I was recommended to go to RBC Training Ground, and I (said), ‘sure, why not.’ I had nothing to lose, it’s free,” LePage said. He was named the winner of the combine in Toronto, and so began his career as an award-winning decathlete.
“If you're an athlete… I feel like there's no reason to not try RBC Training Ground,” LePage said. “You don't necessarily need to have super special talents. All the combines and the events are pretty straightforward. It gives you a chance to compete.”
RBC Training Ground is usually hosted in-person, but due to COVID-19, has moved online for the 2020-2021 season. That means young Canadian athletes from any sports background have access to RBC Training Ground talent scouts in a virtual format.
For more information on RBC Training Ground, and how to participate, visit RBCTrainingGround.ca.
Developed in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Olympic Foundation and with support from the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, RBC Training Ground is a nation-wide talent identification and athlete-funding program dedicated to finding and funding Canada's future Olympians. In the past five years, more than $1.7M has been provided to 117 RBC Future Olympians to help support their Olympic dreams.
Many athletes are in their teens and could potentially have many opportunities to “live the dream."