World Para Snow Sports plans to hold a course for medical and sport professionals interested in becoming classifiers, with the first part of the course to take place online in spring 2021.
The two-part course aims to increase the number of international and national classifiers as well as their geographical representation, especially in the European and Asian region.
“We need to have more classifiers and from different regions of the world,” said Sandra Titulaer, Head of Classification for World Para Alpine Skiing and World Para Snowboard. “COVID-19 is showing us that lots of [classifiers] are living in Australia, New Zealand or in the USA and Canada, and they cannot travel. In Europe we can travel a little bit more, but it would have been better to have more classifiers in more places.”
Four international classifier courses were held since 2014, while the 2021 edition will be the first to be held partly in an online format.
Open to all
The first part of the course will be offered online as a combination of live training sessions and self-study. The course is open to all people who are interested in becoming classifiers and have the basic credentials for the role. Also interested coaches and medical team staff are welcome to join the first part of the course.
Para alpine and Para snowboard classifiers must have a background in medicine and sports. Many current classifiers are doctors or physical therapists who have experience as coaches, athletes or ski instructors. In Para Nordic skiing, there is also a separate category of technical classifiers who do not need a medical background.
The online course will span several weeks and offer participants theoretical information on classification. Participants will also complete practical exercises and a final exam.
“The first step in our course is partly theory, about the Paralympic movement, about the classification history and all the general things you need to know, how it was built up for our sports, how we assess athletes, what kind of tests they do,” Titulaer said.
“We’ll come together for several hours every week to do some quizzes and discussions and we will try to make it as interactive as possible. We are hoping in the end they have almost the same kind of knowledge transfer and ability to practise as we would have in a live situation.”
The organisers are expecting 20 to 25 people to enrol in the course. There might also be duplicate sessions to accommodate different time zones.
Only selected participants will move on to the second part of the course. These participants must have completed the first part of the course, show an interest in becoming international classifiers, and have no conflict of interest with this role.
In the second part of the course participants will apply their skills at a World Para Snow Sports classification opportunity during the 2021-22 season, under the guidance of a senior classifier.
“It’s like a regular mentorship we have in our professions and that works very well because you have some things you can assess with a form, but some things like soft skills are much more difficult to assess,” Titulaer said. “You must get the feeling for how the person is interacting with an athlete, with a coach, with a difficult problem. That’s the second part.”
World Para Snow Sports will send detailed information about the spring course to the National Paralympic Committees in the coming weeks. Those who wish to be involved can also write directly to the international federations of their chosen sport.
Never stop learning
In addition to the in-depth classifier course, World Para Snow Sports also offers regular update sessions for classifiers.
World Para Alpine Skiing and World Para Snowboard had a four-day refresher course in Bonn, Germany in October 2019 and held a 2020-21 pre-season session with all active international classifiers in the last week of October.
Para Nordic Skiing’s refresher course was scheduled to take place in Bonn in fall 2020, but had to be postponed due to pandemic restrictions. Two extensive online sessions were held in November instead while an on-site course could potentially be held next year.
“The update calls are very helpful to get the classifiers tuned in and updated for the coming winter season,” said Elke Gundermann, World Para Nordic Skiing Manager.
“The calls usually cover topics on changes over the summer, assignments for the coming season and different parts concerning the classification itself are repeated, such as protest procedures, or physical and observation assessment procedures,” Gundermann added.