Campus Life

Region's elite level athletes are in good Stead

Shawn Stead knows a good athlete when he sees one. If things go as planned, the University of Lethbridge will get used to seeing them more and more on campus in the near future.

Stead (BA '04) is the U of L's new High Performance Manager, Strength and Conditioning, meaning he works with the area's best young talents in the hopes of training the next generation of national and Olympic-level athletes. The University will be the hub of that training program.

"The long term goal is to identify and develop young athletes from a number of sporting bodies within Alberta," Stead says. "If they are in this region, bring them in here and train them, providing them with the services they will need to have success."

A Creston, B.C. native, Stead has essentially been a Lethbridge resident for eight-plus years. He finished his kinesiology degree at the University in 2004, all the while working with the Pronghorns men's and women's soccer programs.

"We had a lot of success as far as reducing injuries and then on-field success as far as teams making playoffs that hadn't made it before, and I believe that was part of it," he says.

Following graduation, Stead enjoyed an internship with the United States Ski Association in Park City, Utah. Over the course of his nine-month assignment he was given access to the association's world-class training centre.

"You got the all-encompassing view of what an athlete needs to have success and the support staff of these national and Olympic programs," Stead says. "Getting the chance to work and test athletes at the Olympic level was an eye opener, a really good experience."

Upon his return to Canada, he partnered with a colleague in establishing a private sport training company, Crash Conditioning, which focuses on developing the area's elite hockey players. His clients include the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes; including individual players such as two-time World Junior gold medalist Zach Boychuk, as well as the midget AAA Y's Men Titans, the city's top level minor hockey team.

Stead's techniques focus on building well-rounded athletes from early on in their development.

"We teach mobility and movement mechanics," he says. "Essentially it's strength in movement, if you are strong in the movements that relate to your sport, you're probably going to be a pretty proficient athlete.

"If you can get athletes when they're young, that's the ideal situation. You want to provide them with a foundation that they can develop, over time, all the characteristics of an elite athlete. That begins with mobility work and flexibility work and then as they age you can start to incorporate more strength work and other modalities."

The program is in its infancy, Stead having just opened his office in May of last year. As it develops, he sees the U of L becoming a centre for athletic excellence and whether that translates into more prominent young athletes becoming a part of Pronghorn Athletics remains to be seen. Either way, it raises the profile of the University and Sport and Recreation Services in Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

"The sky's the limit and this facility has a lot of potential," Stead says. "We're slowly moving in a positive direction. It's taken some time but it's there and when we get over the hump, it'll be really good."


• Stead, married to wife Julie, was an all-sport athlete in high school but progressed furthest in golf and hockey, where he had a brief taste of the junior level

• Crash Conditioning, his private enterprise, trains 40-plus hockey players in Lethbridge and another 100-plus in Calgary

• Stead works with all disciplines, including elite level canoers like part-time
U of L student Daniel Purcell, a member of Canada's
National Development Team

• The majority of Stead's clients will train in PE157, a room that is currently being developed to include field turf

• The sports centre concept is already being utilized in areas such as Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary and Medicine Hat. The U of L program would work under the auspices of the Alberta Sport Development Centres, with Lethbridge as the Southwest office