The World Federation of Paralympic Winter Sports (alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and biathlon) is planning a course for medical and sports professionals who want to become classifiers, with the first part of the course being held online in the spring of 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 regions.
“We need to have more classifiers from different regions of the world,” said Sandra Titulaer, head of Classification for Paralympic Alpine Skiing and snowboarding. “COVID-19 shows us that many classifiers, from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, cannot travel. In Europe, we can travel a little more, but it would be better to have more classifiers from different countries.
” Since 2014, there have been four international classifier courses, and the 2021 course will be the first to be conducted partly in an online format.
The first part of the course will be offered online as a combination of live training and independent work. The course is open to anyone who wants to become a classifier and has the basic skills for this role. Also, interested trainers and medical staff are invited to the first part of the course.
Classifiers of alpine skiing and snowboarding should have medical and sports experience. Many modern classifiers are doctors or physiotherapists who have experience as coaches, athletes, or ski instructors. In Paralympic cross-country skiing and biathlon, there is also a separate category of technical classifiers that do not require medical training.
The online course will last several weeks and will offer participants theoretical information about classification. Participants will also perform practical exercises and pass the final exam.
“The first step in our course is partly theory, about the Paralympic movement, about the history of classification and all the general things you need to know, what classification means for our sport, how we evaluate athletes, what tests they run,” Titulayer said.
“We will meet for a few hours each week to conduct quizzes and discussions, and we will try to make them as interactive as possible. We hope that eventually everyone will have almost the same knowledge and ability to move on to practice as if we were practicing in real life.”
The organizers expect that the course will be attended by 20 to 25 people. There may also be duplicate sessions for those living in different time zones.
Only selected participants will proceed to the second part of the course. These participants must complete the first part of the course, show an interest in becoming international classifiers, and have no conflict of interest in performing these functions.
In the second part of the course, participants, under the guidance of a senior classifier, will apply their skills during the in-season classification in the 2021-2022 season.
“It’s like regular mentoring in regular professions, and it works very well because there are some things that you can evaluate remotely, but some things, like personal qualities, are much more difficult to evaluate,” Titulayer said. “You have to feel how a person interacts with an athlete, with a coach, solves difficult problems. This is the second part.”
The World Paralympic Winter Sports Federation will send details of the spring course to the National Paralympic Committees in the coming weeks. Those who wish to participate can also write directly to the international federations of their chosen sport.
In addition to the advanced course for classifiers, the World Paralympic Winter Sports Federation also offers regular refresher sessions for current classifiers.
The World Paralympic Alpine Skiing Federation and the World Para-Snowboard Federation held a four-day refresher course in Bonn, Germany, in October 2019 and held a pre-season session before the 2020-2021 season with all current international qualifiers in the last week of October.
A training course in Paralympic cross-country skiing and biathlon was planned to be held in Bonn in the autumn of 2020, but it had to be postponed due to restrictions related to the pandemic. Instead, two extensive online sessions were held in November, and a field course could potentially be held next year.
“The classification improvement courses, which take place in the form of telephone conferences, are very useful for classifiers, they allow them to stay up to date and be ready for the upcoming winter season,” said Elke Gundermann, manager of the World Federation of Para – Skiing and Biathlon.
“These conferences usually cover topics about changes that have occurred during the summer, appointments for the upcoming season, and various things related to the classification itself, such as protest procedures or physical assessment and observation procedures,” Gundermann added.