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NWSC Development Committee Report on US Junior Team Selection Criteria and Funding March 20, 2002

The Slalom Development Committee is pleased to present this Report, which describes the Committee's proposed rules for Jr Team selection and funding. The proposed rules are attached. This Report is designed to aid the USACK Slalom Division in considering the proposed rules and is thought to be accurate, but if a discrepancy is perceived between the two, the proposed rules would govern.

Principles

It is submitted that any set of rules for Jr Team selection and funding should have certain fundamental characteristics, namely, in general order of importance:

In developing these criteria, possible selection and funding methods have been "tested" against actual race results in recent Jr Trials and Jr international competitions over a five-year period. The data collected from this study, from which we have drawn our conclusions, can be made available for review.

Selection

The selection criteria have two components: (1) a means of placing the athletes in each class in order for potential selection ("selection order"), and (2) a means of determining how far down each class selection shall be made, based on a norm of selection which is consistent for all classes and designed to select a strong team of athletes who would best benefit that year from the experience of international competition ("performance standard"). Both components are based on performance at Jr Trials.

Selection order

Best 3 of 4 Runs (Average of Overall %s) - Jr Trials consists of 4 runs, 2 each day. The percent-of-top-boat-overall ("overall %") is determined for each boat separately for each of the 4 runs, and the boat's lowest 3 overall %s are averaged. This is the boat's "average overall %" for Jr Trials. In each class, boats with the 4 (or, in a Pre-Worlds year, 6) lowest average %s and which meet the performance standard are selected to the Team.

"Overall %" compares a boat's time to that of the top boat overall, as a ratio. Measuring performance on a percentage basis allows a comparison (or averaging) of race performances day to day on a consistent basis, even though racing conditions (and effective course length) can vary significantly, day to day. For this reason, it is a standard way in which athletes (including top athletes internationally) assess their own performance in practices as well as in races. Additionally, in a race with small classes, determining percentage performance for a run based on the top boat overall (overall %) instead of against merely the top boat in class (class %) leads to a measure of performance more closely related to a boat's own performance in the run and less to the possible ill fortune of the one or two strong boats in its class. 1

Performance standard

A boat meets the performance standard if its average overall % (see "selection order") is no more than: K1, 120%; C1, 129%; C2, 136%; and K1W, 140%.

Performance standards are not new. They have been used before for Jr Trials. They place athletes in the four classes on a more comparable footing, rewarding an athlete for his or her demonstrated level of development rather than for the merely fortuitous circumstance of being in a "strong" or "weak" Jr class in the US. In this way, performance standards, particularly when based on overall %s, more closely approximate an international norm of development, rather than merely a national norm. Performance standards also have the effect of limiting the Jr Team to those athletes who will most benefit that year from the experience of international training and competition and of encouraging athletic excellence and future development to world-class competitive levels.

In selecting the appropriate level of performance standard (i.e., the overall % numbers to be met by boats in each class), the Development Committee sought a standard which would be appropriately challenging for each class and which would be comparable between classes. It also sought to base comparability on an international basis, since the Jr Team is selected for international competition.

This was accomplished by reference to the relative amount by which top boats in each class differ, class-to-class ("interclass %s"), in important races (i.e., races in which there is every reason to expect that athletes will be intent on achieving their optimum performance). Based on races on US courses in which large competitive international fields have competed during the last 7 years, the applicable interclass %s are: K1, 100%; C1, 107.9%; C2, 113.1%; and K1W, 116.6%. That is, the times of the top C1s in such races typically are about 107.9% times those of the top K1s in the same races; those of the top C2s, 113.1% times those of the top K1s; and those of the top K1Ws, 116.6% times.2 These interclass %s represent a natural difference between classes and should be taken into account.

Thus, if the performance standard for K1s is set at, say, 115%, the performance standard for C1s should be set at about 124%3 to preserve a comparability of performance standards between classes, on an international basis. If the performance standard for K1s is 120%, the comparable standard for C1s is 129%; if it is 125%, the comparable standard is 135%. And so on for C2s and K1Ws. The Development Committee's proposed performance standard satisfies this comparability requirement.

note applicable to both selection order and the performance standard

In seeking to provide consistency of treatment between classes, the Development Committee made an adjustment in determining the top-boat-overall (and thus each boat's overall %) in a run. The adjustment is quite similar to the use of interclass %s to preserve comparability of performance standards between classes. The adjustment applies to both selection order and the performance standard, as both are based on the same "average overall %" for a given boat.

In particular, the top-boat-overall in a run is not simply the fastest boat, regardless of class. Rather, the time (including penalties) of the top boat in each class first is divided by the interclass percent applicable to that class, in order to reflect the relative amount by which top boats typically differ, class to class. The top-boat-overall for the run is the fastest resulting time.

For example, if the time (including penalties) of the top K1 in a run is 100 seconds, that of the top C1 is 110 seconds, that of the top C2 is 120 seconds, and that of the top K1W is 115 seconds, then the "class adjusted time" of each of these boats is 100 seconds, 101.9 seconds, 106.1 seconds and 98.6 seconds, respectively. The time of the top boat overall thus is 98.6 seconds, and the overall %s of all boats for the run are determined by comparison of their actual times (including penalties) to this time. In this way, the top performance for the run, after adjusting for typical natural differences between boat classes, becomes the standard for the run, and a boat's overall % for the run is more closely related to its own true performance and less to its performance relative only to the better K1s.

Funding

With limited funds available for Jr Team funding, the USACK Slalom Division will wish to provide funding in a way which best furthers the principles stated at the outset. Because the absolute amount of funding received might be quite modest, the mere fact of receiving funding, or the relative amount of funding received, will take on added significance.

The USACK Slalom Division may determine, in a particular year, to directly pay all or a portion of certain expenses associated with Jr Team international competition, such as coaching expenses and race entry fees. Such support, if any, is not addressed by the attached proposed funding rules.

Rather, those rules address only that portion of support, if any, which the USACK Slolom Division decides to provide directly to Jr Team athletes ("Junior international funding"). The total amount of such funding, if any, provided to the athletes, as a group, is left to the USACK Slalom Division to determine each year. The proposed rules govern the manner in which any Junior international funding which is provided will be allocated among the athletes.

The Development Committee proposes that Junior international funding be allocated directly on an international performance standard, since a relatively strong international field can be assumed for each class at each "international race": Jr Worlds (or Jr Pre-Worlds) and Jr World Cup races4. Such funding would be allocated proportionally on the basis of funding points earned by the Team athletes based upon their international race performances.

Funding points would be awarded for each individual medal (1st, 2nd or 3rd place): 2 points for each medal in Jr Worlds (or Jr Pre-Worlds) and 1 point for each medal in a Jr World Cup race. Whitewater slalom is a race for medals. While winning a medal in an international competition can depend as much on how many top athletes there are in a class as on an athlete's particular performance, awarding these points is consistent with rewarding performance and promoting development.

Funding points also would be awarded for individual class % performances within certain bands in each of these races:5 for Jr Worlds (or Jr Pre-Worlds), 2 points for each class % finish between 100% and 105%, and 1 point for each class % finish between 105% and 110%; for each Jr World Cup race, 2 points for each class % finish between 100% and 103%, and 1 point for each class % finish between 103% and 106%. The broader class % bands for Jr Worlds (and Jr Pre-Worlds) reflects the practical fact that Jr Worlds (and Jr Pre-Worlds) are better attended by top Jr athletes, and thus are more competitive, than are Jr World Cup races.

Further, in assessing class % performance in international races for purposes of allocating Junior international funding, each Team athlete's age would be taken into account, thereby encouraging athletic excellence and future development to world class competitive levels, in furtherance of the principles stated at the outset. It is understood that, based on a review of much data from major races over the course of several years, a rule of thumb was developed by some German clubs in assessing the development of their athletes: namely, that seriously training athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 develop at the rate of about 4 percentage points per year in class %.

Thus, increasing (or decreasing) the band thresholds (or equivalently and more simply, decreasing (or increasing) each Team athlete's class % off performance) by one-third of 1%-age point for each month by which the athlete's age (at the time of Jr Worlds or Jr Pre-Worlds) is below (or exceeds) 18.0 years,6 permits age comparability in assessing international race performance for purposes of allocating the Junior international funding. Not only does this easily made adjustment to class %s help eliminate potential age discrimination in performance based funding allocations, it also will encourage development in our Team athletes: the younger Juniors because it makes the possibility of earning funding points more realistic, and the older Juniors because they must continue to develop if they are to reach, or continue reaching, the higher standard.

Additional Comments

It is worth noting that those athletes who actually "missed" qualifying for the Jr Team in any of the past five years would have missed qualifying as well under most, if not all, the alternative selection criteria studied (best 2 of 4 runs, best day, combining best run from each day, etc.). In other words, making or missing the Team most likely was due to actual performance in Jr Trials rather than to the particular set of rules used.

Further, had the proposed performance standards been applied to the Jr Trials race results over the last five years, significantly fewer K1Ws, C1s and C2s would have made the Team than did K1s. But this was essentially the case under the cutoffs actually used in those years, at least to the extent they were applied as announced in advance. In other words, the proposed performance standards do not appear to be overly restrictive.

Moreover, it is instructive that for 2001, the year for which all applicable Junior international race results are available, the same 4 K1Ws and 2 C1s who would have been excluded from the Team under the criteria proposed in this report also would have been excluded had the qualification rules been followed as written for 2001. In fact, all 5 of these boats that raced internationally7 placed in the bottom half (and frequently near the bottom) in every international race.


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