An Interview with Jessica Ferguson of The Steadward Centre

This week on the blog, we are featuring an interview with Jessica Ferguson from The Steadward Centre (TSC) at the University of Alberta. Jessica works as an Athlete Development Coordinator at the centre. The mission statement of TSC is to ‘Inspire individual achievement in Adapted Physical Activity and Parasport by conducting and applying innovative research, widely sharing expert knowledge, and delivering highly successful programs for individuals experiencing disability.’ 

How would you describe The Steadward Centre?

The Steadward Centre is an Adapted Physical Activity and Parasport centre that operates out of the University of Alberta.

How did you get involved in coaching and athlete development?

Growing up as an athlete - I was an alpine ski racer for many years and after my time as an athlete was over I began coaching. At a PD event for coaches one day, the speaker was discussing kinesiology and made me realize I could be a professional coach one day. I attended the University of Alberta for a Bachelor of Kinesiology and specialized in Physical Activity and Sport Performance, and later got my CSCS certification and CSEP CEP designation. In addition to my duties at TSC, I am completing my Master of High-Performance Coaching and Technical Leadership from UBC.

What does your position at TSC look like?

The Athlete Development Coordinator is responsible for many different things. I mentor practicum students and student volunteers we might have at The Steadward Centre, as well as coordinate and run the Athletic Development programs, such as our Para-Swimming, Para-Athletics, and strength and conditioning programs. I work with the coaches and the students of these programs to help design programs and keep them running efficiently. In one week, I work with an average of 30 different athletes.

What does a typical day look like for you at work?

With my position, there is no typical day. Every day will be different based on the programs that are running that day, or if I have meetings or presentations going on. I always finish the day with programs, so I work backward from those each day to determine how and when to start my day. When I’m not running a session I could be designing a training program, meeting with coaches to discuss equipment needs, or going to various Kinesiology classes and giving presentations to students about what TSC does. Now that we are working from home due to the pandemic I’m following a more typical schedule, doing administrative work in the mornings and running sessions in the afternoons. 

What were your first thoughts in reaction to the transition to online training as a result of COVID-19?

I would say that initially, I was very resistant to the idea of online training because it was an unknown experience. I did eventually come around to the idea of working out via Zoom video calls, and it’s nice to know now that I can adapt my profession to be online. 

Now that we are slowly returning to sports and reopening fitness centers, do you foresee any long term differences in how you train athletes?

I don’t think there will necessarily be a difference in how we train athletes in the gym once it’s open, but for athletes who are located in remote communities or lack access to accessible transportation now have the opportunity to try online training sessions. Typically if someone is not in the gym then we can’t really train them, but now we know we can successfully run virtual sessions so it’s an option we can provide now. 

What is the most satisfying thing about being a coach and working with athletes?

I like sports and ParaSport because it requires you to have a specific goal in mind (winning at a competition or meet) and then work really hard in order to achieve that goal. You experience your success in a really unique way. 

Thank you to Jessica for sharing the exciting world of Parasport and  The Steadward Centre with us!

For more information about programs and services offered, please visit TSC here.

For more information about ParaSport Alberta, please visit them here