History of the National Championships
The Royal Canadian Legion, through the efforts of thousands of Legion volunteers, has been organizing and coordinating the National Youth Track and Field Championships for 43 years in support of Canadian youth and our communities. This national championship, funded by the Legion and generous support from our partners, gives young Canadians 17 and under a chance to compete against the best, develop confidence and better understand the diversity of other sports-minded youth across Canada.
Why does the Legion support youth Track and Field?
The Legion’s national youth athletics program has come to be regarded
as one of the best in the country. In fact, many of our former
participants have gone on to international and Olympic success. Through
the success of this program, many youth have been taught the value of
leadership, teamwork, and many more skills necessary both on and off the
playing field. We have been able to encourage many characteristics that
can come from working in a team environment, as well as being exposed
to a variety of cultures across Canada. It is through our sports
program, youth education programs and other youth initiatives that the
Legion helps strengthen the younger generation and the future of Canada.
1950s – It all started with one Branch
The Legion’s interest in Track & Field extends back to the early
1950′s. During the early years, the Ontario Legion Hydro branch, No.
277, with the leadership of the late Bob Saunders, chairman, Ontario
Hydro, and the late George Duthie, manager of the sports department,
Canadian National Exhibition, sponsored the former Canadian Olympic
Training plan. The Hydro branch sponsored a series of projects to
provide financing for this program, including invitational track meets
and big name performances. The success of this program prompted the
branch to forward a resolution to the 1956 Dominion convention of the
Legion held in Vancouver, requesting, and receiving, the Legion’s
dominion-wide support of the Olympic Training Plan.
1957 – The Legion begins conducting national athlete’s clinics and training camps
In 1957 The Royal Canadian Legion entered the national track and
field scene, when it undertook to finance The Canadian Olympic Training
Plan. From 1957 to 1961, the Legion conducted national athletes’ clinics
in Toronto, with each province being invited to send a team of selected
athletes and coaches.
For the initial four years, the program was under the direction of
coaches Franz Stampfl, Don Canham and Dave Rankin. During that time,
more than 700 athletes, and a number of coaches attended the clinics,
each culminating with track and field meets at The Canadian National
In 1962, the federal government awarded a grant to the Legion in
support of the first Canadian National Clinic for track and field
coaches at Guelph, Ontario (this support continued until 1969). The 1962
clinic was under the direction of world-renowned Geoffrey Dyson, former
British national coach, with John Disley, John Savidge, Denis Cullum,
French coach Jacques Bergougnous and nine well-known Canadian coaches
In addition, four summer and three winter training camps were held,
which were attended by a total of 475 young track and field athletes.
At the conclusion of the 1962 coaches’ clinic, Geoffrey Dyson
accepted the position of the Legion’s sports training program
coordinator for a 5-year period. During this tenure, more than 1,300
coaches received the benefit of the program, with an additional 2,500
coaches receiving training at provincial and regional clinics.
1963 – The Legion develops some of the first technical periodicals on track and field
In 1963, the Legion recognized the need for Canadian technical
periodicals on track and field. As a result, COACHING REVIEW and THE
TRACK AND FIELD ANNUAL were produced. This program, made possible by the
unique organization and resources of the Legion, combined with the
support of the federal government, passed into history in 1969, when the
Fitness and Amateur Sport Directorate of the Department of National
Health and Welfare advised that, as a result of a study of policies and
guidelines relating to grants under the Fitness Act, no further federal
financial support would be available.
1975 – The first Canada-wide track and field meet was organized
From then until 1975, the existing track and field programs only went
to the provincial level. In 1975, a Canada-wide pilot track and field
meet was conducted at Waterloo, Ontario. It was such a resounding
success that a second national meet was held in Edmonton, Alberta, in
1976, which also proved to be a great success. The two pilot camps
showed that there was a need, and that young Canadians certainly gained
from the experience.
1977 – The Legion funds National Track and Field
In keeping with the Legion’s commitment to our youth, funds were
allocated for National Track and Field camps starting in 1977. Funds are
still being allocated, with planning of future camps commencing five
years in advance. Since 1977 the Legion has invested millions of dollars
to hold national annual track and field camps to provide training and
competition at the national level for young track and field athletes.
The camps provide these youths opportunities to mix with other athletes,
coaches and chaperones from all parts of Canada.
In addition to a national commitment, local Legion Branches, in concert with their Provincial Commands, bid for the right to host this event. The following locations have hosted the event: