Sport Academy pilot aims to balance lives of student athletes

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Sports fever has hit the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, which unanimously approved a plan to move ahead with a District Sport Academy at their Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.

The Academy is a pilot project, which will be open for the 2006-7 school year to Grade 6 and 7 students.

The Academy will consist of two classes in a pre-existing school; staff recommended either Elizabeth Bagshaw or Ray Lewis Elementary Schools. The Academy will be open to students who already play high-level sports, or those who don't have the means but have the talent.

The school will be launched by the board's Programs of Choice initiative, which offers seed money to foster innovative programs.

Similar institutions exist in Toronto, Quebec and Alberta, according to Associate Director Chuck Reid.

The purpose is to bring balance to the lives of student-athletes, he said.

"Many of these students have 24-hour days," he pointed out. "They get up, they train, they go to school, they train, they eat dinner, often very late, and they go to bed. They get up the next day and do it again."

These students are often faced with a tough choice between academics and athletics; the result is either a high truancy rate, or promising athletes deserting their sport, for academics.

The Academy will offer student-athletes a flexible, compressed timetable, through interdisciplinary studies. Students can also keep up through fax, e-mail and video conferencing.

The hope is to give athletes more leisure time, which they can devote to social lives, jobs, schoolwork or extra training.

Community partnerships are key to the program; the board has approached several local sports organizations, including McMaster University, which they hope will offer facility time and mentoring for the young athletes.

The program will require two full-time teachers, and about $10,000 from the Programs of Choice reserve, largely to purchase sports equipment. The board is looking to Ontario's Active 2010 initiative, the Trillium Foundation and the Hamilton Foundation as possible sources of funding.

Although the initiative received unanimous support, it wasn't without reservations. The Elementary Teachers Foundation and the Hamilton Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations both expressed concerns. Home and School feels the Sport Academy is elitist, by offering specialized programming and additional training to students who are already at a high level of sport, and are presumably in expensive programs outside of school time.

Although the program allows for 20 per cent of the enrollment to come from athletes with limited sport experience, it makes no specific provisions for impoverished families. They feel those spaces may be taken by middle-class families.

They also feel the flexible timetable could exacerbate a student-athlete's tendencies to forego social endeavors for the sake of training, because they won't be available during lunch hours or recess to take part in clubs and other school activities. In addition, their classmates will be other student-athletes, which would limit their interaction with the student population at large.

Home and School also feels that existing teachers at regular schools are already accommodating competition schedules for athletes.

Trustee Judith Bishop shares many of those concerns; she feels every student should have access to an enhanced nutrition and phys ed program. She also feels that an arts or languages academy might be more appropriate.

Reid was quick to recognize those concerns, and agrees with many of them. He hopes to see similar academies for other interests, and agrees wholeheartedly that physical education should be beefed up for everyone. "I wish we could do this all on one fell swoop," he said. "But we have to go one step at a time."

He also noted that the committee found that many low-income families have re-mortgaged homes and taken out loans to fund their child's athletic career; this program may help ease that burden.

Trustee Reg Woodworth also expressed concern for students in his Flamborough wards, who don't have access to public transit. Parents would be responsible for transporting the student to and from school, which could be a considerable distance for many.

"You're alienating a large segment of the population," he said.

He felt being far from home would also hinder a student's ability to hold a part-time job or help on the farm.

Reid suggested that there may be grants available for students who could not afford to travel, but qualified for the program. He also felt that the program would allow more time for farm chores or part-time jobs, because training and school would both take place during the day, leaving evenings free.

Students hoping to enroll in the District Sport Academy will be required to write an essay, perform a physical fitness test, and complete an interview. They must have an average of 60 per cent or higher. Similar programs require 75 per cent, noted Reid. But the committee felt that academics should not be a barrier; they feel that the supportive environment of the Academy will inspire many low achievers to pull up their grades, possibly to compete for athletic scholarships, or the chance to play on university varsity teams. Students in the Quebec equivalent have seen a nine per cent rise in marks, on average, according to the report.

If the program is a success, it will be carried on throughout secondary school.

Sport Academy pilot aims to balance lives of student athletes

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Sports fever has hit the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, which unanimously approved a plan to move ahead with a District Sport Academy at their Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.

The Academy is a pilot project, which will be open for the 2006-7 school year to Grade 6 and 7 students.

The Academy will consist of two classes in a pre-existing school; staff recommended either Elizabeth Bagshaw or Ray Lewis Elementary Schools. The Academy will be open to students who already play high-level sports, or those who don't have the means but have the talent.

The school will be launched by the board's Programs of Choice initiative, which offers seed money to foster innovative programs.

Similar institutions exist in Toronto, Quebec and Alberta, according to Associate Director Chuck Reid.

The purpose is to bring balance to the lives of student-athletes, he said.

"Many of these students have 24-hour days," he pointed out. "They get up, they train, they go to school, they train, they eat dinner, often very late, and they go to bed. They get up the next day and do it again."

These students are often faced with a tough choice between academics and athletics; the result is either a high truancy rate, or promising athletes deserting their sport, for academics.

The Academy will offer student-athletes a flexible, compressed timetable, through interdisciplinary studies. Students can also keep up through fax, e-mail and video conferencing.

The hope is to give athletes more leisure time, which they can devote to social lives, jobs, schoolwork or extra training.

Community partnerships are key to the program; the board has approached several local sports organizations, including McMaster University, which they hope will offer facility time and mentoring for the young athletes.

The program will require two full-time teachers, and about $10,000 from the Programs of Choice reserve, largely to purchase sports equipment. The board is looking to Ontario's Active 2010 initiative, the Trillium Foundation and the Hamilton Foundation as possible sources of funding.

Although the initiative received unanimous support, it wasn't without reservations. The Elementary Teachers Foundation and the Hamilton Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations both expressed concerns. Home and School feels the Sport Academy is elitist, by offering specialized programming and additional training to students who are already at a high level of sport, and are presumably in expensive programs outside of school time.

Although the program allows for 20 per cent of the enrollment to come from athletes with limited sport experience, it makes no specific provisions for impoverished families. They feel those spaces may be taken by middle-class families.

They also feel the flexible timetable could exacerbate a student-athlete's tendencies to forego social endeavors for the sake of training, because they won't be available during lunch hours or recess to take part in clubs and other school activities. In addition, their classmates will be other student-athletes, which would limit their interaction with the student population at large.

Home and School also feels that existing teachers at regular schools are already accommodating competition schedules for athletes.

Trustee Judith Bishop shares many of those concerns; she feels every student should have access to an enhanced nutrition and phys ed program. She also feels that an arts or languages academy might be more appropriate.

Reid was quick to recognize those concerns, and agrees with many of them. He hopes to see similar academies for other interests, and agrees wholeheartedly that physical education should be beefed up for everyone. "I wish we could do this all on one fell swoop," he said. "But we have to go one step at a time."

He also noted that the committee found that many low-income families have re-mortgaged homes and taken out loans to fund their child's athletic career; this program may help ease that burden.

Trustee Reg Woodworth also expressed concern for students in his Flamborough wards, who don't have access to public transit. Parents would be responsible for transporting the student to and from school, which could be a considerable distance for many.

"You're alienating a large segment of the population," he said.

He felt being far from home would also hinder a student's ability to hold a part-time job or help on the farm.

Reid suggested that there may be grants available for students who could not afford to travel, but qualified for the program. He also felt that the program would allow more time for farm chores or part-time jobs, because training and school would both take place during the day, leaving evenings free.

Students hoping to enroll in the District Sport Academy will be required to write an essay, perform a physical fitness test, and complete an interview. They must have an average of 60 per cent or higher. Similar programs require 75 per cent, noted Reid. But the committee felt that academics should not be a barrier; they feel that the supportive environment of the Academy will inspire many low achievers to pull up their grades, possibly to compete for athletic scholarships, or the chance to play on university varsity teams. Students in the Quebec equivalent have seen a nine per cent rise in marks, on average, according to the report.

If the program is a success, it will be carried on throughout secondary school.

Sport Academy pilot aims to balance lives of student athletes

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Sports fever has hit the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, which unanimously approved a plan to move ahead with a District Sport Academy at their Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.

The Academy is a pilot project, which will be open for the 2006-7 school year to Grade 6 and 7 students.

The Academy will consist of two classes in a pre-existing school; staff recommended either Elizabeth Bagshaw or Ray Lewis Elementary Schools. The Academy will be open to students who already play high-level sports, or those who don't have the means but have the talent.

The school will be launched by the board's Programs of Choice initiative, which offers seed money to foster innovative programs.

Similar institutions exist in Toronto, Quebec and Alberta, according to Associate Director Chuck Reid.

The purpose is to bring balance to the lives of student-athletes, he said.

"Many of these students have 24-hour days," he pointed out. "They get up, they train, they go to school, they train, they eat dinner, often very late, and they go to bed. They get up the next day and do it again."

These students are often faced with a tough choice between academics and athletics; the result is either a high truancy rate, or promising athletes deserting their sport, for academics.

The Academy will offer student-athletes a flexible, compressed timetable, through interdisciplinary studies. Students can also keep up through fax, e-mail and video conferencing.

The hope is to give athletes more leisure time, which they can devote to social lives, jobs, schoolwork or extra training.

Community partnerships are key to the program; the board has approached several local sports organizations, including McMaster University, which they hope will offer facility time and mentoring for the young athletes.

The program will require two full-time teachers, and about $10,000 from the Programs of Choice reserve, largely to purchase sports equipment. The board is looking to Ontario's Active 2010 initiative, the Trillium Foundation and the Hamilton Foundation as possible sources of funding.

Although the initiative received unanimous support, it wasn't without reservations. The Elementary Teachers Foundation and the Hamilton Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations both expressed concerns. Home and School feels the Sport Academy is elitist, by offering specialized programming and additional training to students who are already at a high level of sport, and are presumably in expensive programs outside of school time.

Although the program allows for 20 per cent of the enrollment to come from athletes with limited sport experience, it makes no specific provisions for impoverished families. They feel those spaces may be taken by middle-class families.

They also feel the flexible timetable could exacerbate a student-athlete's tendencies to forego social endeavors for the sake of training, because they won't be available during lunch hours or recess to take part in clubs and other school activities. In addition, their classmates will be other student-athletes, which would limit their interaction with the student population at large.

Home and School also feels that existing teachers at regular schools are already accommodating competition schedules for athletes.

Trustee Judith Bishop shares many of those concerns; she feels every student should have access to an enhanced nutrition and phys ed program. She also feels that an arts or languages academy might be more appropriate.

Reid was quick to recognize those concerns, and agrees with many of them. He hopes to see similar academies for other interests, and agrees wholeheartedly that physical education should be beefed up for everyone. "I wish we could do this all on one fell swoop," he said. "But we have to go one step at a time."

He also noted that the committee found that many low-income families have re-mortgaged homes and taken out loans to fund their child's athletic career; this program may help ease that burden.

Trustee Reg Woodworth also expressed concern for students in his Flamborough wards, who don't have access to public transit. Parents would be responsible for transporting the student to and from school, which could be a considerable distance for many.

"You're alienating a large segment of the population," he said.

He felt being far from home would also hinder a student's ability to hold a part-time job or help on the farm.

Reid suggested that there may be grants available for students who could not afford to travel, but qualified for the program. He also felt that the program would allow more time for farm chores or part-time jobs, because training and school would both take place during the day, leaving evenings free.

Students hoping to enroll in the District Sport Academy will be required to write an essay, perform a physical fitness test, and complete an interview. They must have an average of 60 per cent or higher. Similar programs require 75 per cent, noted Reid. But the committee felt that academics should not be a barrier; they feel that the supportive environment of the Academy will inspire many low achievers to pull up their grades, possibly to compete for athletic scholarships, or the chance to play on university varsity teams. Students in the Quebec equivalent have seen a nine per cent rise in marks, on average, according to the report.

If the program is a success, it will be carried on throughout secondary school.