New program aims to propel London-area student athletes to soaring athletic and academic heights

Posted On Monday October 01, 2018

The path to becoming an outstanding athlete requires strict discipline and unwavering commitment to training that often leaves little time to devote to schoolwork or develop a well-rounded social life.

The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) has joined a unique and innovative initiative to help more aspiring student athletes achieve athletic and academic success while staying close to home, families and friends.

“Can Canadian high schools help young people become exceptional athletes, students and community leaders? We definitely think we can,” says Paul McKenzie, superintendent of student achievement at TVDSB.

For Payton Beckett, class is in session. The figure skater and grade 11 student of AB Lucas Secondary School, is a member of the inaugural class of the Academy for Student Athlete Development (ASAD), an innovative program helping aspiring London-area student athletes in grades 9-12 excel in athletics and academics while competing at provincial, national and international levels of competition.

For Payton, each day begins at the Western Fair, home of the ASAD London campus, with intense daily strength and conditioning or sport specific training, followed by a TVDSB supervised e-learning class. Payton’s training also includes nutrition seminars, sport psychology sessions, physical literacy development days and access to sports therapy. She then heads back to her home school, AB Lucas, in time for lunch with her classmates and an afternoon of classes, enabling her to spend her evenings at home with family and friends.

Created and launched by Abilities Centre in the Durham Region in 2016, and including parasport and Special Olympics athletes, ASAD is the world’s first sports academy model founded on the value of inclusion and designed to reduce financial barriers, providing more opportunities for student athletes to shine on sport’s biggest stages.

It is a model, Payton says, that helps her be the best athlete she can be, while also ensuring she has the time to study, be with friends and family, and live life to the fullest while inspiring others in the community to follow in her footsteps.

“Without ASAD, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to chase my dream. This program is filled with incredible athletes and people who are making me a better athlete, student and person. It’s made me even more driven to succeed so I can represent London and Canada on the world stage.”

ASAD is a gamechanger for aspiring student athletes in London and across Ontario, and with the support of partners such as Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, lays the foundation for a new approach to student athlete development in Canada.

“What makes ASAD so special is that it’s a community-driven effort,” says Stuart McReynolds, national director of ASAD and programs director with Abilities Centre. “These students would not succeed without the support of the school board, our local coaches and trainers, Canadian Tire Jumpstart, and the local community here in London.”

In its first two years in operation at its first campus at Abilities Centre headquarters in Whitby, the results show just what is possible. Of the first 60 athletes in the program in its first two years of operation, 13 student athletes have graduated the program and are currently attending post-secondary institutions, 11 of which are competing at the U-Sport or NCAA level within their respective sports. Eight student athletes are training or competing on national team rosters and more than half of the student in the program

“London has a long history of developing great athletes and community leaders. We see amazing potential to continue that legacy and helping athletes from a variety of backgrounds be better athletes and citizens,” says McReynolds. “We can’t wait to see what these students achieve.”

An official launch event is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m. at the Western Fair Sports Centre, 865 Florence St. London.

For more information:

Matt Shaw, Abilities Centre

Tania Testa, Thames Valley District School Board
(519) 452-2000 ext. 20209   cell: 519-630-6777

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