I am presenting at the OFSAA Coaching Symposium next month. Speaking to high school coaches, here is the brief description of what the session is about:
“Building an athletic program in a high school setting can be a challenge with the stresses of time, club sports and other demands on the student-athletes life. Making your program more of a priority and a focus for both athletes and the school can happen, and can become an alternative to competitive outside sports. This session looks at ways to “recruit” and attract your current students to high school sports with some simple program building strategies that work.”
It got me thinking about upcoming tryouts and what student-athletes are willing to do when it comes to the time commitment for playing competitive sports. I have coached in an elite high school program most of my career and I am a big believer in making sure that student-athletes have the appropriate time set aside for their studies. Very few make a living by playing sports and it is crucial that our athletes’ academic welfare is taken care of.
As example, I had a hockey player come to our school from North Bay. At the time, the nearest AA team was in Sudbury – an hour and a half drive away (and on a pretty dangerous winter road). It was a four to five times a week drive to practices and home games and often much more for road games and tournaments. She also wasn’t very good in the car to get school work done as she suffered from car sickness when she was reading and looking down.
After coming to our school (as a boarder), she was delighted that our rink was a 400 metre walk from her dorm room. This simple change in "geography" literally freed up at least 15 hours a week for her and the bulk of that time was spent at her studies. She also saw a jump in her overall average of 14% (72% to 86%) and eventually earned an academic scholarship which allowed her to play division 1 hockey in the NCAA.
My point is, I encourage athletes to think very carefully about their choice of team to play for next season. What looks like a great athletic fit might not be a terrific academic fit with regards to time spent "on the road" and travelling to and from practice. I know it can be difficult, especially when you live in a smaller centre, but look for opportunities that are close to home and give athletes the best situation for academic success.