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Young Yellowknife athletes get new ‘sports school’

Yellowknife’s young athletes can now dedicate school time to pursuing excellence in sports.

High school students at Sir John Franklin are being offered a new option – “Sports School” – alongside their usual choices for the next academic year.

Students admitted into Sports School will spend up to 25 percent of their school day working on strength, endurance and coordination.

Dean MacInnis, vice principal at Sir John Franklin, says the aim is to improve students’ basic athleticism. As a consequence, he hopes coaches outside the school can spend more time focusing on specialist skills in individual sports.

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“It gives them that much more opportunity, when they’re actually performing or being coached in a high-performance sport, to focus on the skills side of it, the technical side, the strategic side. We want to really support the coaches out there,” MacInnis told Moose FM.

“Talking to some NWT athletes, they hear of the things we’re trying to do and they can’t imagine it.

“[Speed skater] Jill Gilday, just the other day, said: ‘I can’t imagine having the opportunity to do that in school, so then when it came time to practise, I really could focus more on the skill set and strategic side of the sport.’

“It’s an opportunity for kids to take their athleticism from one level to the next, and they can make that happen during the day.”

More information: École Sir John Franklin High School website

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MacInnis briefed parents on the new option at an information session on Monday evening.

Students have until the end of the week to express their interest in signing up for Sports School.

However, teaching staff point out that the option is designed to serve students who already consider themselves to be athletes of some description.

“It’s targeted towards kids who are in athletics right now. You need some support from your coach. You need to be a part of some territorial sports organization of some sort,” MacInnis told parents.

“Right now, it is wide open. We will accept athletes from any sport, of any type – as long as everybody understands this is not a regular phys ed class, this is not a regular fitness class. This is at a much higher level.”

The potential impact on academic results was a concern of parents attending Monday’s session.

Sports School is partly modelled on a similar, successful initiative introduced at FH Collins School in Whitehorse.

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Evelyne Straker, who is helping to coordinate the program, says both sporting and academic achievement in Whitehorse has since improved.

“At FH Collins, they had statistics where their students’ grades actually increased. They became better students, their attendance was better,” Straker told Moose FM.

“It does something to your brain and to your physicality where you start that in the morning and it translates into your whole day.”

‘Rec hockey or the NHL, it doesn’t matter’

Strength training offered by the program will focus on core strength, power and agility.

Endurance training features conditioning, speed training and sprinting. “Sprinting will be very key in this,” said MacInnis.

Coordination training focuses on form, flexibility and range of motion.

MacInnis said the ultimate goal of the program is to improve students’ enjoyment of sports – but that hasn’t stopped him dreaming of a Sports School graduate on the Olympic podium.

“I’d love to say, ‘We have this young man representing Canada at the Olympic Games and he went to our high school in this program.’ I’d be ecstatic. But that’s not the be all and end all, absolutely not,” said MacInnis.

“The reality is, first and foremost, if we can get that passion for sports that they participate in it lifelong.

“Whether they play YK rec hockey or make it to NHL, really it doesn’t matter, as long as they’re getting something out of it and feeling good.”

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