Peter Crosby remembers Paris District High School before the Hockey Canada Skills Academy arrived in 2005.
He remembers the so-called ‘problem’ students, and the low self-esteem of local players who weren’t at the skill levels they hoped to be at.
Crosby looks at Paris District High School today, and it is like night and day.
“It has been huge to have the Hockey Canada program here,” says Crosby, who operates the academy in Paris, ON, about 80 kilometres outside of London. “It has had fantastic results on the school, and on relations with the community.”
In the three years since the academy began in Paris, enrollment has grown from 19 in the first year to 82 for the 2007-08 season – 60 boys and 22 girls from Grades 9 to 12.
And Paris is far from alone when it comes to Hockey Canada Skills Academy success stories.
The academy program has grown to include 79 schools from coast to coast to coast, from Alberni District Secondary School in Port Alberni, BC to St. Bonaventure’s College in St. John’s, NL to Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, NU.
“The growth of the academy program has been fantastic,” says Paul Carson, Hockey Canada’s director of development. “The program has been in place since the 2000-01 season, and has continued to get bigger and better every year. We are very excited to see what the future holds.”
At the 1999 Open Ice Summit, 11 recommendations were tabled. Recommendation number 10 directed Hockey Canada to: “promote cooperative efforts between school boards, local hockey associations and sponsors, to better utilize ice times and school facilities and move towards development of sport schools.”
Out of that recommendation, the Hockey Canada Skills Academy was born.
With the student-athlete as the centre of developmental attention, the program is a joint project, involving the Hockey Canada Skills Academy, the school and the local minor hockey association.
The goal is to enhance a hockey student's confidence, individual playing skills, self-esteem and opportunities in both academics and athletics beyond the primary and secondary school system, while making efficient use of arena facilities during school day hours.
“To put it simply, we want to give the player the best of both worlds, from a hockey point of view and an educational point of view,” Carson says. “It sounds cliché, but we want them to be the best they can be, at everything they do.”
According to Crosby, that is exactly what is occurring in Paris, thanks to the Hockey Canada Skills Academy.
“I have seen huge changes in the self-esteem in student-athletes as their skill level improves, and in the respect shown to other students, as well as to staff,” he says. “There are a lot of examples of students who are becoming model citizens because they are involved in a course of immediate value to them. It gives students something to really look forward to and helps them concentrate on school.”
To find information on a Hockey Canada Skills Academy in your area, or to find out how to bring a Hockey Canada Skills Academy to your school, visit the Minor Hockey section at www.hockeycanada.ca.