A program that allows hockey players to earn credits while training during part of the day and attending regular school programming for the rest is coming to Carlton Comprehensive High School in September.
On Monday, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division and Global Sport Academy Group announced a partnership that would bring a sport academy at Carlton this coming school year.
According to a press release, the program concept, which has had success in Alberta, is “designed to support the goals and dreams of student athletes while having them earn academic credits.”
The program will be the first of its kind in the province.
“It allows athletes to be able to, during their day, pursue their passion in sport,” said Mark Maloney, the CEO of Global Sport Academy Group.
“The program is integrated into the timetable for the athletes, and global becomes one course-option for the athletes.”
While the program has expanded in Alberta to include sports other than hockey, with golf, athletics and diving listed as some of the other options, it’s launching in Prince Albert with just hockey. There is talk, though, of expanding it down the road to other sports and possibly even arts programs.
“They’ve varied off into other places where the local interest or passion of the students in the community is quite high,” said Randy Emmerson, superintendent of schools with the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.
“If at some point we were to extend into the arts, into other sports, that would be based upon community demand.”
The program focuses on more than just hockey. It includes on-ice and off-ice training, mental health and wellness classes, community involvement and more as part of a leadership program.
“We created a roadmap built into your day where one block is called Global. In global, you get sessions every week. You get mental training, mental health and performance training, you get academic support — so tutoring and academic excellence are woven into the model” Maloney said.
“Then you get credited leadership training where they’re completing courses on leadership and the types of things that are really important in life, not just in sport.”
The time in school outside of the global programming block is spent in the general school population, Emmerson said. It’s inclusive and open to both male and female students. He added that the leadership element was one of the things he found appealing.
“We wanted to be sure that this wasn’t going to be something that would benefit just the kids that are in the academy,” he said.
“We see many spinoff effects that will occur within Carlton next year. Some of the training circuits setups, for example, can be used by future classes. But also it’s a group that has reached into the community and part of their leadership component has them needing to work with other students … so those students see the impact they have is more than just on the ice. They get a sense of perspective and awareness and can contribute to the growth within our school division.”
Maloney said that the leadership element is one of the things that sets his company’s program apart from other sport credit classes or other hockey-based academies, such as Prairie Hockey Academy in Caronport, Sask.
“There are lots of hockey programs, or hockey academies, or sports schools, and their mantra is ‘we build hockey players,’ but we build people,” Maloney said.
“We build athletes second, and then hockey players third. If you build a great person, and a great athlete, they’re going to become a great hockey player, or dancer or diver. But I think, too, many of these programs don’t address what’s most important, and that’s these kids graduating with great life skills and as leaders in their communities.”
While the first year will be limited to Prince Albert students, Emmerson said the hope is to expand it beyond then.
He cited Medicine Hat, Alta. as one place where the program has taken hold. That program was brought into place by former NHL coach and current WHL coach Willie Desjardins and has expanded into six rural communities.
Like in Medicine Hat, the local Major-Junior hockey team is closely related to this program. It originally came to Prince Albert not through Global Sport Academy Group or through Saskatchewan Rivers, but rather through the Prince Albert Raiders.
Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid’s son Zach is an alumnus of the program, and Raiders GM Curtis Hunt is the one who spoke at a Global Sport Academy event and sought to bring it to Prince Albert.
Maloney has P.A. ties too — he was the team’s senior advisor of player development and analytics for the past two years.
With the aim of launching the program in September, an information session is planned for March 12 at 7 p.m. at Carlton.
According to the Global Apost Academy Group website, student-athletes considered for the program go through a personal interview, academic review and possibly an athletic assessment. Maloney stressed that academic success is s a key part of the program.
Along with Maloney, Emmerson and Carlton Principal Jeff Court all insist that the program is about more than just developing good hockey players.
“What excites me is that it puts students first. Its focus is on the development of the person. They really stress those ideals of hard work, giving back, leadership and preparation and give the kids the tools to succeed through those ideals,” Court said.
“Obviously it has a hockey component to it. But a good chunk of what they’re going to be focusing on is helping these kids and mentoring these kids to be better people. As an educator, those are our ideals all of the time. We’re pretty excited about the opportunities moving forward.”
He added that the existing hockey credit courses will continue at Carlton after the program is launched.
Maloney said it’s that focus on the student that’s led to the program’s growth across 12 Alberta schools and now into Saskatchewan.
“Why is the program so successful? It’s because of the families and the people that we attract,” he said.
“These are good families that value education, value sport and value success in life. When you get those like-minded kids in class together, you can do some special things when you get that mindset. That’s why we’re so lucky because we get to work with extraordinary families that value all of the things that you … are ingredients for life.”