High school academies re-think phys ed

Wellington Secondary School will be starting up a baseball academy, while Woodlands Secondary School will add a beach volleyball academy.

Meaghan Hermans

Meaghan Hermans

High school was never like this.

Two new sports academies are being introduced in Nanaimo for 2013-14 after receiving school board approval on Wednesday. Wellington Secondary School will be starting up a baseball academy, while Woodlands Secondary School will add a beach volleyball academy.

“We’re trying to give schools an opportunity to build diversity in their programs … a diversity of experiences at schools rather than just the pencil, paper, whiteboard, chalkboard,” said Jamie Brennan, school board chairman.

Woodlands already has some expertise in sports academies, offering soccer and hockey.

“It provides us with another great opportunity for kids to pursue a passion in sport that they really enjoy,” said Dave Stupich, principal at Woodlands. “It’s going to be great for the kids at our school, it will be great in and around the district for students that want to pursue beach volleyball.”

The academies are P.E. alternatives, but both would involve trips off school grounds. Wellington’s baseball academy would utilize the school’s field and gym, but also Beban Park’s Centennial Building and artificial turf as well as Serauxmen Stadium. Woodlands’ beach volleyball athletes would travel to Bowen Park’s sand courts, although the school is also working with the City of Nanaimo’s parks and rec department on plans to build four beach volleyball courts at the back of the school.

“Kids are so excited, if we got courts, they’re already talking that they would be here all summer long, playing,” said Ryan Orton, one of the Woodlands teachers who will head the academy.

He said when he was a high school student, he had positive experiences and good coaches in volleyball and basketball.

“That brought me to the building every day and athletics shaped my life,” he said. “Not all kids love this but we want to allow the opportunity for the kids that this really is their attraction.”

Woodlands instructors have good relationships with other v-ball advocates such as Volleyball B.C. and Vancouver Island University athletics, so there would be opportunities for guest coaches.

Wellington has the support of Nanaimo’s baseball community and would team up with the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute college ball club on the academy.

Kerry Anderson, Wellington teacher, said in an e-mail interview that he’s ecstatic to get board approval.

“We can now move forward to bring [this] excellent opportunity for baseball enthusiasts in Nanaimo,” he said. “Combining education and a passion for baseball on a daily basis will fulfill students’ desire, and lead to future success on and off the field.”

Both academies are open to boys and girls. Anderson said he’s already hearing a lot of interest from students.

“Graduates have stated they wish the academy was established while they were at school,” he said.

There are additional costs to parents – the beach volleyball academy costs $600 and the baseball academy comes in at $550 – but there is no financial impact on the school district as a whole. Brennan said the cost to families is a concern, because even though subsidies are available, he said people are sometimes reluctant to ask for support.

The academy is an everyday part of the school schedule. The sports component goes three times a week and students will take their leadership or life skills classes with their academy peers, too. That’s a lot of beach volleyball, or a lot of baseball, but if the students bring interest and passion to school, then that’s a good thing, said Stupich.

“Kids that have that extra connection to the school are the ones that do well in the classroom, do well in the community, do well afterwards,” he said. “It’s another opportunity for kids to find that connection that will give them another reason for being at school.”

SPORTS SHORTS … There will be an information meeting on the beach volleyball academy April 9 at 7 p.m. at the Woodlands school library.