A smattering of baseball, a week or two of soccer, some badminton, track and maybe some square dancing – these are some of the sports you might be taught in a regular physical education course in high school.
But Maurice-Lapointe secondary school in Bridlewood is offering students a new choice with a Physical Activity and Health program (Activité Physique et Santé or APS). Instead of learning and playing many sports for short periods of time, the new program gives students in grades 9 to 12 the ability to focus on a single sport for an entire academic year.
The program, now in its second year, currently offers volleyball and hockey concentrations, but school administrators hope to add basketball and soccer next year.
The school is also able to accommodate elite athletes who train at a high level in other sports. They currently have individual athletes training in swimming, tennis and figure skating, said Daniel Bottiglia, the program’s co-ordinator. This is done by allowing these students to take part in online correspondence classes.
The program grew out of a need to provide greater physical education opportunities to Franco-Ontarian students in the city’s west end, said vice-principal Iftin Osman.
The program involves students taking regular classes in the morning and then a study period followed by a sports class in the afternoon.
For the hockey focus program, for example, students are on the ice twice a week, and in the classroom for the rest learning sports theory, workouts with Greco Fitness in Stittsville and classes on nutrition.
Guest speakers such as post secondary sports recruiters, elite athletes and others are also arranged.
The idea is to keep more kids active and out from behind a screen for longer, said Osman.
“We live in Kanata, it’s all about technology,” he said.
ndeed, the school already has an aviation and aerospace program for the tech side of things. But this program is meant to give athletically driven students a more balanced lifestyle.
To be permitted to take advantage of the program students must maintain a minimum 70 per cent grade average, and have certain requirements for conduct.
The idea is to show students “how to be professionals in their own sport,” said Osman.
It appears to be working, said Christine Carson, a mom with two teens in the APS program – one in volleyball and the other in hockey.
“This was like the perfect balance for their world,” she said.
Rather than her kids having to participate in various sports in a regular gym class, Carson said the ability to do what they are passionate about inspires them to want to go to school every day.
It has also fostered a greater respect between them and their teachers, she said. People such as Bottiglia are working hard to make the program a reality, but also get to coach the sports they are passionate about as well. This creates respect between student/athlete and coach/teacher, she said.
Empowering her kids to get to choose a sport they want to focus on is also part of the equation, she said.
“It’s just been a fantastic experience,” said Carson.
While the high school program may be about concentrating on one sport, the school has also developed a preparatory gym program for their Grade 7 and 8 students that exposes them to many more sports than a regular gym class would.
Members of this intermediate program attend bi-weekly outings where they try sports that can’t be performed in a regular gym or that require specialized training that a gym teacher might not have. These include rock climbing, fencing, mountain biking, karate and more.
When the school began the intermediate program, Bottiglia and others anticipated about 20 students would sign up. Instead 40 took the class, and the school anticipates 70 students will be enrolled next year.
“We’re extremely proud of our school and our program,” said Osman.
To find out more, the school is hosting an open house on May 5 at 6:30 p.m.