Sport school success

Word on the teenage street - well, Facebook actually - says that the new F.H. Collins "sport school" program is a roaring success.

Word on the teenage street – well, Facebook actually – says that the new F.H. Collins “sport school” program is a roaring success.

Current students seem to be very happy with the program, and the reputation of the program among non-participating students is strong. The inside news is that applications for next year are surging.

The program is based on the Canadian Sport School program developed in B.C. Students spend two blocks a day with the sport program and two blocks in regular classes. In sport school, the students do both athletic training and classroom learning about nutrition, fitness, healthy training and sports psychology. Many of these lectures are delivered by Yukon Olympians and other local sports experts.

Then they spend the other two blocks of the day nailing down the academic courses they need for graduation.

The program is open to both high-performance athletes in disciplines where the Yukon has a history of producing national level athletes, such as cross-country skiing and swimming, as well as other sports. F.H. Collins has also made sure the program is open to students who are struggling in regular school but are athletically inclined, even if they are not in a high-performance sport programs outside school.

The sport school program can be a powerful draw for students thinking of dropping out.

This kind of program wasn’t available when many Yukon News readers went to school, but it is part of a national trend towards high school programs that engage students better and offer a variety of life skills. I once visited a circus high school in Quebec City, where the students spent half the day in academic classes and half preparing for careers in Cirque de Soleil or similar professions.

Kudos to the F.H. Collins staff who created the program and stickhandled it through the many government meetings required to get approval and funding. Their initiative is now paying off for the young people in the program.

The program is currently only a pilot. Hopefully the government will continue to fund it. A survey of participants and their parents should be done and made public, so we can all see how successful the program is. It makes a good addition to options for Yukon students, in addition to the music and drama, outdoor education and experiential science programs already in existence at the Wood Street Centre.

Unfortunately, the sport school at F.H. Collins is not going to be helped by the plan for the new F.H. Collins. This includes destroying the Yukon’s only track and one of the school’s two soccer fields. The current F.H. also has a climbing wall and weight room which will be lost when the old school is ripped down. If a new francophone high school is also built on the site and also shares the new, smaller gym, then access to facilities will be an issue.

However, the new F.H. Collins plan also creates an opportunity. Wrapped in a new layer of insulation and some fresh paint, the old F.H. gym could become a dedicated centre for the sport school. This would give the school a large gym, climbing wall and weight room. The cafeteria and adjacent offices could be used for sports seminars and training.

The facility could be also be home base for other sports organizations that need consistent access to gym or indoor competition space for regular programs and sports camps. With a replaced track for Athletics Yukon on site, it could really be another sporting centre for our city.

There are in effect two competing visions for the future of F.H. Collins and the sport school. The announced government policy is to tear down the existing F.H. gym, eliminate the track, and have a smaller gym. This is the “think small” vision.

The “think big” vision is to build a strong sport school program with its own Wood Street-style facility in the old F.H. Collins.

We shall see which one the government chooses. I think I can guess which one current and future Yukon students would prefer.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. You can follow him on Channel 9’s Yukonomist show or Twitter