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Peak Performance at a Glance: A Different Way to Learn

06/08/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Learn more about the lifestyle of Peak Performance athletes.

Part of the challenge athletes are faced with these days is combining everything they’re passionate about. That’s why sports academies like St. Thomas Aquinas and Sentinel are taking the challenge out of the equation at the school level, so students can become student-athletes.

Clint Thornton and I sat down with the staff and one parent a couple months ago to discuss the impact Peak Performance is having on the education experience.

Today, part 2. Read part 1 here.

Kelvin: Chris, what do you notice specific to the Peak kids when it comes to their demeanor throughout the year? Do they go through a lot of ups and downs because they’re so busy?

Chris: I think it depends on the kid. All kids differ so much. I had a swimmer who, a very good swimmer, who came to the Peak Program but his discipline wasn’t as strong as other students so you could see his marks dip. Especially in the mornings because he would swim in the morning and swim in the evening so it was difficult for him. It really varies from kid to kid, but for most I would agree with Meg and John, most of the kids who are in the program, 90% of them, what they’re learning is the time management skills. And it’s the most important thing and they’re generally good with school work and good with communicating with teachers and good with meeting all their commitments.

Meg: I think the quality of the kids in Peak Performance is very much in the upper echelon of our students here. They are really motivated. The motivation on the ice turns into motivation in the classroom as well. They have good skills overall and in general they are very hard working.

Kelvin: What a worthy thing to strive toward. That’s part of this, is we want our younger kids in our club to see what this community is doing. 

Meg: The carrot the parent is holding as well here, “if you don’t do well in your academics, we are going to pull you from the program” so maybe that’s part of their motivation to do well.

Cheryl: Absolutely and also the coaches too, they dangle the carrot when they’re on the ice and in the gym.

Meg: They’re surrounding themselves with people like that, positive energy.

Cheryl: Yeah, exactly. 

Chris: Clint, do you have access to marks as the kids come through?

Clint: Not yet, I’ve been in this position for five months now, that’s something I think is important as we move forward. We talk about this with our Midget program as well, we monitor the grades to make sure they’re not dropping. So it’s something that we are working towards at the club.

Cheryl: Ryan’s coach, Neil Stephenson-Moore, he’s an excellent who told the team at the start of the season, “I want to see your report card”. It was one of those things they had to produce to him.

Clint: And some individual coaches do do that. I’d like to see it club-wide. 

Cheryl: It’s just good to stay on top of it so they don’t fall behind.

Kelvin: Clint, how do you measure the kids throughout the year on the ice? We’re not giving out grades for the best slap shot and things like that, so how do you know they’re getting a worthwhile experience out of the Peak Program?

Clint: I just think it’s the time on the ice that they spend with the instructor, that’s the reward. It’s what I find with most of our Peak kids, they always bring a certain work ethic to the ice. The kids applying for Peak Performance aren’t the ones that are like, hey, I get to get out of school and go to the hockey rink. Generally it’s the ones who are looking to reach that next level of hockey and how we judge that is to see them grow and see them move on to the different levels as they try and achieve the next level of competition. I think that’s how you would grade them. 

Kelvin: It’s definitely a lifestyle. Ryan could be on the ice 10 times a week and that’s time putting your skates on, taping your stick and that’s why I ask about complacency. It’s all about building habits like doing their homework and then just doing the skills the way we ask, performing different little things like taking passes on your backhand when you’re supposed to. We’re not barking at them for an hour and a half every afternoon working them to the bone. We want them to build those habits so it’s awesome to hear they’re getting the same message at school. It’s a long year for everybody. Administrators, coaches, parents and players alike.

Clint: We do offer other programs at the club as well. Some of them take part in it, some of them have their own programs. But Peak runs all year.

Meg: Do they get a break at spring break and Christmas?

Clint: It depends on the team. We give them a break in Peak over spring break and Christmas. I’m a strong believer in that players do need to take some time off away from the rink. We’ve had this conversation many times about multi-sport athletes, and playing other sports, not just hockey. But of course hockey’s gone the way that it limits their ability to take part in other sports. But if they have a chance in the spring time to play baseball or something else, I believe it’s a good thing. 

Kelvin: One of our goalie instructors always says that his goalies need to play baseball because they learn hand-eye coordination. He said he learned how to catch the puck by playing baseball when he was, you know, 9, 10 years old. These days if you get a team of midget players trying to play baseball or trying to play basketball, you’ll probably want to shield your eyes because it can be pretty tough to watch. 

John, can you describe the community here?  There are different kids in different programs together in the morning and then they scatter in the afternoons. What’s the vibe like when they’re all together?

John: We have a very diverse school ok. The kids are kids regardless of their sport and regardless of their grade. We’ve got very few problems here. The kids all relatively get along very well together, it’s just a big happy family. They like having some down time just so they can talk and hang out at. At lunch time they get together and we have the intramural program here, they get involved in that, others like to go up and eat their lunches in the stands there and watch the games. So they enjoy the down time. It is a rigorous academic program that we have here so they do enjoy that time with their friends and just being kids.

Kelvin: Fun place to come to school then.

John: Yeah, yeah.

Cheryl: Ryan loves it. Ryan just loves it. I can contest to that.

Chris: We’re a school of 600. In the community there will be practices in the gym from the early morning to late at night during the different seasons. We have a vibrant drama program, we have a pipe band program, we have extracurricular jazz band. 

Chris: Choir in the morning. We encourage all the kids to try new things to get involved in something in the school. It helps build that school community. A lot of kids like John said, they want to do it all, they want to be in the band, they want to be anything that comes up they want to go and be part of it. Which is a really good problem to have.

There’s really nothing our students can’t do, it’s inspiring every day to come to work.

Kelvin: It’s representative of trying to create multi layered, well-rounded people first and athletes and musicians and everything else afterwards. The school as a whole is representative of that.

John: We pride ourselves on teaching the whole person. Spiritually, all the way down to physically to academically, mentally, all of those types of aspects. Once they come out of here they hopefully have a sense of caring for others in addition to the academics that they’ve learned.

Meg: We also have a program where students can take their first level of university courses in calculus, English and so on.

Kelvin: Where was I when that came into play?

John: You were playing hockey.

Kelvin: I was busy playing hockey and not doing my homework.

Next time in our roundtable, we talk about the elements that need to be weighed before you join any program, not just Peak Performance. 


photo credit: Afghan High School Class of 2015 via photopin (license)

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