Just ask Luke Bodensteiner, executive vice president of athletics for USSA.
"Your traditional school is a bunch of classrooms and a bunch of teachers for different age groups," he said. "That's a pretty daunting process to put that thing together."
Nevertheless, the notion of bringing a full-fledged school to the third floor of the Center of Excellence is now a reality. The USSA TEAM (Total Educational and Athletic Model) Academy, a private accredited high school academy, is slated to open its doors to roughly 20 student-athletes on Aug. 27, nearly 18 months after the plans were officially set in motion.
"We have all these new sports that have a much younger athlete population," Bodensteiner explained, pointing out that a multitude of freestyle and freeskiing sports have been recently brought under the USSA umbrella. "In our already existing sports, particularly alpine and freestyle, we're driving our development pipelines deeper in age. In the past, we've had maybe a handful of high-school-age kids each year. In the next three years, we'll have up to 30 kids who are high-school age. The programs we put in front of these kids are getting tougher and tougher. We are dealing with a pretty significant roadblock for these kids trying to get through high school."
Enter Dan Kemp.
Kemp has spent time helping a number of local charter and private schools get off the ground. He was part of the initial formation of the Oakley School as well as Wasatch Academy in the central Utah town of Mount Pleasant.
Describing himself as someone who loves sports, loves athletes and "tremendously loves skiing," Kemp also promises to bring a staunch approach to the academic side of things at the USSA TEAM Academy.
That makes sense, considering he has been named the headmaster of the school.
"This came about truly as an academic opportunity and an academic solution for our athletes," he said. "Some student-athletes are left with online schools, public schools, private schools and, obviously, their academics have suffered slightly. It's been difficult for the athletes and their families to be successful in the past. We have a great athletic pipeline from high-school-aged athletes, and student-athletes are only getting younger. We have A-team and B-team status athletes competing on international stages who still need to complete their high school curriculum."
The academy, which will target some of USSA's top high-school-age athletes, will not be driven by a series of bells, nor will there be a mandatory attendance policy.
What there will be, however, is flexibility.
Within the friendly confines of the Center of Excellence, student-athletes will be able to simply walk down a flight of stairs to go train with coaches, work on their physical therapy and sports sciences, and walk back to the classroom when they're done.
So who are among the lucky 20-or-so athletes included in the inaugural year?
"Named national team USSA athletes," Kemp said. "Kids are invited. Some athletes have said, 'This works out perfectly, this is what we're looking for.' This just provides another academic option. Park City High School is an amazing high school, the Winter Sports School is an amazing school -- this provides another academic opportunity."
Unlike the April-to-November schedule of the Winter Sports School, the academy will be on a traditional August-to-June school year. The academy will host the nation's top high-school-age athletes in sports ranging from freeskiing, snowboarding to alpine skiing and so on.
"It will be a blended learning environment where athletes can take academic learning with them as travel requires," Kemp said. "They'll have access to an interactive whiteboard and access to a teacher 24 hours a day, five days a week. They can be in Italy, have a question on their homework, and capture that teaching moment by tapping a 'talk to a teacher button' and their screen becomes an interactive whiteboard with a teacher."
There will be more than 70 classes offered each year, including foreign-language classes and even 10 advanced-placement classes, according to Kemp. More impressively, there will be upwards of 60 state-certified teachers to help students at various times through the Web-based learning program.
"It's truly an environment where it's inquiry-based," Kemp said. "They're getting very targeted learning and pinpoint, accurate work with the teacher."
Bodensteiner said USSA recently took a poll of a number of high-school aged athletes involved with the association and realized many were struggling with the rigors of worldwide travel, competition, training and burying their heads in books.
"We really looked at different schools and different education methodologies," he explained. "This was the best and we found one that was really effective. Now we're pulling the trigger and doing it."
He said he and his team at USSA consulted a number of sporting organizations, including USA Tennis and USA Hockey, to get a feel for what hosting a full-time academy would be like. Dennis Keller, who is a co-founder of DeVry University, an online and classroom-based college, sits on the USSA Board of Trustees and helped Bodensteiner and Co. form the academy and its exceptional curriculum.
"What we're doing is not totally unique," he said. "But, at first, I went into this thing blind, I'll tell you that. During the first part of planning, I had no clue how to put this school together. It's helpful to know where the pitfalls are and be able to avoid those on the front end."
Kemp said USSA is still searching for host families for student-athletes who will be living in Park City on a full-time basis starting in the coming weeks.
"We feel like it's a fantastic opportunity for the local community to be involved and have a pre-Olympic student in their home," he said.
With the computers at the USSA TEAM Academy slated to boot up in a couple weeks, Kemp reiterated that the goal is, like most athletes say, to never stop improving.
"The development of a high school or a private accredited academy is not easy," he said. "It has obviously taken a tremendous amount of work and effort and we have to continue to give it."
For more information on how to become a host family, e-mail Dan Kemp at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (435) 647-2084.