New academy up and running
A small school with a distinct vision adds itself to a growing list of high school winter sports academies. The Western Sports Academy (WSA) opened this fall in Midway. WSA is a small boarding school that targets high-level freestyle skiers and snowboarders, according to Graham Frey, founder and headmaster.
Students and staff are currently boarding at the Homestead Resort in Midway near Heber City. The Homestead also provides classroom space and some facilities for conditioning activities. Fifteen students are enrolled in the school. Students come from Malibu, New York, Sun Valley, Texas, Montana, Australia, Crested Butte, and other locations. Andy Coghlan, director of snowboarding said they expect the number of students to increase to 25 this winter.
Frey’s concept for the school is a small, boarding environment with 100 percent athletes. Mike Hanley, director of curriculum and freestyle ski coach, explained that the school turned down applicants because they are trying to keep numbers down so they can remain committed to their specific goal of an intimate environment for high-level athletes.
Reed Burdge is a snowboarder attending WSA. He said that enrolled in the school because he wanted to be part of something new and different. Also, he’s looking for a school that will grant him more flexibility to travel during the winter than the public school he was attending.
Coghlan thinks that WSA is different from similar academies because they aren’t conforming to the rigid academy model of the past, but they’re flexible and trying to give athletes what they need to succeed in these unique sports.
One example is the way athletes at WSA are getting in shape. Coghlan explained that the traditional workout model is supplemented with activities that improve the unique skill-set needed to succeed at sports such as freestyle skiing and snowboarding. These activities include mountain biking, visits to skate parks, use of Utah Olympic Park water ramp facilities, and workouts at Black Diamond Gymnastics.
One of the concerns mentioned by Jeff Heisler, manager of business development, is the location, which is 20 minutes out of Park City. The staff is responsible for transportation of students to and from Park City for training 6 days a week. WSA plans to move into classroom space in the Silver Summit area by mid October, but students will still be housed in Midway, explained Coughlan.
Coghlan said that one of the main reasons the academy opened in the Park City area is because of the legacy of winter sports in town. Park City Mountain Resort has, what Coghlan considers, one of the biggest and most well-maintained parks and half pipes found anywhere. One reason the resort’s park is world class is the lingering legacy of the 2002 Olympics, said Coghlan.
Hanley explained that about half the students at WSA came from Crested Butte Academy, which closed its doors last spring due to money reasons.
According to Hanley, very few students receive scholarships to help offset the $35,500 yearly tuition. Students pay additional prices for the 60 plus days of travel to competitions that Coghlan expects for their top-level athletes.
The school follows a hybrid classroom model, with some of the instruction coming from Internet classes, supplemented with classroom learning, explained Hanley. This model consists of eight to ten-week blocks of classes. During each block, students will only take two classes so they can focus on those subjects. WSA will only instruct students in core subjects.
Frey said that one of the most unique parts of the academic model at WSA is that
students won’t take classes from January through March so they can focus on traveling and competitions. They will, however, take part in a program Frey called Great Books, which will keep students reading a lot. During the rest of the school year, from September through June, students have four hours of academics balanced with four hours of athletics each day, explained Frey. WSA settled on this academic model after learning what worked and what didn’t at Crested Butte Academy, where Frey also served as headmaster.
Hanley said that the school was originally slated to open one year from now, but because of demand from students and parents they opened this year with only a small number of students.
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Court report: Week of June 22