The academy for student athlete development: The evolution of a sport school model in Ontario


Most Canadian provinces have experienced a dearth of economically and geographically feasible sport school models. As a result, student-athletes often make compromises that lead to failings in academics, social isolation, or diminished athletic pursuits. This research examined the experience of elite student-athletes participating in the Academy for Student Athlete Development (ASAD), and the evolution of this sport school model over two years. This program focuses on athletic, academic, and psychosocial development. A qualitative design employed semi-structured interviews with student-athletes participating in the ASAD program stream (n=9). Interpretive thematic analysis was used to analyze the data using the four domains of development framework: physical, intellectual, psychological/emotional, and social (NRCIM, 2002). Results are presented in these four areas: Physical (Performance-related benefits such as skill development, fitness, and overall health); Intellectual (Prioritization, time-management, and self-discipline were attributed to program structure and the cooperation of community and partners); Psychological/emotional (Sense of purpose, accomplishment, and belonging reported alongside intense pressure and threats to self-esteem); and Social (Flexible and enhanced social network responsive to student-athletes needs and schedules, but desire for increased personal connections). Results highlight the need for a flexible environment with dynamic supports to thrive athletically, academically, and psychosocially. Mapping results to the ASAD model, tangible areas for improvement in the subsequent year include changes to classroom structure, enhanced coaching to increase alignment between stakeholders, additional mental training, and dedicated time in student-athlete schedules for community engagement and relationship building. Further implications will be discussed in relation to the evolving ASAD model.