High School's Summer Academy Combines Sports, Academics

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White Plains (N.Y.) High School has launched its inaugural Summer Sports Academy — a free program in which student-athletes can experience familiar strength and speed training, as well as refine their study skills and receive SAT and ACT prep.

As reported by The Journal News in White Plains, the Summer Sports Academy is open to all ages and all athletes of White Plains' teams. The program officially began after the Fourth of July weekend and initially had 100 participants signed up. It takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

"There's three different periods, three different classes and components — you have speed, strength and then the academic component," White Plains' assistant athletic director Mike Chappas said. "Every day the kids come in, they sign in and know where to go. They know which component they're starting at. It's about 43 minutes each session, so there's some time for transitions. They do their 43 minutes of academic ACT, SAT study skills, then they get their speed training, and then they come into the weight room and do their 43 minutes of strength training. It's similar to like a regular school day, just with three periods.

"This isn't something that they're forced to do, so the fact they're coming every single day again speaks to the program. They could easily say I don't want to go tomorrow, but they're coming and they are working hard."

Attendees receive strength training from coach Andre Crier of Velocity Sports Performance. Dom Zanot of Athletics Westchester leads the speed component, getting student-athletes running in the gym or outside on the field, when the weather permits. Grade Success Education founder Marc Hoberman provides instruction in the classroom for the academic portion of the program.

The White Plains Tigers Fans Committee also pitched in to provide water, snacks and fruit for attendees each day.

"We talked about how important it is that if you really want to have progress, you have to come as much as possible, and then we also talked with the kids that it's not a pick-and-choose program, it's a three-pronged program," White Plains football coach Mike Lindberg said, as reported by The Journal News. "If you're coming, you're going to do all three parts. We don't want people to just come and do the lifting, but not do the speed or the academics. They get put in groups and we have a rotation and go from one station to the other."

The Summer Sports Academy is a vision that athletic director Matt Cameron and the rest of the department had for several years. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily sidelined the idea, but through a collaborative effort between administrators, coaches and students, plus key funding from the White Plains Board of Education, it was finally able to get up and running this summer, according to Eugene Rapay of The Journal News.

"This was all free and just a great opportunity for all of us," said rising senior Jacob Lee, who is on White Plains' football and track teams. "We've definitely got our money's worth just from day one. Every single day, we work hard, learn hard and train hard, so we can get better in the future for ourselves."

According to Chappas, there are now approximately 170 registered students. New attendees may sign up ahead of time using Family ID. Walk-ins are also welcome, but they will have to register on site with their phones. The last day is scheduled for Aug. 11 to give some time to rest before the start of fall preseason practices, which begin Aug. 20.

"(My expectations) were surpassed," said rising sophomore Kayla Rhett, who runs track all year round. "I didn't expect it to be like this. I will say, I thought it was just the weight room and then, in the end, have academics. I didn't know we'd have speed training also. I do really like it a lot and how we're put in groups. I like the diversity and everything that we do. Every day, it's usually something different, and I like the group work we do."

Even the classroom work is a hit, as reported by Rapay. Underclassmen get an early introduction to standardized tests for college, but everyone receives valuable study, test-taking and time management skills that fit all age groups.

"They've responded a lot better than I would've in high school, because if you told me I'm getting academics in July, I'd say, 'Get lost,'" Hoberman said. "They're doing phenomenally well. They're receptive. I think the instruction is being delivered very well to them, in a fun manner. They don't see it as punishment. They see that it's helping.

"They're going to have a leg up. The average student loses 15 to 20% of their reading and writing ability over the summer. These kids aren't losing. They're gaining. I'm really anxious to see what happens out of the gate in September, when they're asked to do an essay and they start writing, reading well."

A survey will be sent out to participants to gain further insight and feedback, but between informal conversations and the uptick in registered students throughout, the summer has offered a promising foundation

"This is going to sound crazy, but everything is really working very smoothly," Chappas said. "We can see what we're doing going into next summer, but I think these are positive problems to have."

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