The USSA TEAM Academy has opened its doors for a second year with increased enrollment and added staff. (Photo: Sarah Brunson/USSA)
PARK CITY, UT (Sep. 10) – For most teenagers, August and September are filled with a mix of anticipation and anxiety as another school year begins. For the students of the USSA TEAM Academy, though, the thought of starting a new school year was a relief.
“Last year, I was unbelievably nervous and didn’t know what to expect,” sophomore and alpine athlete Storm Klomhaus said, “But this year, I knew exactly what to expect and it was fun to see everyone and catch up.”
The USSA TEAM Academy opened its doors in August 2012 to a group of elite skiers and snowboarders. In May 2013, it graduated its first students, four freestyle and freeskiing athletes. It offers student athletes an alternative to traditional public schools and snowsports academies with its blended learning program consisting of both traditional classroom education and Advanced Academics online classes.
“I was in public school and then I went to online school on my own and I didn’t have anyone to help me,” junior and alpine athlete Isabella Wright said, “Coming here and having a totally different school program that works with our skiing is just a great benefit to our sport. You can set your own pace but you still have online teachers to help you and you have live teachers here at the Center of Excellence. It’s nice to have both.”
Both Wright and Klomhaus were part of the Academy’s opening class. During the Academy’s inaugural semester, it enrolled 22 students, with one teacher in the classroom to help them. For its second year, it has increased enrollment to 27 and added a second teacher. While the majority of TEAM Academy students participate in the program at the Center of Excellence in Park City, UT, some students also participate from the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center.
Regardless of which campus they are at, though, students have been very enthusiastic about having a classroom experience that works with their athletic careers.
“They’re not really normal friendships that we form at TEAM Academy because we’re teammates,” alpine athlete Delilah Cupp said, “It’s a deeper relationship. We all support each other.”
“People think you miss out on the classroom experience because of the online learning, but it’s still school,” Klomhaus said, “We have classes where we all sit down together and talk and read. We have papers we have to write for Elaine [Peterson, a TEAM Academy teacher] and not just for our online teachers. We have a SAT/ACT prep course. It’s really the best of both worlds.”
Despite the curriculum’s flexibility, the students stressed that flexible schedules do not make for easy classes.
“It is challenging,” freestyle skier Ryan McElmon, who transferred to the Academy from a public school in Massachusetts, said, “It’s not like you come in here and breeze through things—it’s real school. People sometimes think online school is just a joke, but you have to work. Try to balance skiing and school—it’s not easy. Everyone thinks we have these mellowed out lives, but it’s not like that at all. We’re 100 percent go-go-go all the time.”
Often, the students balance a heavier workload than students at traditional schools due to their schedules. In order to let students focus solely on athletics while training or competing, the TEAM Academy staff helps students squeeze in more work when they are at home.
“We’re all working so hard on our classes to try to get as much done before we leave for Colorado in five weeks,” alpine athlete Megan McGrew said, “When you’re in Colorado for training and you’re skiing all the time, it’s impossible to get work done. We have the ability to get so much done right now and not have as much during the winter when we’re really busy.”
The staff is confident about the student athletes, as well. In the Academy’s inaugural year, students experienced victory at every level from NorAm events to World Cups and the X Games. Headmaster Dan Kemp is confident that these student athletes will continue to see great results.
“Going into the second year of TEAM Academy gives us a lot of excitement and a lot of energy because we have the successes of the first year,” Kemp said, “We saw that this is successful in helping students be the Best in the World in both the academic realm and the athletic realm. We are motivated to top those successes and support our student-athletes to the best of our ability.”