The study of sports academies: Impact upon students

Dr. Danny Balderson, a small town basketball star who led the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns to the national championships in 2000, is the only player in Pronghorn history to have his jersey retired.

Dr. Danny Balderson has been instrumental in helping to establish sports academies at schools throughout the region.

Today he instills in pre-service teachers his love of sports, and his philosophy that all children, regardless of circumstances, have the right to physical activity.

Balderson’s community spirit and commitment to inclusivity led naturally to his study of sports academies – schools offering sport-specific instruction as part of regular programming. Some academies begin as a way to keep students in school; others to keep schools from closing.

“They’re all different,” says Balderson. To gain context he visited ten academies throughout Western Canada. His findings so far reveal that academy students not only tend to remain in school, but they demonstrate greater dedication to all studies.

“School enrollments have increased,” says Balderson, “which means more teachers and possibly added programs and facilities all students can use.”

Educators also benefit. “When teachers who are passionate about a sport are invited to start a program, they’re engaged and invigorated,” he says.

Although initial outcomes are promising, Balderson plans to fully investigate the challenges academies face as well. Due to the nature of his research he has become recognized as an authority.

“I get a call every couple of weeks from someone starting an academy and wondering how,” he says.

He puts them in touch with comparable schools already operating and encourages academies to work together.

As an educator of future Physical Education teachers, it is imperative to Balderson that he remains involved with children. Sixteen years ago he created a summer basketball camp for youth. Today, the annual camps have mushroomed from 35 participants to more than 300. Balderson hopes to apply his organizational acumen to establishing a Western Canadian Academy Conference.

“Every academy is unique, but there are common elements,” he observes. “They have the same struggles.”

In the spirit of teamwork, Balderson wants to see academies unite, offering each other guidance and support.

For more information, visit:

Hanna Hockey Academy
Vauxhall Academy of Baseball
Westwind Equine Academy
Dr. Danny Balderson research website