Striving for Olympic-level sports training with PacificSport Okanagan

Registration forum for PacificSport Okanagan school program Feb. 22

Kelowna snowboarder Tess Critchlow competed in the snowboard cross event at the Beijing Olympics. (Contributed)

A public forum will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, Feb. 22, about a program offering, student-athletes the chance to reach a higher performance level.

PacificSport Okanagan has begun to recruit registrants to enroll in the program’s 2022-23 school year, geared to students in Grades 10 to 12.

PacificOkanagan is one of five locations across B.C. that offer the Canadian Sport School athlete development program for high school students.

The student-athletes spend half their day at their regular school Monday to Thursday taking required academic courses, and half their day with the sports school which specifically transfers to graduation credits.

The first two years of the program places an emphasis on strength and conditioning, physical training and skill development, and overall athletic knowledge, with the Grade 12 year placing more emphasis on each individual’s specific sport interest goals.

Included in that is time set aside for daily independent study blocks to complete other school homework assignments, study time and online learning.

This year, the 11th for the program, saw 31 students registered, a slight uptake from previous years because of COVID-19’s impact on sports activities in general, says PacificSport Okanagan sports performance coordinator Jackie Lawther.

“We saw this year where athletes were looking for structure and stability because of how disruptive COVID was for many sports,” Lawther said.

PacificSports Okanagan is a legacy of the 1995 Western Canada Summer Games hosted by Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley, creating a not-for-profit regional sports hub to lead athlete, coach and community sport services.

It falls under the umbrella of a larger initiative launched nationally to identify and train athletes who possess skills that match with Olympic sports attributes, and here in the Central Okanagan it operates under a partnership with the Central Okanagan School District.

Lawther says the program, headquartered out of the Rutland Arena, uses local private facilities to work with the student-athletes, under the tutelage of headteacher Nathan Reiter.

The upcoming public forum will provide some ground rules for how applicant students are judged for entry in the program, which carries a $2,250 yearly tuition fee.

Lawther said they are looking for athletes with the proven drive and work ethic to succeed both in the classroom and in their chosen fields of sports endeavour.

“Ideally, we would like to bring in new registrants at the Grade 10 level and see them stay in the program for three years,” Lawther said.

In the bigger picture, Lawther said their program is a key step in allowing athletes in the Okanagan to not have to move to major cities elsewhere to gain world-class training.

That includes the chance to be a carded athlete, which opens up opportunities for funding and financial support through the Athlete Assistance Program.

Snowboard cross competitor Tess Critchlow is one example of a local program participant reaching the Olympic level. Another is Olympic track and field medallist sprinter Jerome Blake.

For more information about the program, check out the website or email Jackie Lawther at

To register for the forum, go to

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