92.9 F
San Fernando
Thursday, May 26, 2022

Early Athletes

Future Elite Academy trained 68 student-athletes in its first 10-month program after opening its doors in September.

Next season, the private athletic academy for seventh and eighth graders will have 125 students at its flagship location in Westlake Village. Over the next five years, Chief Executive Brett Harrison and President Jeff McCann hope to expand to 15 locations across the country, recruiting and training the next generation of athletes.

“We are looking at expanding into Inglewood and Corona as our next moves, and then the ultimate expansion plans are into Nashville, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami,” Harrison said.

The first Future Elite Academy, where Harrison’s own son is currently enrolled, is working on developing a partnership with the Los Angeles Rams to create a pipeline of highly trained athletes in the region. Subsequent locations will develop partnerships with local professional teams to offer scholarships for students.

The academy boasts a 12,000-square-foot training facility designed to rival the amenities provided at Division I universities, complete with a specialized gym layout, athletes lounge, recovery center, barber shop and recording studio — where students can mix their own music and Harrison plans to soon launch a podcast promoting the business.

The academic building, located across the street from the gym, has study rooms and credentialed teachers to tutor students as they navigate independent programs offered by Enlightium Academy, an accredited Christian online education program. Students spend four hours a day studying and two hours a day training for their sport, individually and in small groups.

Staff at the facility are trained in various performance techniques and boast extensive connections to NFL and NBA athletes. While the academy provides specialized training for lacrosse, soccer, baseball and softball, football is overwhelmingly the most popular sport students train for — and the school’s win record for their first year shows the training pays off.

“We’ve won nine titles in the last year in seven-on-seven football for our kids who went to school here and we’ve got a national championship in three weeks. We’re playing in Texas Stadium, Dallas Cowboys Stadium,” Harrison said. “This is not the typical junior high experience.”Tuition, scholarshipsThis year, each of the academy’s students received a full scholarship for the ordinarily $25,000 tuition, funded by Harrison and several business partners as part of the initial startup cost to open the facility. Tuition for the middle school athletes is comparable to private high schools such as Chaminade College Preparatory in West Hills ($20,695) and Oaks Christian School in Thousand Oaks ($35,675), which are known for their football programs.

This year’s scholarship recipients included local students as well as athletes from Palmdale, Inglewood and Compton who were selected by the Los Angeles nonprofit Frampton Foundation. Next year, the academy will partner with F.O.E.S.U.P, the nonprofit arm of Santa Clarita Valley training program Formula4Speed Athletics, to develop and mentor student athletes for scholarships, though fewer spaces will be available.   Harrison, a former real estate executive and entrepreneur, sees the initial expense as an investment in a promising business as more parents demand specialty education for their children. He chose to open the academy directed at middle schoolers after recognizing training trends starting at younger ages and the push from parents to enroll their students in more rigorous extracurricular activities. Having originally planned to open the school in November 2019, he said the coronavirus only underscored how much demand there will be. While the pandemic led to construction delays and changes in safety protocols, he said it also drove more students to the academy while public schools were closed and parents were seeking in-person solutions.

Students at the academy are primarily eighth graders and eighth grade “holdbacks,” who have — for academic, social or, frequently, athletic reasons — chosen to repeat the year prior to entering high school. Seventh graders are also welcome to attend and the facility may extend to full middle grade offerings in the coming years.

The holdback students, being a year older, often perform in their sport far better after the repeated year, building strength and speed through the intense coaching at the academy. Students from the first cohort are now moving on to local high schools and academies including Sierra Canyon School, Oaks Christian and Chaminade.

“We normally spend new players’ first summer teaching Olympic weightlifting technique with a PVS stick, then with a bar. This year we got four incoming freshmen who already had a base understanding of the technique. They were able to fit in with our upperclassmen from the start. They came prepared,” Ed Croson, head coach at Chaminade, said of recent recruits. “All four, from the Future Elite Academy, had been trained by their talented sports performance staff. … It was easy to tell the difference.”Part of the difference, according to McCann, who spent years as a public school teacher, is in the mentality promoted by the program. The academy focuses on developing resilience and grit, as well as entrepreneurial skills for the young athletes, who might otherwise not have access to as many resources or be tempted to gang affiliation. In addition to traditional mathematics and English coursework, the academy offers lessons on using social media appropriately, business skills and more.“We’re looking at trying to get the kids prepared for the Division I lifestyle. Being a Division I coach, you travel around the country, you’re in the airport, we’re all in our university suits,” McCann said. “And that was a trait of that level, that experience, so, we’re re-creating that for the junior high kid. They’re traveling the country. They are wearing their gear, they’re doing their homework on the plane. They’re experiencing that Division I life as an eighth grader.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles