By Ottawa Sportspage, For École secondaire publique Louis-Riel
Jean-Robert Léger has a job that simply doesn’t exist at just about every other school in Canada. “JR” is the strength coach at Louis-Riel high school, and his role is emblematic of a sports-study program that goes way above and beyond what’s offered in the classic scholastic setting.
“I think the kids are so fortunate to be in a program like this, signals Léger. “It’s unbelievable.”
When students begin working with JR in Grade 9, it’s all about teaching the proper mechanics of phys- ical training, not lifting big weights.
“We want to make the kids stronger, jump higher, move faster, but we don’t cheat the kids here,” Léger underlines. “We don’t skip any steps. ‘This is what you need to learn. Until you learn it, we’re not going to increase the load.’”
The program becomes more complex in Grade 10 and beyond, and becomes tailored to improve each athlete individually in their chosen sport. The plan takes into account periodization throughout the year to match competition schedules and peak performance periods along with rest and recovery.
A private trainer outside school/in the summer, JR loves the variety in helping athletes for many different sports, and thrives on the energy that permeates the Dome LR – a first-class facility with a complete weight room, Canada’s only 400-metre indoor track, a gym floor, a full-size turf field and a physio clinic.
Many Olympians and professional athletes train at the Dome, and just about any east-end hockey player who’s made it to the pros in recent years has worked with JR – among them: the New York Islanders’ Alan Quine, Belleville/Ottawa Senators player Michael Blunden, and brothers/Louis-Riel grads Alex and Erik Gudbranson of the Toronto Marlies and Vancouver Canucks.
But the highly-certified University of Ottawa kinesiology grad isn’t the only one involved in the sports-études program with that kind of pedigree. Others are coaches for Team Canada on top of the Louis-Riel Rebelles, for example.
“We have athletic therapists involved, psychologists, nutritionists. Every teacher in the program is a specialist in their field,” Léger highlights. “And what those teachers do with those kids outside of their sport – helping them with their schoolwork after school, talking to them all the time – they’re very fortunate to have this in a school.”
JR calls himself a “strict trainer” who demands a lot from his student-athletes.
“The reason I’m strict is I want to teach the kids good values,” explains Léger, noting respect, intensity (not just in physical training, but also mental focus), and punctuality are traits that will serve students well in all aspects of life, not just sport. “It’s not only about training athletes here.”
Now 22 years into his career, JR still carries as much passion and love for physical training as ever.
“Every day when I get up, it’s not a job to me,” adds Léger. “Seeing a kid able to perform at another level, to me that’s the greatest joy and the biggest reward.”