By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
They are a renowned leader in incorporating high-level sports into the school setting, but Louis-Riel high school is slowly earning recognition as a major player in producing high-achieving students as well.
“We’ve kind of become known as the ’sports school,’” signals principal Andréa Mathieu. “And 100%, we absolutely take pride in the success we’ve had, and that physical activity is synonymous with Louis-Riel. But there’s sometimes a perception that we must not be as strong an academic school, when in fact it’s the total opposite.”
The Fraser Institute independently ranks Louis-Riel among the top-10 French-language secondary schools in Ontario – in the 89th percentile out of all the province’s schools overall. That comes as no surprise to school staff – long-time believers in the correlation between athletic and academic success since their innovative sports-study program launched 15 years ago.
“There’s really no doubt about the link between a healthy body and a healthy mind,” highlights Grade 7/8 teacher Léo Dignard, whose students have a physical education period every day. “At our school, it’s all about finding the best balance between sports and academics. To keep their grades up while following their athletic passions.”
Louis-Riel’s exploratory sports program exposes middle school students to a wide range of sports and activities. The fundamentals of an active, healthy lifestyle are taught, enabling student-athletes to participate in physical activities with confidence, and build the foundation to pursue high-level training if desired.
“It’s a stream where students can explore less traditional sports, like rock climbing, for example,” explains Dignard, whose school can accommodate just about every activity under the sun thanks to the adjacent Dome Louis-Riel – home to a regulation soccer pitch, basketball/volleyball courts, a physiotherapy centre, weightroom, pole vaulting pit and North America’s only 400-metre indoor track.
The formula has produced piles of national team athletes and university sports scholarships, backed by a dedicated team of coaches, support staff and teachers who understand the commitments required in high-level sport. Likewise, the school also supports high-performing students with enrichment classes.
“There are activities available that allow everyone to push themselves to new personal heights,” adds Dignard, who teaches in the school’s brand-new 12-classroom intermediate wing. “That’s true for both sport and school here.”
The same applies for students’ attire as well. Louis-Riel is part of the exclusive Nike Team program, which is usually reserved for universities (and heavyweights like FC Barcelona and the Canadian and U.S. track-and-field teams). Nike provides world-class sportswear for Louis-Riel student-athletes, who also sport sharp black-and-red school uniforms when they’re in class.
“It’s very popular with our students and parents too,” indicates Mathieu. “No matter what your background is, everyone is equal here and everyone feels like they’re a part of the same family.
“It’s fun to see how excited the Grade 7s are when they first put on their Louis-Riel wear. We have a saying here: ’Once a Rebelle, Always a Rebelle’. It’s really special to see that school pride grow and grow and grow throughout their time with us.”