NAX Academic Testimonials

As per the CSSHL League Mission Statement, the goal of academy teams such as Northern Alberta Xtreme is “to be National Leaders in Education-Based Hockey.” As well, NAX’s mission is to provide a supportive learning environment that strives for excellence in academics and athletics.

“Hockey seemed to be the only sport that was not mixed with the school level. Basketball, football, volleyball, and soccer were all mixed, but hockey was not. The CSSHL has changed that,” said Tyrel Spitzer, Head of Hockey Operations.

“With the uniquely structured academics and learned time management skills, the student athlete has the opportunity to chase their goals without compromising their education,” reads the CSSHL website.

NAX student athletes attend John Maland High School (Recognized as an official SAT Test Writing Center) and Riverview Middle School, where they focus on meeting the Alberta Curriculum requirements. The ice time is integrated into the school day, and serves to earn the student athletes their grade level Physical Education as well as Health (Junior High Students) or CTS (High school students) credits.

To ensure education does not get pushed to the background, NAX employs an Academic Director, Paula Smith, who works to ensure that both the long-term and short-term academic planning for our student-athletes is properly organized. With the continued commitment to make academics a priority, NAX provides teachers on most road trips to help facilitate missed content, proctor exams or quizzes as needed, as well as to ensure scheduled study hall sessions are available and productive.

Below are some academical testimonials of former and current players and parents.

Alexa McMillan Former NAX Defenseman

Alexa McMillan, Former NAX Defenseman

I was in the Northern Alberta Xtreme program for three years from grade 10 to grade 12. Prior to coming to NAX I was in French Immersion, so the transition from French to English was something that I had to overcome.

I feel that I was very well supported in my academics at NAX because I had many resources to help me out between Paula Smith, the staff at John Maland High School and my coaches. Paula was the main link between the school and the coaches, ensuring that everyone was always on the same page. Having the coaches in class on Friday mornings also helped encourage communication.

Before leaving for a trip we had our teachers fill out a sheet of what we would be missing, which was then verified by Paula. Occasionally, she would proctor exams for us on the road, and otherwise we would make up exams during lunch, in class, or after school upon our return. Marks are updated on PowerSchool regularly, which are available to Paula, each player and their parents.

When I joined the program, one of the things that appealed to me was the combination of school and hockey. With school and hockey being combined, I was able to earn credits for my training. Moreover, I would have more time in the evening to do my schoolwork because I was not having late night practices like I would with a regular team. I think that the biggest difference for me compared to previous schooling was going to school with my teammates. As players going to school together we were able to lean on each other for support.

I think that my academic interests and abilities remained high during my time at NAX because the program helped to support me.

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Saint Mary’s University on a hockey scholarship. I feel that the academic system at NAX was instrumental in my preparation for University and has been an integral part of my academic success. The combination of school and hockey forces time-management and teaches players how to balance academics and athletics. Missing class for travel was challenging, but I think that it has made the transition to be a university level student-athlete smoother. I learned how to manage my time and get work done on the road, skills which I have continued to apply now in University.

I am very grateful for my time at NAX and feel that it has significantly contributed to my academic success, and development as a person. John Maland High School is a great environment and the staff are committed to helping players academically.

Lucas Arbour-Neagoe, Former NAX Defenseman

Lucas Arbour-Neagoe, Former NAX Defenseman

I played at Northern Alberta Xtreme academy for two years during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons.

Academically NAX has a definite edge because of the ability to have both your studies and hockey joined under one program.

At first, I was nervous about juggling the amount of school I would be missing for showcase weekends but the approach NAX has taken towards academics make it very doable. Paula Smith as academic director works with all players to ensure that the academic side of NAX is up to par with the hockey component. The teachers at school are also very familiar with the situation every NAX player is in and as long as you work with them, they will work with you. Speaking to a teacher before leaving on a trip and understanding what will be missed and completing those tasks ensures that the player is always on top of his studies. When on the road, Paula also organized study periods during down times to allow adequate time to complete the tasks assigned by teachers. Any exams the players miss is done during these times. I appreciated these times because it allowed me to complete the work I needed to and ensure I did not fall behind upon returning to school the following Monday. These study times kept the course load manageable. While it is not easy, if you put in the effort it is doable. The fact that NAX and the teachers have my studies as a top priority helped me to realize my academic goals over the course of the two years I played for NAX.

I will be attending the University of Alberta starting in the 2018-2019 year pursuing a degree in Finance and I credit my two years at NAX with teaching me many skills that I will use going forward. Time management, organization and work ethic are skills I acquired and improved over my time with NAX. No player stepping into the NAX program should be worried about the academic side as it is put together with your success in mind.

Danielle and Mike Arbour-Neagoe, Parents of Lucas Arbour-Neagoe

Our son Lucas played for the Northern Alberta Xtreme during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.

The academic program was an integral part of why, as a family, we choose to join NAX. The NAX academic program was excellent in supporting our son achieve honors in both grade 10 and 11 while playing top-tier hockey.

The expectations of the NAX academic program to achieve the student’s individual level of ability continued to enforce time management and discipline while meeting athletic requirements. The students were well supported but were still expected to develop independent learning skills which is critical for learning at Post Secondary level.

The largest concern we had when joining NAX was the travel commitments which resulted in time away from classroom instruction. This is where the academic director Paula Smith went above and beyond ensuring all homework was completed, exams written on the road if required, and provided tutoring when necessary. At the beginning of the school year Paula clearly stated the expectations that all class work was to be completed on time, regardless of hockey commitments. Paula also established an understanding with the teaching staff for make-up exams, so all parties were clear on a process to be followed during the school year and hockey season. The efforts made by Paula to provide this organized format on the onset was invaluable to provide structure for the student-athletes. Paula had our son’s best academic interest at heart, NAX is extremely fortunate to have such an academic advisor who takes the time to get to know the student-athletes and develop academic targets based on each individual student ability. She took the time to get to know our son and challenged him to meet academic targets while providing the support needed to achieve the targets. She routinely held tutorial sessions for the students when mid-terms/finals were approaching in addition to always having her classroom open for the students to drop by and get help.

Feedback from coaches was scheduled and frequent to provide progress reports. The coaches and Paula also made themselves available when requested outside of normal parent/coach sessions. Paula was in frequent contact with us and always addressed our communication promptly whether by phone, text, or email.

Because our son was strong academically I believe it benefitted him to learn how to manage academic requirements outside of the normal classroom routine. It strengthened his time management skills and promoted independent learning. Thru elementary and junior high Lucas excelled academically and he was able to maintain the honors standing in Grade 10 and 11 while part of the NAX program which involved significant hours on the ice and travelling. That in itself provided strong life skills.

Our son excelled when he was challenged and NAX provided a challenging environment from both an academic and athletic focus.

Nick and Ethan Leyer NAX Players

Karen Leyer, Parent of Nick and Ethan Leyer

I had two sons attend the Northern Alberta Xtreme program. My oldest Nick spent the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons with NAX, while Ethan attended for the 2017/18 season.

Academic director, Paula Smith, is the biggest asset to the program. She understands the importance of the academics while balancing the schedule. The communication, the follow-ups the planning that goes into making sure our sons were going to have success academically was invaluable. Communication is open door. Any questions were addressed immediately.

Obviously, there will be school hours missed for hockey but the thing that sets NAX apart is the planning and preparation that goes into the study hall sessions while on the road. Any assignments, quizzes, or tests could be proxied while on the road, as there is always a teacher with them. I always felt that NAX had our boys’ best interests both currently, and in preparation for post-secondary.

Nick made strides academically, both with Paula and the teachers at John Maland.

Michael Benning NAX Player

Caroline Benning, Parent of Michael Benning

My son Michael has been involved with the Northern Alberta Xtreme for one year, during the 2017-18 season after previously playing hockey in St. Albert.

The big difference between the NAX academic structure and Michael’s previous schooling has been Paula Smith, the academic director. We did not have this kind of resource in the public-school system. It is unique that they employ an academic director that works closely with each athlete to help facilitate academic success. Paula has been excellent. When Michael has had difficulties in a class, there has been good coordinated feedback from both Paula and the teachers. Paula is very caring and very firm. I believe that this combination has earned her the respect of the athletes. She knows each athlete/student very well and goes out of her way to help them achieve their academic goals. From daily help with homework, to counselling about which courses to take, to just being a solid every day advocate for the athletes. The coaches and Paula collaborate extremely well to make sure the boys have academic success.

My main concern when Michael joined NAX was that he would miss classes and fall behind in his school work, but the program always brought an education liaison on the road with the team to ensure that the athletes did not fall behind on their academics. As well, designated study hall is incorporated within their hockey schedules to help facilitate academic success. I think having a teacher travel with them and having designated study hall prevented Michael from falling behind.

The schedule and the way NAX approach schooling closely mimics how things are done at the College level: practice during the week, attend classes, and play on the weekend. It’s a vigorous schedule and I think the program does a great job of keeping their athletes on a strict schedule so that they stay organized and on top of their academics. The teachers at the school are very understanding of the vigorous schedule and will accommodate the athletes by rescheduling tests and extending deadlines. It was helpful to have a structured day where he could be home early, eat dinner, and have the rest of the evening to either do homework or something else. There has been a big improvement in Michael in that he makes his academics more of a priority than he has in the past. Part of that is he has learned much better time management.