Valley Prep: Career Explorations through Basketball

In the past ten years, women’s youth basketball has seen a major growth in British Columbia as evidenced by the proliferation of club teams and the increase in high school participation rates. At the same time, there has been a burgeoning wave of basketball academies across the province.  In the Lower Mainland, school districts have developed academies wherein students who participate receive a Physical Education credit. The Abbotsford School District has set out to offer our female students a similar opportunity; however, unlike other programs, Valley Prep is wrapped in the new Career and Life Education Curriculum.

The BC Ministry of Education outlines the purpose of the Career Education Curriculum as follows:

A person’s career is considered their “journey” through life, and the Career Education curriculum offers students the opportunity to pursue this journey in personally meaningful and goal-oriented ways. Career-life development with intent is the ongoing process of self-discovery, growth in competence, and learning from experiences in educational, work-related, and personal life contexts.

Valley Prep student-athletes are enrolled in the new Career and Life Education Curriculum through which they will explore post-secondary opportunities within the context of this basketball program. Student-athletes receive 8 course credits required for graduation over two to three years: Career Life Education 10  (CLE 10) and Career Life Connections (CLC 12) offered through our Abbotsford Virtual School. The course is delivered in a blended learning fashion with the Valley Prep Coordinator, Ms. Paula Thompson, serving as the teacher.

These are the Valley Prep goals. We believe that:

  • in combining basketball with purposeful career-life development,
  • in recognizing the important role of strong female mentors in the lives of teenage girls,
  • in creating a curriculum that includes the cultivation of connections with every post-secondary women’s basketball coach in the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland,
  • in having our student-athletes explore the “Big Ideas” within the Careers curriculum,
  • and in encouraging deeper learning through career-life explorations vis a vis basketball,

we are helping our students “gather authentic evidence of their growth in career competencies, set learning goals based on their needs and interests and pursue relevant next steps toward their preferred future” within the post-secondary school of their choice.

Operationalizing our Intentions: The Nuts and Bolts

Beginning in the Fall of 2018, student-athletes will commit to the following schedule:

September – October (9 weeks)

  • On-court training sessions 2x per week facilitated by 3D Basketball. All practices will run outside of school hours at Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business.
  • Strength and conditioning training from Innovative Fitness, 2x per week.
  • Student-athletes will practice twice a week for nine weeks in the Fall and nine weeks in the Spring. All practices will take place at Rick Hansen School of Science and Business and will be two hours: one hour of basketball skill development and a second hour of fitness training with Innovative Fitness.

November – March (18 weeks)

  • On-court training ceases. Student-athletes compete and train with their individual high school teams for the duration of the basketball season.
  • Online course requirements must be completed including: student video, online assignments and reflection journal within MyBlueprint.

As part of the blended Careers Curriculum, all Valley Prep students will use MyBlueprint and compile digital artifacts which will serves as the basis for their digital portfolio. They will be required to put together a highlight video from their high school basketball season and will also be required to give back to their community by volunteering in an area of their choice.

April – May (9 weeks)

  • On-court training sessions resume at Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business, 3x per week.
  • Strength and conditioning training from Innovative Fitness, 2x per week.

What makes all of this unique in comparison to other academies is that all of our girls will have the opportunity to visit 10 post-secondary schools in the 2018-19 season. These will include:

  • The University of British Columbia
  • Simon Fraser University
  • Trinity Western University
  • University of the Fraser Valley
  • Thompson Rivers University
  • University of Washington
  • Western Washington University
  • Capilano College
  • Douglas College
  • Langara College
  • Columbia Bible College

Other than the NCAA schools, all of the university and college coaches will lead a 1 hour training session and then the Valley Prep students will have the opportunity to meet with the university players to ask them about life as a student-athlete in university/college.

Over the two to three years in Valley Prep, students will work towards a culminating Capstone Project which they will present at the end of the program. The Capstone will take the form of a demonstration of learning in front of a committee/public audience which will include these same university and college coaches that have followed them through the years.   

The list of events in Valley Prep is quite extensive and every basketball coach from every post-secondary institution with a women’s basketball team is participating within the program. These university coaches will have the opportunity to lead a practice and observe those intangibles that partially inform the recruitment process: an athlete’s reaction and response to feedback and direction; levels of engagement during drills; body language while practicing (sometimes very different than in games).

For our students, quite simply, it’s an opportunity to appreciate the fact that a basketball skill-set has a significance beyond the immediacy of the hard court. We believe that the curricular competencies developed within the context of Valley Prep will ensure that skill transferability and deep learning occurs as our students pursue their career journeys in personally meaningful and goal-oriented ways.

Basketball is the vehicle and the Careers Curriculum is the driver through which our students will explore the next steps in their life long journeys and while doing so, discover, develop, and share their voices as powerful young women.