–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
When you first set foot inside the Dome LR, you’ll immediately be struck by the size of the facility itself. A moment later, you’ll feel the unmistakable energy that permeates throughout the bubble. You’ll hear the screams and shouts of athletes pushing themselves to the max, and the laughter and cries of students and coaches sharing the joys of sport.
Look one way and you’ll see some of Canada’s best young volleyball and basketball players working to perfect their craft. Look the other way and you’ll meet international-level sprinters, skiers and judokas lifting weights together.
This is the daily reality for students at Louis-Riel high school, which has become a leader in combining sport and academic excellence.
“When I first came to the school, it was eye-opening to see all these high-level athletes in different sports with the same kind of ambitions,” reflects Haider Kadhom, a Canada Games-champion soccer player. “It’s different than a normal school. Here, everyone shares your goals, and shares your passion for sport. It’s really something special.”
Poke around and you’ll hear stories of pro soccer players who started out playing tennis, or gymnasts who discovered pole vaulting – a product of young athletes experiencing a wide range of sports in the school’s exploratory sports and sports-study programs.
You may spot a maple leaf on the volleyball coach’s jacket – that’s because he coaches with Team Canada during his summer vacation. Turn around from the court and you’ll encounter the school’s own strength and conditioning coach, who’s trained more than a dozen NHL players.
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You’ll often see a coach with an arm on a young athlete’s shoulder offering encouragement. It’s clear their connection goes beyond the typical teacher-student relationship.
“There isn’t a better bond where you can really influence kids than between a player and a coach,” says André Desjardins, a past provincial and national team basketball coach.
“For me, being able to guide them and help them make good decisions – the life lessons through sport – is the best part.”
You’ll note that the Dome LR has a fully-stocked high-performance weightroom, an on-site physiotherapy clinic, a full-size turf field and gym floor, and Canada’s only 400-metre indoor track, along with facilities for field events. You may cross paths with one of the many Olympians and professional athletes who train at the centre.
“This is huge. You’ll never find this anywhere else,” underlines Provincial Women’s Hockey League player Jasmine Nolan. “The fact that we get to use the Dome every day – I think some people might not appreciate how much it can help you and how far it can get you.”
But what will stick with you most when you leave the Dome is simply the unmatched energy and enthusiasm that fuels everyone there. On your way out, you’ll probably catch students and teammates fist bumping or high-fiving when they walk past each other between classes.
“The students are healthy, they’re always smiling, they’re always together, and they’re always working hard and motivating each other because they’ve got that same drive to excel in sport and their studies,” signals Ken Levesque, the sports-study program coordinator.
“And it’s a smaller school here where the students and staff all know each other,” he adds. “We have saying: ‘Once a Rebelle, Always a Rebelle.’ It’s really like being a part of one big family here at Louis-Riel.”