The Grade 12 senior is among the first participants of a new learning opportunity that is designed to help develop athletes and leaders through specific interest-based educational experiences.
Martin Academy is a new innovative sport-focused program that delivers core curriculum with sport-specific electives.
The program – which is linked with Martin Collegiate High School in Regina – was launched in September.
Students involved in the program attend regular school curriculum classes in the morning and train in their respective sports in the afternoon.
Martin Academy is offering training programs for three specific sports – softball, baseball and hockey.
A fourth discipline – premier athletics – covers sports that range from swimming and gymnastics to soccer and judo.
“I love it and it’s been an amazing opportunity,” said Claudia, who is one of a dozen girls involved in the softball program.
The Academy’s goal is to provide students with an opportunity to receive high performance athletic instruction during the school day, while also ensuring that they meet or exceed their academic requirements.
“There is a big focus on school and education,” explained Claudia. “If your grades aren’t up to par you won’t be allowed to train in your sport until your grades improve.”
The team alternates their afternoon training regime with on field skill development and classroom and weight room activities.
“Every day that we’re not on the ball field we do an hour in the classroom and an hour in the fitness room with a trainer,” said Claudia.
The afternoon classroom studies cover topics ranging from nutrition and wellness to team concepts and goal setting.
The softball group – which includes students from Grade 9 to Grade 12 – will spend most of their afternoon sessions in the winter months at the Co-operators Centre, a beautiful multi-use facility that is linked to the Brandt Centre, Evraz Place in Regina.
The students have their weekends and evenings free to catch up on homework and take part in other activities.
Claudia, for instance, is also playing volleyball this season for Martin Collegiate and she recently returned to Shaunavon for a senior girls tournament.
Her primary athletic focus, however, is softball, a sport where she has excelled at a high competitive level for the past four seasons.
Claudia has been playing softball since she was a young girl, but her pursuit of the sport took a more serious turn four years ago when she joined the Moose Jaw Ice ‘A’ PeeWee Team. Later that fall, she joined the Regina Gold ‘97 Team, which attended a fastpitch tournament in Iowa.
In 2012, Claudia earned a spot on the Moose Jaw Ice ‘A’ Bantam Team and once their season was over she rejoined the Regina Gold ‘97 squad for more training, as well as a tournament trip to Indianapolis.
In 2013, she became a member of the Regina Royals ‘A’ team and was also named to the Fall Ball Zone 3 Team. The Regina Gold ‘97 Team took part in a tournament in Oklahoma that year.
This season, Claudia qualified to become a member of the Regina RIOT ‘A’ Softball team, which played in the Ladies ‘A’ League in Regina.
The RIOT placed third at provincials and earned a spot at the national championships in Saskatoon.
Although the team did not win any games at the national tournament, the event proved to be a thrilling week for Claudia and her teammates.
Three years ago, in order to help her development in the sport, Claudia transferred from Shaunavon High School to Riffel Collegiate High School in Regina. The move occurred halfway through her second semester of school.
She did the same thing the next year, although this time the transfer took place at the beginning of the second semester.
This year, of course, she is spending the entire school year in Regina.
“I’ve made so many new friends through softball,” said Claudia. “And a lot of the girls I’ve played with over the last two or three years are part of the Academy as well.”
While she billeted with families during her first two stays in the Queen City, Claudia is sharing a basement apartment with one of her fellow Grade 12 teammates this year.
“It’s definitely a little different living on your own, but it’s been terrific so far and it’s been an incredible learning experience,” she stated.
The softball coach at Martin Academy is Karen Thull.
Thull has represented Saskatchewan and Canada at numerous competitions, and attended Simon Fraser University on a softball scholarship.
She is also the current coach of the provincial team.
The Academy is designed to prepare each athlete for life-long involvement in their sport.
The goal is to take the athletes to the next level of development. That may include provincial or national team involvement.
It also includes possible scholarship opportunities in the United States.
Claudia has already had some initial interest in the U.S. and she will be attending a special showcase event in Las Vegas later this month along with three of her teammates.
The showcase is an annual event that allows high school softball players to link up with college coaches and recruiters.
As part of that ongoing process, Claudia will also be writing her SAT – a famous U.S. college entrance exam – in December.
“I’m a little nervous – I’m not really sure what to expect,” she smiled.
Claudia will be graduating from Martin Collegiate in June.