Academy offering unique opportunity for student-athletes - WSMV News 4

Bellevue academy offering unique opportunity for student-athletes

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Families are flocking from all over the Midstate to send their kids Southern Elite Prep. (WSMV) Families are flocking from all over the Midstate to send their kids Southern Elite Prep. (WSMV)

Back in March, following a legal fight, Franklin's popular A-Game sports complex closed, leaving dozens of kids and parents sad and frustrated.

Now, some of those same families have a new home at Southern Elite Prep, a Nashville academy located inside of a fitness club with four Olympians under one roof.

While adults tone their bodies in the gym, young athletes undergo intense training in the soccer complex.

"They see it as being really innovative - something that just isn't happening in this part of the country. And so we're really proud of that," said Jon Sexton, co-founder of Boost FitClub.

The kids are eager, and their instructors are two seasoned Olympic veterans, who are pushing them to their full potential.

"It gives them the flexibility to train in the morning immediately. Train in the morning and then go into their academics thereafter," said Desmond Armstrong, Hall of Fame soccer player. "And shorten the period of time that they would spend in the classroom based off the fact that they have personal attention - online education with a subject and a teacher by way of Skype, as well as a physical teacher with them in the classroom."

Armstrong says they're building a sports culture around education.

"So we're talking about the epitome of what we call the student athlete," Armstrong said.

Armstrong's son, Dida, also attends the school.

"I like it because of the flexibility of the school. It's online. Usually, most schools, you have to have a bunch of books to do your homework and then you get behind. But at this school, you can go to a library or at home, where they have Wi-Fi, and you can just do your work there, if you're sick or something," Armstrong said.

Parents are seeing the progress. One parent that Channel 4 talked to has a straight-A student who is trying to make the grade on the soccer field.

"Having this environment on a daily basis, versus having it once or twice a week, like you typically have on a club team, allows her to continue to practice and perfect what they're trying to teach," said the parent.

Boost FitClub co-founder Tarik Ramusovic, a former Olympic skier, believes Franklin's loss is Bellevue's gain.

"This space, where you can put many things together for the whole family to benefit from, from fitness to aquatics to different sports to nutrition," Ramusovic said.

There are several classrooms in the facility. The kids have a lot of independence, but instructors are ready to step in if there's a question or problem.

"Those issues tend to happen when the kids are disengaged, or already know the content or they're so lost. OK. Now I'm gonna get myself in trouble. We don't have a lot of that, because, as I said, it's very self-guided," said Brad Guzda, headmaster at Southern Elite Prep.

Guzda is one of several instructors who help train the students at a different location on the ice.

Early morning hockey sessions are led by former college and professional players like former Preds goalie Chris Mason and winger J.P. Dumont.

"When I saw what they were doing and how much they were helping the kids, and the passion they have for what they're doing, it was a no-brainer for me to join them," Mason said.

Student Trent Schaefer still can't believe he gets to share the ice with local legends.

"Real great teaching ... knowing these guys come from the highest level you can go to," Schaefer said.

His mother is one of many parents who drive in all the way from Franklin, Murfreesboro, Spring Hill and beyond.

"Hockey is his favorite sport and he can do that five days a week in the morning and get then a great education," said his mother, Robin Schaefer.

As you might imagine, this kind of program is not cheap. It costs about $20,000 per year, but parents say there's an added benefit for them.

They get a full gym membership to help them stay in shape while their kids exercise their minds in the classroom and chase their dreams on the ice and the soccer field.

Dozens of students are enrolled at Southern Elite Prep. They have plans to add even more sports training, including gymnastics.

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