GW Graham launching baseball phys-ed offering in 2020

The school adds baseball to a list of sport-specific offerings that includes football and basketball

GW Graham has a new phys-ed offering on the menu this fall, offering a sport-specific baseball class for the first time.

Students in Grades 9-12 will be able to sign up for the class.

Students will sign up for five morning blocks a week. They’ll have the choice of grabbing a second non-mandatory block right after that focuses on baseball-specific strength and conditioning.

A GW Graham phys-ed staff member will work with an elite-level community coach who will oversee most of the training from September through January.

“It is not an academy,” GWG athletic director Jake Mouritzen emphasized. “It is an opportunity for student-athletes at all levels to better themselves at baseball.”

GW Graham already has sports specific offerings in several sports including basketball, football, rugby and volleyball.

“We’re always looking to expand and baseball is one of the biggest growing sports in the province,” Mouritzen said. “Ever since the Toronto Blue Jays had their success (back to back American League Championship series in 2015 and 2016), baseball has been growing in Canada. We did our research to find out if there was interest in this, and we know that Chilliwack Minor Baseball’s registration numbers have gone up at the younger age levels over the last five years.

“There is a high demand for this opportunity. As soon as this idea started to get out in the community, people started reaching out to us.”

There is a part two to the baseball course, with GWG planning to run an elite-level group from the class that will travel down to the United States in the fall.

“In September and October, they have high school identification tournaments in the U-S where only high school teams can participate, and this would make us eligible to do that,” Mouritzen explained. “That’ll be piggy-backed onto the phys-ed aspect with a select group of kids, and run under the school’s athletics umbrella.

“The whole program is not just about developing baseball skills either. Students will also be getting their coaching certification, umpire certification, first aid and SAT prep and help with college recruitment, etc.”

The cost for the phys-ed baseball class is $900, which covers the coaching and field rentals at the Tzeachten turf field and (potentially) Fairfield Island.

Students participating in the travel-team add-on would face an additional cost.

Conducting classes off-site at Tzeachten is almost a necessity for GWG as its student population explodes.

As the school has transitioned from a Grades 7-12 middle secondary school to a Grades 9-12 high school, it’s become far more crowded.

It’s estimated there will be 1,500-plus kids in the building this fall.

“We’re going through a huge transition and now is the right time to do this,” Mouritzen said. “We’re growing exponentially and unfortunately we’re getting to a place where we have to get creative with how we provide instruction. One of the biggest challenges is the PE department because we don’t have anywhere to expand.

“Our classes are going to explode as quickly as next year with an additional five, six or seven PE blocks. So we’ve been proactive looking off-site and seeing what relationships we can build in the community.”

Sustainability is a potential pitfall.

A baseball program has launched twice and faded away quietly at Sardis secondary.

“We are ready for it and feel we have the staff to support it,” Mouritzen said. “We want this to be a project that will continue long-term, and our track record at GWG shows that the things we start tend to grow roots and succeed.”

GWG administration is supportive of the program, and principal Chuck Lawson is confident it will thrive.

“People make programs and we have great people involved,” he said. “We have strong community partnerships established (with Tzeachten and Chilliwack Minor Baseball), which is another major factor. And the demand is there. PE and student athletics is part of the fabric of GW Graham and I feel confident this will be a strong program that is established and will last a long time at this school.”

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