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Through its innovative programming, Abilities Centre supports all levels of participation, from tots and toddlers to high performance Paralympic and Olympic athletes, and everything in between. 

Academy for Student Athlete Development 

Over the past year the Academy for Student Athlete Development (ASAD) team has taken the learnings from the past 5 years to revamp the Vision and Mission.


The Academy for Student Athlete Development (ASAD) will create alignment between the education and provincial & national sport system supporting targeted student athletes on able-bodied, Paralympic, and Special Olympic performance pathways by removing barriers to ensure equitable access to high performance programming.


To deliver a high-performance program with a team of experts and leaders in the Canadian Sport system that work in collaboration to develop talented student athletes in a dedicated training environment. The program fosters the opportunity for individuals to achieve their personal goals in athletic performance, sport performance, academics and life. Every individual involved with the program embodies the vision of inclusion and is unwavering in their commitment to positively impact themselves, their sport and the community.



Student Quote in a magenta bubble: I think that an inclusive program [is] really just about feeling comfortable [in] your surroundings and being around people that are more accepting, and especially depending on your skill level your what's going on your head. You just feel comfortable and can say stuff and you won't get judged. And you can do certain things or maybe make some mistakes and you still feel confident [in] what you're doing. And yeah, just a variety of different faces and different voices.

ASAD's Growth

bar graph representing ASAD growth. 2016-2017 14 athletes, 2 sport streams, and 3 partnerships. 2017-2018 43 athletes, 4 sport streams, and 1 partnership. 2018-2019 80 athletes, 7 sport streams, and 4 partnerships. 2020-2021 82 athletes 7 sport streams and 2 partnerships.

ASAD Quote in a magenta bubble: What do I see is important for a student athlete to succeed in ASAD? I would say the most important thing would be the time management, the balance between everything, that's crucial because if you don't have that [something's] got to give. And what's happening here at ASAD is they're kind of holding our hand through that balancing … for like people that are still figuring out I feel that's super helpful.

COVID-19 Challenges and Program Impact


ASAD’s 2020 – 2021 school year has required a mix of both virtual and in person learning, while the sports psychology, nutrition and mental health seminars continued virtually.

ASAD’s athletics, strength & conditioning and technical training continued throughout the school year in-person with COVID protocols, and during periods of lockdown, students were supported in a virtual environment (home training and video analysis).

ASAD students training outside

From the mid-year evaluation, majority of parents and students indicated there was a 60% enhancement seen in confidence. 85% of respondents indicated they met a short or mid term goal based on the athletic skill development. Additionally, 77% had an increase in motivation for the Strength and Conditioning sessions since the start of the school year. 77% also learned a new skill through the Strength and Conditioning sessions.

Pie chart representing 88 student-athletes, 59 from Durham Region, 29 from London. 33 students are returning student-athletes, 11 students qualify and receive support from ASAD Financial Assistance program. 2 students identify as a person with a disability

Sport Streams Include: 

icons with labels representing Individual Athlete Development, Hockey, Rugby, Volleyball, and soccer

New Partnerships:

Canadian Sport Institute Ontario Logo          Durham Catholic District School Board Logo

Program Expansion:

Photo of Nic Gray with text to the right: Nic Gray joins AC's ASAD as the new full time strength and conditioning practitioner in August 2020
Nic Gray joined Abilities Centre’s Academy for Student Athlete Development (ASAD) as the new full time Strength & Conditioning Practitioner in August 2020. Providing a dedicated staff member allowed Abilities Centre to support the growing number of student athletes enrolled in the program and create a direct link with the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO). This connection allows for a developing relationship to ensure quality program development, delivery and alignment of ASAD programming.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself?
Nic: My name is Nic Gray, I have spent almost ten years working with athletes at the collegiate (CCAA), university (U Sports and NCAA), professional (AHL and NHL), Olympic and Paralympic (Athletics Canada) levels.

Q: What is your role with ASAD and relationship with CSIO?
Nic: I am the Strength and Conditioning Practitioner with the ASAD. As part of the partnership between ASAD and the CSIO is an on-going professional mentorship, engaging in conversations focused around the development and advancement of the athletic pillar of the ASAD program. CSIO also meets with all ASAD staff, and other Abilities Centre staff, on topics pertaining to the advancement of the holistic Academy.

Q: What novel aspects has this relationship brought to the strength and conditioning section of ASAD?
Nic: This partnership is a direct benefit to the students, as the programming maintains alignment, direction, and guidance from the provincial and national sport landscape. CSIO has informed our development of durable skills, which are transferable skills that will continue to develop throughout a students career and provide invaluable impact on their work, personal, and day to day life. These skills have strategically become embedded throughout all of the programming delivered at the Academy. This partnership has also connected us with other practitioners across various sports within the National Sport Organization (NSO) network, which further strengthens the alignment between ASAD and the national sport pathways. The partnership between the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario and the Academy for Student Athlete Development will provided lasting, transformative, positive impact for students at the Academy.

You. Me. We.

You. Me. We. Virtually Together

Provides inclusive and safe programming across the province for children and youth aged 5 – 12, to engage in physical activity and social interaction during an age when these fundamental elements are important to physical and mental health.

AC programing, including You. Me. We., focuses on capturing Spark Moments which are the hidden flames in individuals that excite them and tap into their true passions, what motivates and inspires their authentic passions, talents, assets, skills and dreams. Spark moments can be musical, athletic, intellectual, academic or relational.  

*Benson, P. 2011, April 22, TEDxTC – Peter Benson – Sparks: How Youth Thrive. (video). YouTube 

Spark Moments from You. Me. We:

Quotes from You me we program: End of session asked participants if they learned anything new, participants hand shot up and let the group know they learned that the heart was a muscle and its purpose is to pump blood throughout the body!  All participants completed the Fill a Bucket game and each participant shared at least 1 way that we can fill other peoples buckets by being kind  Participant volunteered to lead the stretch, during the stretch they also gave variations of the stretches to make sure everyone could do it!  After a session on boxing, all participants said they learned something new. Also, one participant brought up Rugby while playing charades which lead to another participant asking what rugby is. Then a conversation occurred about the sport and how exciting it is to try new things.
Partnering Organizations  Collage of  Logos	including: 	CHEO 	Niagara Children’s Centre 	Holland Bloorview 	STOMP 	Grandview

143 sessions


You. Me. We. Virtual Schools Challenge

Abilities Centre and Abilities Centre Ottawa partnered with funding support provided by Canadian Tire Jumpstart’s Sport Relief Fund to create a series of virtual field trips, which supported the facilitation of inclusive physical education classes for both elementary and secondary schools across Ontario. The ultimate goal of the program was to support teachers in creating excitement for physical activity and to highlight, through inclusive programming, the variety of ways youth can be active even when participating in virtual academic learning.


Field trips consisted of:

  • Three weeks of physical education curriculum-based resources for teachers with a focus on:

Icons with labels below representing Dance and movement, yoga and mindfulness, Fitness and connections.

  • Each video series features 4 instructional videos and includes a class challenge at the conclusion of the 4th video

A Pie graph representing 3632 Students impacted. 70 school participants, 132 teachers utilized program, and 7 regions within Ontario and Edmonton.

7 regions within Ontario and Edmonton (Durham; Ottawa; Kawartha Leeds & Greenville; Halton; Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry; York; Renfrew)

Image of participants dancing in their school gym. Quote reads: It is fabulous watching this class pour themselves into creating a dance choreography this week. I cannot express my astonishment at how significantly this group of students have risen to the challenge with marked enthusiasm. Abilities Centre Virtual Dance has been a hit in our school! Thank-you Abilities Centre for your incredible gift of sharing your expertise and the dance experts Bill and Simon. It is best to be present with real people, but you have really created excellence with this challenge

Students dance in their school gym to the You, Me, We Program.



Mixed Ability Logo. Three figures connected one in a chair holding a paddle, one throws a ball up in the air, and one is catching a rugby ball, underneath the shape of a maple leaf

Mixed Ability Sport

Mixed Ability Sport (MAS) takes an innovative approach to breaking down societal barriers and radically changing the way we think of, join in, and enjoy sports.

Currently exploring a blended model of virtual and in person to assist Rugby, Boxing, Archery, Para Cycling, Dance and Canoeing on their Mixed Ability Journey. 



Abilities Centre continues to grow our working relationship with our international partners, ‘International Mixed Ability Sport’ (IMAS) as we grow Mixed Ability Sport across Canada. Continued collaboration with IMAS has created opportunities for the Canadian Mixed Ability Sport Development team to connect with their counterparts in the UK as well as tying into shared social media content, participation in virtual events, and combined research projects.

Sign the Manifesto
Photo of Amanda Power and her dog playing fetch

Abilities Centre Member 
Amanda Power discussing Mixed Ability Pickleball

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Amanda Power I am 25 years old. I’ve been sports for since I was probably 9 years old. I started with Horseback riding for 17 years but had to stop. Two years after that I found Pickleball—in January 2020. I played with the Abilities Centre for 3 months before our first lockdown. I started playing again in September until the next lockdown and haven’t played since. I enjoy being in the outdoors as well whether it is hiking, fishing, swimming, kayaking. I just love going on adventures with my dog and friends. Once there is warm weather I am always outside.

How did you get into the sport of Pickleball?
It’s the funniest thing. I go into the gym [Abilities Centre]. I’m in a wheelchair semi-part time. I saw it being played and thought this is kind of cool, so I ask one of the people playing ‘What is this?’, and they kind of explained it to me. Then I talked to the head person there, Alex, and he gave me a Pickleball 101 kind of intro. Then he offered, do you want to try and see if you can try in your wheelchair? I’m like, Ok, sure and then started figuring it out. He was like, Okay, come back the next time we play and we will give you the full run down. From then on I kind of grew addicted to it.

Can you tell me about your experience playing Pickleball at Abilities Centre?
I’m not going to lie, its fantastic. At first nobody wanted to play with me, but then Alex gave me private lessons on the other court. Everyone saw and everyone was like, Oh wait, she’s getting private lessons, I want private lessons! So then we got a few other people and once I got better and better they were like, Oh wait, she’s good. Let’s keep playing with her. We have a mini team now. Right now there’s [a small number of] people in Ontario playing para-Pickleball. Some are at Abilities Centre. So hopefully with our Mixed Ability Sport  initiative we are going to get more and more players of all abilities playing together. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in North America right now, so we want to make it more inclusive for everyone—so treat everyone like you want to be respected. We want to make it so that its for everyone but still keep it the sport that it is.

Can you tell me about the relationships you’ve developed through playing Pickleball?
So the friendships I’ve made through Pickleball is unbelievable. Once I met some of the players, the high end players, they started inviting me to their playing sessions and just hanging out. They taught me some things. The Pickleball community is so friendly and basically its one big family. At Abilities Centre and outside of the Centre is where I met my people and my friends—the Pickleball support system.

What do you want people to know about your journey with sport?
Honestly, with any sport, if you want to do something, go try it! If you like it, great! If not, let’s try a different sport. Cause sport has helped me be, like, more myself. So any sport, like Pickleball for me, if you want to go watch it, watch it first, see what you think of it. Talk to a player or a coach ask questions, and then if you want to try and play, great! One of us will be there to help.

Has it made a difference in your life?
It has made me happier. It brought back my competitiveness, will not lie, I lost it because I used to horseback ride and I used to compete in horseback riding. So then once I found Pickleball it brought back my competitiveness and drive for sport.

COVID-19 Challenges and Programming Impact

The implementation of Mixed Ability Sport Coaching Clinic was put on hold, until April 2021.

Exploring a blended model of virtual and in person to assist Rugby, Boxing, Archery, Para Cycling, Dance and Canoeing on their Mixed Ability Journey. 

Mixed Ability concepts have been incorporated into the Community and Post-secondary Inclusion workshop to encourage professionals in challenging their assumptions and bias, and present future opportunities for involvement in MAS

Community Organizations 

  • Oshawa Vikings Rugby Club
  • Rugby Ontario
  • London RFC
  • Burlington Centaurs RFC
  • Muddy York RFC
  • Coaches Association Ontario (CAO)
Following last years Learn to Play Mixed Ability Rugby program, Oshawa Vikings Rugby Club implemented a Mixed Ability team. On average over the past year they have had 17 individuals out to play.

Check out our Mixed Ability Sport social media platforms to stay up to date and celebrate the growth and success of the MAS initiative! 
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