Schooling job of players and parents

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

When it comes to schooling, parents can learn a lesson from Sally Aarssen.

Aarssen is the mother of London Knights defenceman Scott Aarssen. She's been following the story that broke a week ago on the CBC radio program The Inside Track on education in the Ontario Hockey League. The program focused on the Knights and investigated last year's team attendance and academic records, and even though there were substantial gaps in the show's own investigation, the program concluded the Knights, and the league, could do a better job of education.

The program has created a great deal of discussion. The Knights continue the process of looking for information so they can determine what is fact and fiction.

As someone who has covered junior hockey for a number of years, the issue of education is a simple one for me. The OHL team does make schooling available. It will pay for university education and any other courses. It will, to a certain degree, mandate attending high school until you get a diploma.

But the success of the education program and what an OHL team offers, depends on the player and to a large degree, on his parents.

Aarssen was drafted by the Knights in 2004. His marks are in the high 80s and low 90s.

"(United States universities) had already shown interest in having him play hockey with some form of scholarship," Sally Aarssen said. "His ultimate goal has always been to play hockey and receive a university education in business."

Scott was offered a contract with the Knights. After he and his parents thoroughly investigated all the options, they decided Scott would remain in Canada and sign with the Knights.

"It was the education package that the Knights offered our son that helped him make the decision not to pursue an education south of the border," Sally Aarssen said. "He decided to stay and finish Grade 12, take part-time courses at Western, paid for by the Knights, and eventually pursue his business degree at Western, financed again by the Knights education package."

It's a route several players are considering.

Both Scott's parents are university educated and have discussed the benefits of post-secondary education with their children.

"This is not something that we expect our son's hockey team to do," Aarssen said. "Our son knows his responsibility in attending school. . . . He is aware of the fines imposed by the Knights for missing classes. So yes, he will have absences marked on his attendance because he is playing OHL hockey, but the work will still be done."

Imagine that, parents putting the responsibility for doing what should be done on their own and their kids' shoulders. What a refreshing perspective.

The OHL is a hockey development league first. That doesn't mean education can't be a big part of it but if I have a child playing in the OHL and education is important to me, it's incumbent on a parent to take an interest in what's going on. No matter what part of the province you may live in, nothing prevents parents from checking with the school, the education adviser and with their child to make sure education is being taken seriously.

"It is the personal responsibility for each player to fulfill their educational obligations," said Aarssen. "We as parents do not expect the Knights to have any further responsibility with respect to our son's attendance at high school. And if a player decides to delay their post-secondary education while they are playing hockey, what harm is done? There are many other students in the post double-cohort years that have decided to take time off before pursuing a post-secondary education."

Some of today's players will play in the Air Canada Centre as professionals. Some of today's players may wind up cleaning the facility after games. The ultimate responsibility of whether that happens belongs to the players and their parents.


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