Stories of Simcoe – Al and Nick

Every journey starts with something small. This past summer, wrestler Jasmine Mian represented Canada at the Rio Olympics. Her wrestling journey began at Innisdale Secondary School and the Kempenfelt Bay Athletic Club with two coaches who saw something special in her. We agree, and we also see something special in these teachers.

Meet Al and Nick.

Al is a teacher at Innisdale Secondary School, and Nick teaches at Bear Creek Secondary School. Together, and with the help of others along the way, they fostered an environment that helped Jasmine get to Rio, and is helping other young wrestlers reach great heights in Canada and around the world.

When Nick began coaching wrestling at Barrie Central, he saw an opportunity to take a team approach to athlete development in Barrie and the surrounding area. With only four students on the Barrie Central team, all in different weight classes, Nick connected with Al at Innisdale. The two schools partnered up for practices to provide their athletes with a better training experience.

With the students wrestling together in school practices, Al and Nick formed the Kempenfelt Bay Athletic Club to let the athletes compete together. Athletes from the club have gone on to compete at the national and international level. One example is Jasmine Mian.

Al first saw Jasmine when she was on his flag football team. He saw an athleticism in her that he thought would be well suited to wrestling, and asked her to join the team.

“It is incredible to see where Jasmine began and how far she has come,” said Al. “Watching her walk in during the Opening Ceremonies made a tear come to my eye. It is pretty impactful.”

Al and Nick encourage their students and athletes to explore and follow their dreams, just like Jasmine. “Just follow a passion. There are many opportunities for success, and not all students take advantage of it. In wrestling, everyone makes the team. There are no cuts, and you can participate right through university,” says Nick.

Al adds, “I remember my experiences from outside of class the most. I tell my Grade 9 students to get out and experience the social aspect of school. Experience a team, a sport, a club. Don’t look back and say you could’ve or should’ve.”

Great words of advice for all of us.

Stories of Simcoe is a place to share the stories of our staff and students, past and present. Do you know someone with a story to tell? Let us know! Contact us at

Ideas include: students or staff with a passion, comeback stories, people with a cause, success stories, exchange student experiences, what I want to be when I grow up and more. Subjects can include students, parents, staff, volunteers, graduates and other members of the school community.

Remembering our trailblazer heading into Winter Olympics


The Olympics remain to many people the ultimate stage in amateur sport. The opportunity for any athlete to challenge themselves in front of the world is the thrill of a lifetime. We take a little extra measure of pride watching our home-grown athletes perform.

Remembering Sarah


The SCDSB has had several former students involved in the Olympics over the years, but one trailblazer in particular comes to mind this year—former Midland Secondary School (MSS) student Sarah Burke.

Burke, who attended MSS until Grade 11 when she moved to train more intensively for her sport, was a tremendously talented freestyle skier, who, through her determination and   force of will, led the movement to include halfpipe and slopestyle events for women in the Olympics. These events will debut in Sochi. While Sarah tragically lost her life in a training accident in 2012, thus denied her Olympic opportunity, her memory will live on in the first 24 women, including local Huntsville native Dara Howell, who will be the very first females to compete in these events.

Someone has to be first to open the doors and establish the opportunity where none existed before.  Sarah accepted challenges at the highest level of competition winning many international events. These challenges did not become obstacles, merely a way to get to the next level.

And Sarah reminded us that the Olympic Games are not just two weeks in February, but a journey that starts years before in training, in dreaming and in trailblazing.

Taking it to the next level
The Sochi Olympics are the follow up to Canada’s winter sport athletes’ “coming-of-age” party: the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The 2010 Games allowed Canadians to step out of their own shadow and not just be happy to compete, but to set lofty goals, have a plan and exceed expectations. With these big dreams came big results and a record medal count.  It was an opportunity provided by the combined efforts of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Sport Canada, corporate sponsors and the Own the Podium program of excellence.

While the Olympic opportunity occurs only every four years, the striving, goal setting and aspiration to excel happens daily in our schools and our communities. Opportunities are created by event hosts, coaches, parents and other community supporters to help athletes reach that next level.  It’s a long journey, featuring dedication, sacrifice, discipline and perseverance.  Some athletes currently competing in Simcoe County will have a future Olympic moment of their own—it is the challenge that makes sports great.

Citius altius forties. Faster higher stronger. This is the Olympic ideal for performance. It defines the journey and all that it takes to get there.

This Olympics I will cheer loudly for every Canadian athlete and I will admire great performance from athletes of any country. I will be thinking of Sarah Burke, and how her missed opportunity became something so much bigger—a legacy for female snow sport athletes worldwide.

Go Canada Go!

Former SCDSB students head to Sochi Olympics

??????????????????????????????????Becoming a part of Canada’s Olympic team isn’t something that just happens. It takes years of training, it takes resilience, it takes determination.

For Barrie ice dance partners Mitchell Islam and Alexandra Paul, their commitment to their sport has paid off. On January 11, these two elite skaters and past SCDSB students won a bronze medal in the Senior Ice Dance competition at the 2013 National Skating Championships in Ottawa. On January 12, they were officially named as one of the three ice dance teams Canada will send to the Olympics in February.

“Being named to Canada’s Olympic team is still sinking in—it’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid,” said Mitch, a graduate of Innisdale Secondary School. “I love this country and I feel so fortunate to be able to represent it every day. I keep telling people that I truly believed we could do it, but at the same time, it’s still unbelievable.

“I have imagined this moment for so long, but it is still surreal,” added Alex, who spent her elementary years at Forest Hill Public School. “I am so honoured to represent such an amazing country.”

In skating (and many other sports), the national championships in any country is an important step towards being selected for the Olympic team. Usually—though not always—the top finishers attend. This year, Canada was allotted three spots for ice dance, as well as three for pairs and men’s singles, and two spots for women’s singles.  And Canada’s ice dance field is a talented group. While it was almost certain who the two top spots in ice dance would go to, the third spot was up in the air. Mitch and Alex were competing against other teams who were vying for the spot. Continue reading “Former SCDSB students head to Sochi Olympics”