Academy makes the most of time for aspiring athletes

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 11:37 PM

LEWISVILLE - Nick Felan wants to be a hockey star, but it was always a struggle to balance school and sports.

He left traditional schooling for iSchoolHigh, a science, technology, engineering and math academy that allows students to take classes for half the day, and practice for the other half.

“I was concerned at first, you hear about 'burnout, its going to be rough, what is he actually learning,'" said David Felan, Nick's father.

“You can step out whenever you need to for a phone call, you can use the restroom," Nick said.

It feels and looks like college. Students have block schedules, and can take AP courses.

For Nick and roughly 60 other hockey players, he's out by 12:45 p.m. every day. Many attend the Ice Jets Academy, four hours a day, five days a week.

"I see a lot of maturity in their mental side of it, just from all the stuff they have to handle at an early age," said coach Paul Taylor, who recruits across the country.

Nick's goal is to not stop until until he reaches NCAA Division I hockey.

That requires sacrifice, and major life adjustments.

"The type of things we thought would be an issue were an issue," David Felan said.

The school-versus-hockey balance hit a rough spot right way.

"Students really struggle if they don't understand the concept, and it takes awhile to adjust," explained  Campus Director Elaine Marchant. "They come in for tutoring, or stay late, or they work on their own, but once they get it, it comes together."

"I don't want to say we're tough parents, but from an academic standpoint, we are pretty tough," David Felan said.

Learning from mistakes, Nick manages his time like an adult. His 5 on the AP English test and new skills on the ice are proof.

"He's grown by leaps and bounds," his father said.

But not everyone does.

"I'll be honest with you, we've seen people drop out," David Felan said. "A couple people last year didn't make it through the program. They dropped out."

The school counts practice as off-site PE, but athletes attending all four years have to make up for some lost time through summer school in  order to meet state requirements.

"It's not for everyone," David Felan said. "Not everyone is going to fit in this particular space, it doesn't work that way."

But for Nick, his new lifestyle fits. It's his choice, his dream.

"When you get on the ice, you don't worry about anything," Nick said. "It's about focusing on what you have to get done, practice and get better."

"It teaches you hard work, sacrifice, discipline, commitment," Taylor said.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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