Photo: Sierra Bein

Where Ryerson finds its Rams

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By Daniel Morand

Athlete recruitment is the ground- floor blueprint to building successful teams, the nuts and bolts foundation to winning championships. Scouting is the mark of consistency for any coaching staff and a sharp eye for athletes ready for university-level competition is crucial.

Enter Bill Crothers Secondary School (BCSS), a gold mine for producing athletes and supplier of more current Rams than any other high school. Eleven current Rams went to the athletics-focused school in Markham and many of them are now contributing in major ways to Ryerson’s athletic program.

Among them are Lucas Coleman and Nathan Walker, rising stars on the men’s volleyball team who both attended BCSS and won provincial titles as teammates at the school. Alyssa Connolly, Blair Malthaner and Sarah McGilvray also won a provincial title as members of the BCSS girls soccer team. They are now teammates on the Ryerson women’s hockey team.

BCSS’s focus on athletics is evident in its facilities. Three separate hard-court gyms, two soccer fields, one football field and several fitness studios foster an environment conducive to breeding athletes.

Since the high school opened in 2008, student athletes have attended this public school to give them an edge. Academic streams divide students based on their type of sport. Students that compete in individual sports like tennis are classified as high performance athletes and can earn school credits while competing outside of school. Athletes that compete on club teams also benefit from an academic culture that understands the stress of being a student athlete.

Derrick Stryker is responsible for overseeing more than 60 teams as athletic director at BCSS.

“We prepare them to be self-sufficient and smarter athletes,” he said. “Our staff understands the student mind and how busy they are and can accommodate their academics so that they get the knowledge they need to be successful in a post-secondary institution.”

This approach helped student athletes like Coleman focus on volleyball while in high school. “My teachers were very helpful with accommodating to my sports schedule,” he said. “They gave me extra time on assignments when I had proof to show what I was doing and I would meet with them regularly to show them my progress.”

Coleman played for the Durham Attack and Scarborough Crush, among other teams, while going to school at BCSS. Despite interest from Ryerson volleyball head coach Mirek Porosa, Coleman pursued an academic scholarship at Brigham Young University in Utah after graduating from BCSS. But Coleman’s time at BYU was short-lived. Looking to move closer to family and play alongside friends, Coleman called Porosa and expressed interest in joining the men’s volleyball team.

“I’m very well aware of this school and what they’re doing,” Porosa said. “They support athletics and everything that surrounds the students helps them reach their potential.”

Porosa says that a coach’s ability to recruit future players makes up sixty percent of their portfolio, “if you cannot recruit quality athletes, your way of building championship winning teams will take much longer.”

The biggest challenge that coaches face from recruiting elite athletes is not fellow Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) schools, but American universities that can offer academic scholarships. Coleman is not the only BCSS athlete turned Ram to have spent time at a U.S university; Mariah Nunes on women’s basketball went to Fairleigh Dickinson before transferring to Ryerson. For elite BCSS athletes, US universities offer the right price — an asset that the Rams athletic program cannot compete with.

But what Ryerson can do to attract athletes is create a program that makes BCSS and other athletic high schools take notice.

“Ryerson is a great university and their athletic program is growing like crazy,” Stryker said. “They’ve hired a great new athletic director who has been very focused and he’s hired great coaches to help succeed.”

Ryerson’s coaches can look closely at schools like BCSS for recruitment, but focusing on creating quality facilities and coaching administration may be the secret to winning over elite high school athletes.

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