Imagine a high school made up entirely of athletes. No Screech-like characters anywhere in sight. It’s tough to do.
For Leanne Rutherford of the women’s tennis team, this high school was a reality. She attended the National Sports School in Calgary, Alberta. The establishment was set up for Canadian athletes who train to achieve the finest performance at the Olympics, other major games and world championships.
“The classes and curriculum are just like any other high school,” Rutherford said. “They just give you more flexibility with your schedule so you can travel and compete when you need to.”
An average day for her was similar to that of a normal high school student athlete. After waking up, she would go to classes until 1 or 2 p.m. Then she would hit the courts to train, condition and work on her strokes.
Sounds comparable to your average high school, but there is at least one big difference.
“Some of my friends are trying to get into the Olympics,” Rutherford said. “It’s been their goal for a long time.”
The school was very accommodating to the diverse schedules of its athletes.
“Kids who played other sports might train earlier and go to school later,” Rutherford said. “For me though, it wasn’t like that.”
Rutherford followed in the footsteps of another family member. Her brother attended the National Sports School two years before her. He now plays tennis at Wisconsin.
“He really liked it,” Rutherford said. “That helped me to make the decision to go. I really enjoyed it also.”
Last year, Rutherford made an immediate impact on the team. Playing primarily No. 4 singles, Rutherford compiled a record of 18-15 in her initial season. In doubles play, Rutherford teamed with Michelle DaCosta to amass a 19-15 record primarily at No. 1 doubles. This year, expectations are high for the sophomore duo, as they are currently ranked eighth in the region.
The tandem will begin competition in dual matches against Illinois-Chicago and DePaul this weekend.
They are going in with momentum from the Michigan Invitational last weekend, where they both compiled a 3-0 record.