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Soccer used to boost attendance
Research project shows sports stop students from skipping class

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 1, 2013

Can soccer keep kids coming to school? As part of his role as vice principal at Peter Pitseolak High School in Cape Dorset, Andre Sampson had to complete an action research project.

NNSL photo/graphic

A school teacher in Cape Dorset has found that increasing extra curricular activities like soccer has resulted in better attendance. Here, Kugluktuk's Julianne Angulalik seen during action this past April at the Junior Super Soccer tournament in Yellowknife. - NNSL file photo

The project had to be based on one of the improvement goals set up under the school guidelines and Sampson decided to focus on improving attendance at the school and the role sports can play in that improvement.

In Nunavut, the average attendance rate for public schools during the 2010-2011 school year was 70.3 per cent. In Cape Dorset, during the same period of time it was 71.4 per cent, according to the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics.

Sampson's theory was that extra curricular activities could be used to promote attendance.

"It's ongoing, the project, but what I found during the soccer season was that attendance was much higher," said Sampson.

Sampson coaches soccer at the school and there are strict rules if you want to be on the team. Athletes have to give it their all as do the coaches.

"Attendance was 95 per cent or higher during the season," said Sampson.

"After we came back from the tournament, it probably dropped to around 75 per cent."

On top of attending school regularly, student athletes have to participate in fundraisers, volunteer around the community and can not miss practices.

It's not just the students and athletes Sampson has high expectations for. He expects the same dedication from his coaches and is hoping students who once played soccer at the school will come back to act as community coaches.

As for the fundraising, it's essential the students get involved, said Sampson. For one, it proves their commitment to the sport and it's also necessary because each team needs around $4,000 for travel, shoes and other related costs.

It's not only soccer that improves attendance. Sampson said it varies from community to community and sometimes isn't related to sports, but could be a film club or other group.

"In Cambridge Bay it could be basketball that everyone is really into. Table tennis is big too," he said.

On top of raising attendance during the season, Sampson also noted that there were no fights involving the students on the teams.

"September, October, November there wasn't any fighting but soon after returning from the tournament five students were suspended," he said.

There are other initiatives at the school, like on-the-land trips and monthly attendance awards that act as motivating factors for attendance. In the spring there was an exchange trip to southern Ontario. Students had to be attending school to participate in the exchange, as well.

"There are a lot of things we do. We can't have soccer all year. If you have high expectations, they'll surprise you," said Sampson.

"The main thing is they want to play soccer and if it gets them in school, staying in school, that's what matters."

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