Hundreds of student-athletes have graduated from the prestigious Academy, part of Aspire Zone Foundation, since it opened in 2004. With a joint focus on education and sporting excellence, many graduates have gone on to excel on the international stage as professional athletes and coaches, including Olympic bronze medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim, and up-and-coming squash star Abdulla Al-Tamimi.
“The wings on the school emblem represent the two focus areas – sports and education,” said Jassim Mohammed Al-Jabir, Aspire Academy Principal. “Some of our students join professional sports clubs, some go on to university, while others go straight into a job. The plan is to ultimately provide our students with the necessary tools for them to excel in whatever path they choose.”
Student-athlete Abdulla Al Ali, aged 16, believes that this dual emphasis creates a unique atmosphere. “Aspire Academy is different to regular schools,” he said. “Sports and studying are balanced, which I like. I enjoy both parts of school life. At Aspire we have our freedom, but we are also given a certain amount of responsibility. This will help us when we eventually graduate. Everything here is preparing us for our future.”
Rashid Ali Rashid, aged 17, feels that the Academy’s approach has greatly assisted him on a personal level. “Aspire has made me more open to new things,” he said. “It has also helped me develop as an individual. I used to be quite shy, and I am now more confident.”
Both Rashid and Ali have bright futures ahead of them. Rashid concentrates on athletics at Aspire Academy and specializes in shot putt. Meanwhile, Ali is a promising footballer, who hopes to put his studies to good use by becoming a lawyer, while retaining an interest in playing the beautiful game.
The Academy offers a vast range of extra-curricular activities designed to help in the development of its student-athletes, including the social affairs initiative and the leadership program, which aim to build teamwork and synergy between classmates. This approach is clearly effective, according to Rashid. “Your friends, your classmates, become your family,” he said.
Another key focus of the school is to prepare its student-athletes for the upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup. Recent additions to the school schedule include Spanish and French which, alongside English, are two of the organization’s official languages. “After winning the 2022 bid, we introduced two new languages designed to help the students prepare for the World Cup,” Mr Al-Jabir explained.
With so much on offer for its 12 to 18-year-old student-athletes through an integrated program of sports development, sports science and academic learning, Aspire Academy is justly considered to be one of the leading sports institutes in the Middle East. Aiming to be recognized as the world’s leading sports academy in the development of youth athletes by 2020, the school develops well-educated sports champions. In time, both Rashid and Ali hope to join the ever-increasing array of Academy graduates now competing with distinction on the world stage.
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