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Interview with Caroline Dafoe - United World Sports Academy


The United World Sports Academy (UWSA) is Tauranga’s newest sports centre for children. ANZCA has interviewed the founder, Caroline Dafoe, to find out more.

Could you tell me a bit more about UWSA?

UWSA was created by Robert Bethea, a retired private school teacher from the USA and professional international coach, along with myself (Caroline J. Dafoe), a Kiwi born in Canada with a background in Business Consulting and Human Resources and was a former volleyball coach.

Both of us saw a need to fill the gap in the current education and sports training systems that is being offered and knew that not all students would do well sitting at desk in a classroom for up to 7 hours a day. With the inspiration of the Skateboarding School in Malmo, Sweden that has been successfully running for more than 10 years, as well as other similarly successful schools around the globe, they decided to take a successful track record of other academies and bring it to New Zealand. As the Ministry of Education has told them “this is the first of its kind in New Zealand.”

Please do check out this video of an interview Robert did with a News Network in the USA:

What inspired you to create UWSA?

We knew that some kids are exceptionally gifted in sports, just like some are to dance, music and the arts. However with the current system they are not receiving enough time to train each week. Other published studies have shown that students are getting burnt out keeping up with both their training sessions and their school work as they are often having to get up at 5am in the morning for training, then attend a full day of school and for some it means more training in the afternoon and evening. This leaves very little time for homework, family or friends.

So we thought, “why not trim the non-essential courses for these gifted students and focus on the academic courses they need to graduate?” This would allow 3-hours per day for academics and to train in their sport as that is what they will need to be successful and have the opportunity to meet more national and international levels of competitions. Or for those it may also allow them to receive scholarships for University and a few more years to enjoy their sport while doing it.

What classes are offered at UWSA?

We realised we needed to bring more to the table than what the current colleges are doing. Many students are graduating without having a CV or knowing what a CV is. So we have incorporated “enterprise” into the Academy’s model. We offer programmes such as:

  • Sports Journalism where the student will interview and write articles that will be in a digital magazine published once per term

  • Sports Broadcasting where students will be involved in the writing, lighting, camera and action of an online broadcasting show, which will feature the accomplishments of students not just in sports but other aspects in academics and in their community.

  • Sports Management where they will learn how to manage an athlete’s career and learn alongside business professionals how to plan, produce and successfully execute sports and entertainment events.

All profits raised from these will fund the Academy’s Endowment Fund as the School provides scholarships for students who are financially challenged and also funds accomplished athletes’ travels to national and international competitions should their families not be able to do so. We need to give student athletes the ability to experience competing in their sport both nationally and internationally.

We also have a career path logistics worked out from as early as Year 7 so that students along with whanau, their teachers and their coaches can assist them with setting long term goals. Using a term called “beginning with the end mind” and reverse engineering their education and training paths to meet their long-term education and sports objectives. Currently this is not being done well or is being done way too late in their education.

And the icing on the cake is our Character Building program: the academy implements the Pyramid of Success as developed by the most successful coach in history, John Wooden, who was an influential basketball coach in the USA at UCLA. The programme is now being taught at the university for all athletes and around the globe at other schools. It can be a game changer for many students as it empowers them to live their lives with excellence.

Our focus at UWSA is not about our salaries, our job security, or our egos – we are fully 100% there for the students – they are our priority and all efforts are put into place to support them in becoming successful in their academics, sports and in their lives.

Say I was a first time student about to start my first class at UWSA, and I'm a bit nervous about it. What would you say to a student like me?

For students starting at UWSA it may seem weird as we don’t do school by the Year – we do school by the Sport. So for example all Circus Arts students train together and then return back to the Learning Centre where they study together. Each student has their own independent learning plan and they work on their online curriculum supported by an NZ-qualified teacher.

There is a lot of one-on-one time for them plus organised class training, labs and field trips to enhance their learning experience. They will have many accomplishments when they graduate with their college certificate, as well as a complete CV that any employer or university will be scrambling to hire them as they bring relevant accomplishments to the table.

What is your vision with UWSA? Would you want to look at starting UWSA centres in other locations across New Zealand? Internationally?

Our vision for USWA is to open our main campus in Tauranga for Term 2 and to do a soft launch of our Winter Training program just outside of Christchurch for Term 3 and then to be fully open for Term 1 2019 for our winter sports.

Other talks are with Northland, Cambridge and Palmerston North to open up campuses there as well. We have also been approached by clubs and coaches from Europe, Canada, USA and South America to set up reciprocal training programs so international and national students will have more options in the next 3-5 years for their education and training paths.

We are shifting the paradigm for education and sports training. We do not use parent volunteers to train our student athletes – all of our coaches are fully accomplished and certified coaches are former elite athletes themselves who have competed on the global stage and have the passion and skill set to train.

UWSA works along established clubs and provides a win/win opportunity for them. For each student athlete UWSA accepts into their academy that is referred by them that club will receive an affiliate fee per term. Please contact UWSA to provide more details on that. This way clubs don’t lose revenue by referring their athlete to the academy. UWSA encourages its student athletes to return to their club of origin to train when not in school and to assist with training and inspiring other up and coming student athletes.

UWSA was unfortunately unable to finish its Ministry approval of a school by mid-January due to outstanding issues related to the construction schedule at their academy’s Tauranga location and so will start Term 2 providing tutoring to students enrolled in a homeschooling program through the sports option and then will provide the sports training portion of the student athletes. Once construction is completed then will follow through and finalise its formal MoE approval to be a fully endorsed school.

Registration is now being accepted and information and enrolment applications can be found on our website www.uwsa.co.nz or by calling Robert Bethea, Director of Sports at 020 4121 8687.


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