In the new gym and fieldhouse at St. Joseph High School, athletic director Rob Blais looked on with pride.
The state-of-the art facility holds a full handball court, one of the only ones in Alberta. The gym has all the bells and whistles of a top athletic program including automatic serving and setting machines for volleyball and several basketball nets that dish rebounds back to shooters.
And the St. Joseph Falcons haven’t even played a single game.
Blais believes that access and equipment gives an opportunity for the new school and their athletes to compete against the more established schools in Central Alberta.
“I’ve been to almost every gym in Western Canada and this is the best facility,” said Blais. “Huge advantages for us, all our practices will be right after school from 4 to 6 p.m. All four teams can practice at once. It will give them time to focus on their studies and still get practice time in.”
Blais said the St. Joseph’s athletes will be competitive in all sports right away and will push for provincial berths in basketball, boys and girls, volleyball girls right at the beginning.
The Saskatchewan native played CIS basketball at the University of Lethbridge. He has lived in Red Deer for the last 17 years and was selected to lead the Falcons in their inaugural athletic campaign.
With no prior experience as an athletic director, he will led the Falcons into the upcoming 2017-2018 sports season. Blais said he’ll rely on the tutelage of a few old mentors and a simple mantra for the athletes.
“I was lucky to be tutored by some of the top athletic guys in Western Canada so I’m going to carry all those things that I learned as a player and a young coach,” he said.
“Overall excellence in athletics, we’re going to be committed to setting up teams that compete every single time. We might not have the athletes or the size, but our athletes will be out there competing every night.”
Blais will help coach both the girls and boys basketball teams’ with his wife Tobi. The school also offers cross country, golf, volleyball, badminton, handball, soccer, rugby, tennis and track and field.
This season St. Joseph students will play football at Notre Dame. Next season the school plans to introduce a football program.
An encouraging factor for the full docket of sports came from a spring meeting with staff when Blais said he was able to fill all the coaching spots without the need for any community coaches.
In their first year with almost 600 students, St. Joseph’s will compete in the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association 3A level and likely be 4A in most sports next year depending on their student population.
The school will also have three tournaments this year. A 3A volleyball tournament on Oct. 13, a basketball tournament in conjunction with Notre Dame on Dec. 9 and then a team handball tournament in April.