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Sports Academy That Trains Olympians Makes Plea For Funds

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The National Sports Academy in Lake Placid says it must raise $400,000 this month or the school that trains Olympic athletes faces closure.

The National Sports Academy is a boarding school in the center of Lake Placid that specializes in training winter sports athletes.  It posted a link on its Facebook page on December 1st to the crowd-sourcing website Crowdrise saying it  "desperately" needs $400,000 to continue its mission through the end of the year.

The school, which had 65 students in 2010-11, now has only a boys hockey team enrolled for this academic year, according to board chair Brett West.  “The school really requires about 60 students to be financially viable and in good break-even position. The school actually can house up to a hundred student athletes. However this year our enrollment was down to 21 so that’s really the reason that we’re short cash to fund us through the year.”

The school’s website notes that it offers training in 11 winter sports including alpine skiing, biathlon, hockey, figure skating, freestyle and nordic, ski jumping and snowboarding. Twenty-three of its alumni are Winter Olympic athletes. West admits some problems within the school led to financial difficulties.  “We had some unfortunate management over the past three to four years which led to losing some key coaches. It’s these key coaches in each of the sports that attract the student athletes to NSA. This year we’ve really refocused in recruiting some great coaches. We’re really poised with some of the best coaches we can have now to rebuild the school for the next academic year, which would be the 2015-16 academic year. Our recruiting is going wonderfully for next year. We just have this deficit shortfall that we’ve got to bridge the gap.”

Lake Placid bills itself as the Olympic village and with athletes going there to train, West believes it’s critical to the village that the academy survive.  “Many of these athletes are in their high school years or even in their junior high years.  NSA (National Sports Academy) is the only avenue in Lake Placid for these student athletes who come to Lake Placid to receive an education and housing there in Lake Placid. So as much as Lake Placid is the Olympic Village,  NSA is the Olympic educational institution. The two go hand in hand.”

Academy Board Member Naj Wikoff says the test the school faces in raising $400,000 in order to survive is part of a bigger challenge facing Lake Placid.  “And that is do we want to be a center for training future Olympians and athletes?  The Olympic Training Facility, we could very easily lose it. We’re losing our coaches and our athletes to Park City and elsewhere. We’ve lost so much to other places because we’re not taking our Olympic heritage seriously enough. I think this is very turn-aroundable. I think for instance the National Sports Academy has the right team finally in place to rebuild that school.  The community needs to understand that helping to save the National Sports Academy, I believe, is in everybody’s best interest because it’s part of a larger  issue that we all collectively need to address.”

During a restructuring last year the school received a $206,000 loan from Lake Placid's revolving loan fund to make up for revenue shortages.  Contacted by WAMC, Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said everything is satisfactory between the school and village and they have had no discussion regarding the current fundraising effort. The mayor said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the effort.

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