SPIRE IA (Institute/Academy) is one of the most unique and comprehensive athletic, academic, personal and career development organizations in the world. Constructed on 175 acres with 750,000 sq. ft. under roof, it is among the largest indoor multi-sport, training, education and competition complexes in North America. SPIRE features a national/international college preparatory academy for high school student athletes as well as a popular postgraduate program.
Enhancing student athletes’ skills and abilities through performance training is integral to the SPIRE Way, but those goals are integrated within a greater mission: to help individuals achieve their peak potential in life. SPIRE is committed to helping students build strong minds, strong bodies and strong characters through innovative academics, personal skill development, the pursuit of their passions and opportunities to explore careers. The Academy is designed to facilitate knowledge acquisition in academic, personal growth, passion interests and profession interests.
Approximately half (4–5) hours of the SPIRE student athlete’s day is spent pursuing their area of personal passion, such as pole vaulting, swimming or esports. SPIRE’s Track and Field training encompasses superb technical instruction, technique development and tactical coaching. The program emphasizes speed, strength, flexibility and endurance training delivered within a customized program designed by the Academy’s track and field coaches and the performance training staff. Included within this technical and tactical skill development training program is an integrated amount of performance training, which encompasses both physical conditioning and mental skills training.
“Our goal is to produce competition-ready athletes by making them stronger and faster, while improving their stamina and reducing the risk of injury,” said SPIRE’s Track and Field Training and Development Director Tim Mack. Coach Mack, a highly respected pole-vaulting legend, has more than 25 years of track and field experience during which he was an SEC, NCAA and USA Track and Field champion. One of only 18 pole vaulters in history to clear 6.01 meters or higher, Mack earned a gold medal for the United States Olympic team in 2004. Over the years, Coach Mack helped develop multiple young male and female athletes through Tennessee to state championships. He recently coached Kelsie Ahbe, Canada’s top finisher in the women’s pole vault at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. While attending Indiana University, Ahbe was a two-time All-American and runner-up at the 2014 NCAA Championships where she set a Hoosier’s record.
In many ways, Mack is the ideal coach and mentor for aspiring pole vaulters of all ability and achievement levels. “I always tell the kids I’m coaching that I may have won a gold medal in 2004, but I never held a record at Ignatius High School in Cleveland or made a state meet— I was never even recruited by any colleges. But I loved the sport and I never gave up. A door opened up for me at Malone University and I went there, determined to get better. I learned how to set goals. I stayed motivated. I surrounded myself with great people who taught me and inspired me. I paid attention to the details, I stayed motivated and I got noticed. I went to the University of Tennessee— and that’s where all those “details” I’d been focusing on began to come together into something great.”
According to Mack, SPIRE’s 750,000 sq. ft. indoor sports facility, which includes a separate field event area with two pole vault pits, along with two high jumps, two long jumps, two shot put circles and portable weight throw cages for discus, shot and weight throws, is an extremely impressive facility. Students from the U.S. and around the world live, train and compete together in an “Olympic village” environment that includes onsite residential housing, educational center, the SPIRE Fuel cafeteria and a 25,000 sq. ft. Performance Training Center.
SPIRE Academy’s boarding and day students spend the other half of the day (4–5 hours) being coached by seasoned educators as well as experienced professionals in specialty fields. These academic and business experts share their combined knowledge, expertise and compassionate guidance. As students work to embrace core academic material, they gain valuable hands-on experience in areas meant to inspire them toward possible professional paths. In addition, students grow in their understanding of self and learn to work well with others, while achieving personal goals and gaining a better understanding of where they fit in the world.
The Academy’s learning environment balances daily academics, passions, and professional and career aspirations within facilities and programs that nurture personal growth and stimulate the desires to challenge oneself. The coaching team (formerly called teachers) are engaged to guide, not dictate, learning and facilitate achievement above self-expectations. The Academy’s program offerings provide core academic exposure, experiential and relational related group learning options, and personal, professional and career program guidance— all while helping individuals identify and experience professions and career development opportunities that better prepare them for all of life’s journeys.
SPIRE Academy’s boarding students live in five newly constructed residential houses designed for 6-12 students. Each of the houses has a house parent who resides in an apartment that adjoins the lounge area with a large screen TV and other items for students’ use during their relaxation time. House parents will host weekly meetings, each with a personal skills development theme, run by a resident and the house parent on a rotating basis.
“SPIRE is committed to developing technically skilled athletes who love to train and live to compete,” said Coach Mack. “Combining an intensive regimen of technical and tactical training and long-term athletic performance development, with mental skills training, nutrition and hydration counseling, and leadership/communication skills development, creates strong, confident, mentally tough athletes who embrace challenges and thrive under the pressure of competition.”
“I was just talking to a group of high school age vaulters last week who were finishing up a training program here,” said Coach Mack. “And they told me they had initially been intimidated at the thought of being coached by an Olympic gold medalist in a facility like SPIRE. And that got me thinking…I really want aspiring student athletes to know that SPIRE welcomes everyone, from the beginner to the elite athlete and everyone in between. In my case, my high school and college records weren’t all that exciting, and I didn’t even make the Olympic team in 1996 and 2000. In 2004 in Athens, everything came together and I brought home a gold medal…only because I never gave up.”
“We can help pole vaulters who believe in themselves and are motivated to do the work to excel in ways that excel their expectations of themselves. I’ve lived the ‘take care of the details and the big things will take care of themselves’ philosophy my entire adult life. I really enjoy using what I learned as a student athlete myself to help develop young men and women pole vaulters physically and mentally so they can excel in school, at work and in life.”
Interested in learning more about what a future at SPIRE might look like for you? Call 440-466-1002 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.