CrossFit as Education: The Academy Programme Moves into Schools
In 2021, when Morning Chalk Up first talked to Hannah Mittoo, Co-Founder and Director of The Academy Programme, a UK-based program that uses CrossFit as a building block for education, she and her team were wrapping up their first cohort of students.
These students, all of whom were or had been in the care system, were part of a pilot 16-week CrossFit course designed to introduce them to sports and fitness while developing life skills and providing opportunities for higher education and skill development.
- “Out of that [group],” Mittoo told Morning Chalk Up, “We had two students go to college, one student start an apprenticeship, one stopped drugs, and got one out of an abusive situation with their family.”
- “We [realized that] this program has got legs,” she continued. “Imagine… if we could plug it into the education system and do it en mass?”
So, that’s exactly what they did.
Mittoo and her team approached a local high school about incorporating their program into the curriculum. They were connected with a group of students, whom Mittoo notes were the “most disruptive” in classrooms, to pair with a local CrossFit affiliate.
- “It worked,” said Mittoo. “ A lot of [the students] made new friends, and all the kids were curious about it. It almost gave [the students] this confidence and self-worth.”
And today – just over a year after piloting their first program in September of 2022 – The Academy has programs in 20 schools, with six more set to start in 2024.
How it Works: The Academy offers all schools, whether state or private, the same partnership plan.
Mittoo starts the partnership process by bid-writing to secure funding for the schools to cover anything the school needs: equipment, room renovation, coaching qualifications, and more.
- In the last 10 months, Mittoo said, The Academy has received £200,000 in funding to bring CrossFit to secondary-age students.
With funding secured, they create a curriculum, procure equipment, and ensure that all school staff feel confident, especially if they are heading to earn their CrossFit L1.
- To deliver the curriculum, schools can partner with a nearby CrossFit gym or create a non-profit affiliate on their campus.
Once paired with an affiliate or equipped with a gym, students begin the course.
To better plug into school schedules and meet needs, The Academy team cut their original program to six or 12-week courses, and adjusted class times to one-and-a-half hours (one hour of move, a half-hour of learning). Educational sessions were switched from worksheets and paper-heavy teaching to whiteboard sessions, fostering teamwork, discussion, and social skills.
- However, similar to the original program, students are awarded a Certificate of Personal Effectiveness at the end of the course. This award translates to a lower General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) grade. (GCSEs unlock access to higher levels of education.)
Though the success of The Academy is measured differently at each location, across the board, Mittoo noted, “Schools have noticed an improved change in concentration levels, confidence, and behavior when students return to school after the [CrossFit] sessions.”
Looking to the Future: The long-term dream of Mittoo and her team is to create an independent school that centers on using CrossFit as education. Until they reach that goal, The Academy team is focused on getting CrossFit at every step of the education system.
- Currently, The Academy has active programs in 20 secondary schools (with six pending to start in 2024), and two colleges, and is about to test the program in 16 primary schools. They have also launched the first UK-based educational and functional fitness league, which will soon search all four tiers of education.
- “The idea is to create both an educational pathway and a talent pathway, for students,” said Mittoo.