Athlete Development at UNH
Northeast Passage, in cooperation with the University of New Hampshire, has developed a unique opportunity for competitive athletes with disabilities to train and attend college as student athletes. Students recruited and accepted into the program will train and study along side UNH NCAA athletes. Northeast Passage specializes in training for sled hockey, Alpine skiing and Nordic skiing, but can provide support for rowing, cycling, quad rugby, fencing and shooting, among others. Recruits must demonstrate the academic ability to attain admission to the University of New Hampshire and be currently competing at a national or international level OR be at the top tier of regional competition with potential to advance. Competitive scholarships are available.
We view the center not only as a means to support and develop talented athletes but more importantly as a way to motivate these athletes to pursue a college degree. We believe that individuals with disabilities, provided with the right tools and environment, can excel as both athletes and students.
Besides the development of elite athletes, our Athlete Development Center will build a culture of athletic development and excellence throughout New Hampshire and New England. This culture will be created using both disabled and non-disabled UNH student athletes to mentor junior disabled athletes through regular NEP events as well as at developmental sports camps.
Northeast Passage is involved with U.S. Paralympics on the development of its Paralympic Sport Club program to generate interest in competitive sports for kids with physical disabilities across the country. The Sport Club program is a grassroots program introducing competitive sports to kids from the ages of 12-18. This experience gives the participants an opportunity to gain knowledge of sports, try equipment and receive coaching from those with Paralympic level experience.
A few Student Athletes:
Laurie Stephens, Tyler Walker and Taylor Chace all competed in the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy and the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. All three graduated from the University of New Hampshire as student athletes.
Taylor Chace, from Hampton Falls, NH, was a member of the USA Sled Hockey team that brought home a bronze medal in Torino and a gold medal in Vancouver. He is currently captain of the US team and was named the USOC’s Paralympic Sportsman of the Year for 2010.
In 2002, Taylor sustained a spinal cord injury during a hockey game with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. After months of rehabilitation and healing, Taylor was introduced to Northeast Passage and the sport of sled hockey. With his superior hockey skills and intense training regimen, Taylor made the Paralympic team on his first try. After deferring his studies at UNH to concentrate on the Paralympics, Taylor started at UNH in the fall of 2006 and graduated with a degree in sports studies.
Laurie Stephens is a dominant women’s alpine mono-skier. The therapeutic recreation graduate won gold medals in the Downhill and Super G and a silver medal in the Giant Slalom in Torino. She won silver in the Downhill in Vancouver.
Laurie, who was born with spina bifida, began skiing at age 12 at Loon Mountain with the New England Disabled Ski Team. She has been winning titles in the sit-ski division since 2003, and was the overall World Cup champion in 2005 and 2006. Besides being a world champion mono-skier, Laurie is also a record setting disabled swimmer. Laurie was elected Paralympian of the year by the US Olympic Committee and nominated for an ESPN Espy award in 2006.
Tyler Walker, from Franconia, NH, placed 10th in Slalom in Vancouver. He is a repeat Winter X Games gold medalist in mono-skier X and a consistent winner on the World Cup circuit.
Born with lumbar sacral aegensis, Tyler has been involved with Northeast Passage since the age of six, and has skied with Loon Mountain and Waterville Valley’s adaptive ski programs. In 2005, Tyler won his first World Cup in the Giant Slalom. Tyler graduated with a degree in geography and international affairs from UNH.
The mission of Northeast Passage is to create an environment where individuals with disabilities can enjoy recreation with the same freedom of choice, quality of life, and independence as their non-disabled peers.