By Perry Lefko
The growing number of people who are training Saturday mornings at Battle Arts Academy have been coined Fitfam by Steven Wong, who runs the class and is one of the three owners of the all-purpose athletic facility, but there is a family within the family – the Sprattpack.
Len Spratt, 48, and his daughters, Rachel, 20, and Rebecca, 16, try to attend the class as often as possible, pending their schedules. Len has work commitments, while both girls are actively involved in sports. Rachel plays varsity soccer for Humber College. Rebecca is a competitive “rep” soccer player who is already being watched by many elite U.S. schools for a potential scholarship, and also plays various other high school sports such as hockey, volleyball, basketball and cross country.
The girls have clearly inherited their father’s athletic genes. Len played goalie in the Greater Toronto Hockey League and was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League and played with both North Bay and Kingston. He had tryouts with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. He finished his career in Europe after playing in the minors.
About eight years he went through a personal transformation competing as a bodybuilder and lost 35 pounds. He did his first show two years ago.
“I was an elite athlete, shifted into the business world and had a lot of (business) lunches,” he says of what caused his weight increase. “I was still in the gym every day, but wasn’t eating properly. I just thought I was a big guy. I wore XL shirts and benched press a lot, but it wasn’t until I saw a picture of me and my son at a football game and my face looked all puffy that I said ‘enough is enough.’ I hired a coach and did things the right way and haven’t looked back.”
Len says he and his daughters, along with their eldest sister, Laura, 22, and younger brother, Joel, 22, have always trained together as a family. Joel is following in his father’s hockey path as a goalie in the GTHL and will be added to the Spratt Pack at Battle Arts once his season is over.
“We’ve been very active in sports as a family right from the time the (kids) could walk,” Len says. “It’s been great and it’s been a thrill to come train with my girls. I remember one time at Battle Arts everyone was doing sprints and Rachel and Rebecca were right beside me, pushing me on.”
Len says the training at Battle Arts far exceeds whatever he’s done elsewhere in the past.
“Absolutely the best I’ve ever had in my life,” he says. “I’m doing things I wasn’t doing 15-20 years ago – absolutely incredible.”
He says he noticed the difference between weight lifting at other gyms and the specific strength and conditioning work focusing on cardio early in his first Battle Arts class. He felt like throwing up, but didn’t. It’s happened to some people who have found the class far more challenging than they imagined or expected.
Len became so impressed with the training he invited his daughters to join him.
“He told us it’s something we may be interested in because we are very athletic – we like working out – so he brought us along for a session and after the first session we had to keep coming back,” Rachel said. “I find that it’s put me at that much of a higher level in my soccer and everything else I’m doing.”
“The intensity is so high. You see the results right away,” Rebecca says. “I’ve noticed the results really quickly just in practicing for soccer. I’m able to last full games now and I wasn’t able to do that before.”
As for being called the Spratt Pack, Rachel says: “I like it. We’re a force. We’re all athletes and I think we work hard. It’s important to us being active and coming here.”
“And it starts at home,” Len adds. “I was watching a Leaf game and Rebecca brings me a protein banana, no carbs pancake with strawberries topped on it and natural peanut butter. The girls don’t just come to the gym. This is a lifestyle. I’m proud as a father to see at this age they’re living in full circle. Rachel watches what she eats. Rebecca is constantly eating clean, and at that age what more can you ask for? “This training is functional, it’s going to make healthy, it’s going to make you flexible in every-day life,” he says. “This is what Battle Arts is. It’s not about being jacked per-se in appearance. It’s about mentally, spiritually, the whole person concept of what fitness is. In my opinion, that’s what coming here has done for me.
“Our Dad is a big inspiration for us,” Rachel says. “He pushes us to be healthy, to be active.”
“For me being the youngest, having two people like my Dad and my sister, they’re actually my role models,” Rebecca says. “I don’t just say that. Having them with me helps a lot. Being the Spratt Pack has a big impact on me, too. Being the youngest, I see whatever my older sisters and brother do. I’ve done that since I was three or four. As soon as I saw them playing soccer, that’s what I wanted to do. Seeing my Dad do these transformations and seeing my sister do a transformation in Grade 11 or 12 and lose a lot of weight, too, that inspires me as well.”
Len recommends other families try the Battle Arts experience.
“It’s fun, we actually look forward to it,” he says. “We’ll text each other. It’s quality time together. It’s important. As a parent, you look back over your life and you look at what sports and fitness can do for you in the big picture – in business, in life, in goal setting, team building. I would highly, highly recommend this. The kids, even at a young age, seeing their parents being active and setting an example it’s only going to carry over and they’ll do it with their kids and it just kind of goes on. I’ll be here when I’m 70.”
Perry Lefko is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author living in Mississauga. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years, including 21 for the Toronto Sun, in which he was a runnerup twice for the Dunlop Award for outstanding sports writing in the Sun Media Newspaper chain, and voted writer of the year by the Ontario Curling Association. He has also had articles published in The Toronto Star, Trot Magazine and is currently a frequently contributor to Goodlife Mississauga Magazine and Goodlife Brampton Magazine. He is also a contributor to Sportsnet.ca. He writes about sports, health and fitness, business, entertainment, arts and politics. He is passionate about writing personality profiles, in particular the human condition and overcoming the odds. He has had seven books published, including two that were national bestsellers: Sandra Schmirler, The Queen of Curling; and Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. He has also written books about Doug Flutie, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Sandy Hawley. He has been contracted by Penguin Publishing to help broadcaster/athlete Colleen Jones write her life story. He also reviews books for Quill and Quire Magazine. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.