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Medway Sporting Academy – a UK first

Date: 03/12/2008           Category: Learning and Achievement

The Medway Sporting Academy has been officially launched by Paralympic gold medallist and Medway International Sporting Ambassador Danny Crates. The event was held at the Black Lion Leisure Centre in Gillingham and was attended by talented pupils from three Medway primary schools as part of a pilot phase of the academy. The Medway Sporting Academy is the first of its kind in the country, and aims to provide a pathway to excellence for Medway’s talented young athletes and produce future world champions through a structured training programme. Following an inspiring welcome speech from Danny, children from Featherby Junior School, Park Wood Junior School and St. Margaret’s Junior School set about showing the academy coaches what they could do. They were tested for speed and agility, balance, reactions and co-ordination – four key components required by athletes competing in any sport. The children’s scores from the launch will give them valuable feedback ahead of a qualifier session to be held in January. The top performing children from the qualifier will be selected for a pilot academy group and undertake monthly academy sessions during spring 2009. Every child assisting with the pilot will be rewarded with a guaranteed place at the full qualifier in July. Recruitment to the academy is taking place through the Mini Youth Games involving more than 2,000 children from Medway Primary Schools. The top 25 performers at each event will join the qualifier event in July. Teachers can also nominate talented pupils to complete a 500 strong field. The contenders will compete in a range of tests and disciplines designed to assess their all round sporting abilities before a final 80 are rewarded with a place at the Medway Sporting Academy starting in September 2009. Each recruit’s performance will be analysed at the end of each year, giving them the opportunity to progress with training until they are 15 or they have been in the academy for five years. Danny was on hand to encourage the children and said: “The Medway Sporting Academy is a great way of developing the most talented children and encouraging everyone to compete to the best of their abilities. I was very impressed with the children who took part today and expect to see some of them make the final academy selection. The Medway Sporting Academy coaches wish every child in Medway the very best of luck”. Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Howard Doe said: “I am delighted to see the start of this new initiative, which will bring out some of the really good sporting talent in Medway’s young people. I also hope it will encourage more and more young athletes to take up sport seriously.” ENDS Editors note: The next Mini Youth Games event is the swimming gala, at the Black Lion Leisure Centre on Thursday, 29 January 2009. For further information on Medway Sporting Academy contact Mike Evans, Medway Council’s Sporting Academy Development Officer on 01634 338135 www.medway.gov.uk/sportingacademy BACKGROUND The Medway Sporting Academy is a pioneering new initiative by Medway Council to provide a structured pathway to excellence for Medway’s talented young athletes as part of its 2012 campaign. In partnership with schools, universities, clubs and national governing bodies, the Medway Sporting Academy offers young people the opportunity to complete a five-year programme to help them realise their sporting potential. Medway Council is understood to be the first local authority in the country to deliver a development programme of this kind. Recruitment into the Medway Sporting Academy takes place through the Mini Youth Games – a series of eight sports tournaments involving more than 2,000 children from Medway primary schools, competing in events such as swimming, table tennis badminton, cricket tag, rugby and athletics. Sports club coaches will identify the 25 most skilled children at each event, based on all round natural ability and suitability to sport, and teachers will also be able to nominate students who they believe have the suitable skills for selection. These pupils will be entered into the qualifier – a skills assessment day featuring around 200 children at Medway Park. Around 100 children will be selected for afternoon sports coaching and a final 80 will be recruited into Medway Sporting Academy in September 2009. Monthly academy sessions will focus on developing the children’s skills in areas including footwork, agility, hand-eye co-ordination, balance, flexibility, speed, strength and concentration. Sessions will include skills coaching, drills, small-sided exercises, sports science education and physical conditioning. Each recruit’s performance will be analysed at the end of each year, giving them the opportunity to progress with training until they are 15 or they have been in the academy for five years.