At event group level Athletics NI support coach-athlete pairs with initiatives including:
The primary aim of these initiatives is to nurture the development of promising young athletes as they negotiate their teenage years and to provide development opportunities, networking and planning support for their coaches.
Youth Academy assists selected athletes and their coaches by providing targeted support and mentoring as they progress along the pathway to success. Youth Academy provides a ‘Hot House’, accelerating athletes to a higher technical standard and with higher levels of physical conditioning. It provides a stepping stone towards international representation and sustained senior success.
Athlete profiles and performance standards will monitor progress of athletes and of the programme. The programme is underpinned by a curriculum that follows the periodised year and aims to develop athletes in every aspect of their development.
Athletes selected into the Youth Academy will have achieved performance standards, show potential at event group stage and have competed well in the event group, at national standard within the last year. Performance is measured on competition results and Power of 10 rankings. Potential is measured against physical, technical and psycho-behavioural development.
The Open Academy gives aspiring athletes between the age of 14 & 21, and their coach, a chance to experience the core concepts behind the Youth Academy Programme. Open Academy sessions run approximately every eight weeks and give coach-athlete pairs exposure to movement screening, physical preparation sessions and athlete education seminars. Youth Academy coaches will introduce content similar to that delivered at the weekly Youth Academy and athlete –coach pairs can register to attend Open Academy without the need to have met a selection standard.
Talent identification research in athletics and other late specialisation sports suggests that it is very difficult to predict which young athletes will go on to achieve senior success. Indeed, at 14, 15 and 16 years of age, many future champions are often not the best in their clubs let alone their country or the world.
Many multi-medal winning Olympic/Paralympic and World Championship medallists often continue to play other sports into their late teens and early twenties. Since excellent youth performances do not seem to differentiate future champions from their peers, the research agenda is now shifting towards the psychological factors that determine long term success.
In line with this thinking Athletics NI wish to provide ambitious young athletes and personal coaches focused on long term athletic development with early exposure to the physical preparation and lifestyle planning that facilitates high performance training. Open Academy provides this opportunity.
Squad sessions take place approximately every eight weeks and aim to develop skill and physical preparedness specific to each event group and improve athlete and coach understanding of how training works. The sessions demonstrate a periodised approach and equip coaches and athletes with a curriculum that will support coaching and training in their club environment. Athletics NI will host expert coaches to deliver elements of these squads.
Our vision is to widen the pool of talent, create a more competitive environment for selection into the Youth Academy Programme and to provide broader experiences that will retain athletes within the wider sport system. We aim for athletes to enter the Youth Academy with a higher level of skill and improved performance behaviours as well as channelling more athletes into coaching, volunteering, support and club roles.
Event Group Squads and camps are open to athletes (aged 14-21 years old) who have shown they will benefit from the activities delivered through the Athletics Northern Ireland Development Programme. Athletes and coaches will also be able to access programme content remotely via NIFutures.com. Such provision is intended to cast the net as wide as possible to ensure athletes that mature late are still able to learn key skills relevant to achieving senior success.