Youth Academy Athletes Depart for Portugal

10 April 2017

Having secured Erasmus+ funding to support Youth Academy Athletes and accompanying staff/coaches to undertake a 14 day education and training programme a party of 31 have departed for  Portugal to begin their warm weather training camp at the Alfamar Resort on the Algarve.

Coach Development & Physical Preparation Lead Laura Kerr who has coordinated the application and planning explained, “Athletics NI vision is to create the best environment for everyone in the sport to achieve their maximum potential.  Thanks to Erasmus+ funding participants will spend quality time in an elite training environment with access to a 400m track, gym, full time coaching and performance therapy all on a single site. Our aim is for youth academy athletes to develop the skills and performance behaviours necessary to train and compete to a world class standard in a high performance, service supported, and international environment. Our Youth Academy initiative allows us to support coaches and athletes on an ongoing basis to prepare them for senior success.’

Erasmus+ is the European Union’s (EU) programme for education, training, youth and sport, with the EU committing €14.7 billion to the programme between 2014 and 2020. In the UK, the programme is managed by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. The project entitled, ‘Developing Elite Athletic Skills in Northern Ireland’ is funded under Key Action 1 of the programme, which is about providing opportunities for individuals to improve their skills, enhance their employability and gain cultural awareness.

Athlete Development Lead Tom Reynolds explained, ‘In a year were Youth Academy Athletes have the opportunity to qualify and compete at Commonwealth Youth Games (Bahamas),  European Junior Championships (Grosseto) and European U23 Championships (Bydgoszcz) this camp will provide an excellent opportunity for athletes to increase the quality of their training in warmer temperatures and to benefit from dedicated coaching and education to maximize their personal and athletic development.

Prior to departure athletes, coaches and parents have attended information sessions focused on explaining the benefits of warm weather training and encouraging athletes to consider how they will optimize sleep, diet, training and interaction with athletes from other nations to ensure they build upon their indoor successes and return from Portugal in the best possible shape to begin the outdoor season.

Included amongst the 24 athletes travelling are rising stars Davicia Patterson, who recently won the Irish U-18 girls 400m in a European U-20 qualifying time of 55.54 and Lauren Roy who produced an excellent 7.65 to win the U-18 girls 60m event.  Sommer Lecky who jumped 1.81m to win the Irish Senior Indoor High Jump title last month will also be making the trip and will surely have her eye on the Senior Commonwealth Games nomination standard of 1.82m this summer.

On the men’s side James Hamilton (T20, 1500m) will be joining the squad as he continues his preparations for the 2017 World Paralympic Championships.  Additionally Josh Armstrong who has been rapidly moving up the UK U20 rankings in both 60 Hurdles and Triple Jump will be travelling.  For many though this will be their first experience of an elite training environment and 2016 U15 Irish Schools champions including Holly Mulholland and Ethan Williamson will benefit from joining more experienced athletes.

An application and  recruitment process has been undertaken and the following coaches/staff will accompany the athletes to share their expertise:


Mark Kirk (Middle Distance)

Roger Sexton (Sprints)

Alan Kennedy (Horizontal Jumps and Sprints)

Adam McMullen (Horizontal Jumps and Sprints)

Michelle Rea (Horizontal Jumps and Hurdles)

Niall Wilkinson (High Jump)


Project Manager-Laura Kerr (Throws, Combined Events)

Head Coach-Tom Reynolds (Sprints, Hurdles, Pole Vault, Combined Events)

Performance Therapy-Michael Gibson (Soft Tissue Therapy, Spinal Manipulation)


Staff will ensure that experience and knowledge gained as a result of the project will be widely disseminated within Athletics NI, to maximise the benefit for all athletes and coaches.


For more information about the project please contact: or

For more information about funding opportunities visit, or use the hashtag #epluspeople to see what other projects are doing across the UK.

About Erasmus+

Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. It runs for seven years, from 2014 to 2020, with organisations invited to apply for funding each year to undertake creative and worthwhile activities. Erasmus+ aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of lifelong learning, including school education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector. It offers exciting opportunities for UK participants to then study, work, volunteer, teach and train abroad in Europe.


The overall budget is €14.7 billion.Two-thirds of this funding will provide grants for more than 4 million people to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad. The period abroad can range from a few days up to a year. In the UK, it is expected that nearly 250,000 people will undertake activities abroad with the programme. The programme is managed in the UK by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, which is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK.

Further information from

Twitter: @erasmusplusuk

Facebook: ukerasmusplus