Waitaki Boys’ High School is playing host to the football National Talent Centre this week, with more than 120 girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 16 attending.
The South Island National Talent Centre is made up of promising young footballers from Football South and Mainland Football.
The youngsters will be taught skills in training sessions and also attend seminars on how to approach the game.
Talent Development Manager Andy Hedge said the aim was to teach the budding talents skills on and off the field that would improve their performances and understanding of how to cope with playing football at professional level.
“We try and take a holistic approach as much as we can through the five days,” he said.
“There are classroom sessions. This week they’re focusing on mental toughness. Tonight’s seminar is about dealing with setbacks like injuries or not being selected and how to deal with that, because that makes up a massive part of how the top people get to where they are.”
Hedge said the five-day camps were similar to what senior players would experience during international tours.
“We’re basically treating these camps as a dummy run of international tours, so what we’re doing with these kids, we’d do the same with the All Whites and the Ferns.”
The next stage in the players’ progression is the under-17 squads, which is Hedge and the coaching staff’s aim.
“The next steps are the under-17 squads, so the focus for us is to find and develop those best players into the under-17 teams. Then between 17s and 20s, there’s talent acceleration programmes,” he said.
Hedge said participation football and the level of talent was increasing rapidly and hoped that football was one day recognised as a national game in New Zealand.
” It’s really good. The base is really growing, nationally as well,” he said.
“We’re getting a lot more of the better players coming through. It’s becoming difficult now because there’s not that massive gap between the best and the weakest that there used to be. It’s really positive.
“We’ve got a new football community director (Cameron Mitchell) and his goal is to make football a national sport in his lifetime and I think we’re well on our way to achieving that.
“We’re seeing more and more kids now going to school in Phoenix tee-shirts and Man United tee-shirts. Our challenge is to keep up with that growth.”
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD – Matt Cordelle worked on his passing at Milner Park yesterday.