The athletes of tomorrow get a head-start today

Story sponsored by BHP.

Growing up in a remote regional town can sometimes be challenging. And harbouring aspirations to become an elite athlete is not an easy road to travel. But for children of Roxby Downs, some 560kms north of Adelaide, it just got a lot easier, thanks to the opening of the Roxby Junior Sports Academy last year. 

Rebecca Cooke, Coordinator of the Academy, says it opened up some fantastic opportunities for young athletes who are showing enormous potential that might otherwise be difficult to access. 

“We offer elite level training and support for the squad, which currently comprises of 12 highly talented local children,” she said. 

Made possible through a collaboration of the Roxby Downs Community Board’s Sport and Recreation Forum, Roxby Council, the Office for Recreation and Sport (SA Government) and support by BHP through its local community donation program, the Academy provides children access to specialised coaching, in line with what is available for kids in the city. 

High performance coaches Jess Telfer and Wes Knights hold a wealth of knowledge when it comes to performing at the elite level and are supported by a team of specialists that are based in Adelaide, but travel to Roxby regularly. 

Fourteen-year-old Elise Turtur, who is one of the 12 person Academy squad, said when her family moved to Roxby Downs a few years ago she was only expecting to do school level sport.

“But after a year with the Academy, I have learned that there is a real chance to not just compete at a high level, but turn athletics into a career,” she said. 

The Academy holds a lot of connections and can help find the right people with the right experience to coach different sports at an elite level. Currently the Academy offers pathway opportunities for children in basketball, AFL, netball, soccer, dance and athletics. 

“To get into the squad you have to go through a rigorous testing day composed of agility, vertical jump, sprint and cardio performance,” Rebecca said.

“Based on the results of these tests, and taking into account past sporting achievements and references from their coaches, the committee selects the squad.” 

Having been selected as part of the 2017 intake, Elise said the Academy has given her more insight into what top level sport is like.

“I feel stronger and that you can have sport as a life choice,” she said.

“I have also gained a lot more confidence because of the Academy, because I didn’t believe as a girl, I could make a career out of my discus or running ability.” 

But the Academy isn’t just about strength, speed and agility according to Rebecca. As with all professional sport today, the Academy takes into account the mind, as well as the body. 

“We deliver Sports Psychology which works with the squad on goal setting, imagery and visualisation and have a leading nutritionist, from one of the Adelaide first grade AFL teams,” she said. 

“Plus we put our athletes through media sessions to help them understand how to best communicate with the media, which is another very important part of being an athlete today,” she added.

“The depth of training we are able to offer ensures that when our athletes move to a bigger city, to further their careers, they are not behind other athletes, especially in the conditioning, strength and discipline needed to reach the elite level.”

“They take it very seriously and I really enjoy it, apart from having to wake up before sunrise to train,” Elise said. 

“For our Roxby Downs community it creates a bigger sporting opportunity for everyone, and shows that just because you are isolated, doesn't mean you can't get the same resources and opportunities as you do in the big cities.” 

Story sponsored by BHP.