SouthlandSport editor Nathan Burdon

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Academy Southland celebrating 15 years of achievement

Academy Southland celebrating 15 years of achievement

Academy Southland is celebrating fifteen years of developing many of the province’s best young sportspeople. 

The academy, which runs a two-year programme designed for athletes with the potential to represent Southland on the national and international stage, offers development opportunities in mental skills, athlete life, nutrition, strength and conditioning and a range of other subjects. 

About 180 students have been involved in the programme since its inception in 2005, from all around Southland and across about 40 sports. 

Academy Southland co-ordinator Carly Anderson said the 15-year anniversary had given programme staff an opportunity to reflect and check in with past students about what they had gained through their involvement. 

“I was stoked to see so many athletes identify the things they had learnt that they were still using in their everyday lives,” she said. 

The programme has contributed to the achievements of multiple national champions, Olympic representatives and junior and senior world champions. 

But the impact has not just been on the pitch, the track or the pool. 

The programme has also helped develop students capable of taking up college scholarships in the United States, and amongst the graduates there are a number of honours and masters degrees, doctors, and even a Rhodes Scholar in the form of Hamish Tomlinson. 

These and many other achievements will be celebrated with a social media campaign starting this week and running for 15 weeks which profiles many of those 180 athletes, and where they are now. 

A survey of past Academy athletes has provided some rich information about the impact of the programme over time. 

Two-time Commonwealth Games badminton representative Anna Rankin talked about the power of having people ‘in your corner’. 

“You can't do anything on your own, success is the product of a lot of people helping you along the way,” she said.  

“Another big thing for me was the mental skills - a key aspect I worked on in the programme was to focus on the process and not get caught up on the outcome. I remember being told that no one listens to their favourite song just to get to the end. Enjoying the journey is something that I still try to keep in the forefront in my life today.” 

Southern Steel midcourter Kendall McMinn talked about how she worked her way back to professional netball after injury threatened to derail her promising future. 

“I focused on my goals and broke it down to how I would get back to what I was, Jason (McKenzie) was great back in the day, but I only realised how great when I wasn’t playing, so I went back and thought about the things I had been taught and now I’m back doing what I love.” 

World championship and Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning cyclist Matt Archibald said the Academy had helped him to balance his sporting and life goals. 

“(I) sat down and made a plan for the future; this resulted in me completing three degrees while competing, as well as getting married, buying a house and transitioning to a career outside of sport,” he said. 

“Without sitting down and deciding what I wanted out of life I would not have been able to succeed across multiple areas in my life.” 

United States college runner Hannah Miller learnt “how to flip negative thinking and see obstacles as opportunities that can be used rather than feared.”  

Facebook and Instagram posts with much more will run over a 15-week period leading up to a celebration event on November 15. 

The Academy Southland programme itself has also developed over the past decade-and-a-half. 

From its beginnings, when it was delivered by contractors, the programme has one fulltime staffer, three part-time staff and two interns. 

The Mike Piper Training Centre at the SIT Velodrome was opened in 2017, providing a dedicated strength and conditioning space for performance athletes. 

This is now being utilised by a number of development athletes, along with the Southern Steel and Southland Stags. 

The Academy service now also includes a coaching programme after this vital aspect of sport was identified as a challenge in Southland. 

Southland motorbike racer pursuing goals in Europe

Southland motorbike racer pursuing goals in Europe

Target shooter earns award

Target shooter earns award