Junior soccer players from ages five to 18 have been polishing their skills and learning from the best at the Northern Inland Academy’s annual National Football Camp.
Nearly 200 young players from around the region took part in the four-day camp from Sunday through to Wednesday in Armidale.
The camp is in its third year and at the helm of the coaching ranks is Newington College’s Brian McCarthy.
McCarthy spent 12 years as the Irish National Team’s High Performance Manager and has worked with world-famous clubs including Real Madrid.
Having been at the camp since its inception, McCarthy was impressed by the returning attendees and the progression in their skill-bases.
“One of the great things for us is a lot of the same boys and girls have come back over the three years, up to 17 and 18-years-of-age,” he said.
“That is the first thing that shows us the boys and girls from various regions appreciate the work being done on the camp and the quality of coaching that has been provided.
“The other thing is the levels of interest have always been very, very high but this year probably moreso than ever.
“The engagement is even better and it looks like a lot of those players have improved immeasureably.
“A lot of the girls teams have gone to new levels, obviously through a lot of work in local areas and quite a few have been getting representative honours.”
The camp has also introduced a five to 10-year-old age group which has proved fruitful.
A handful of new coaches have come along to cater for the growing numbers.
“We brought six coaches from Newington College and myself and James [NIAS chief executive James Cooper] has engaged two or three coaches from NIAS so this year is by far the best coaching group,” McCarthy said.
“That has been a move in a positive direction because it was probably more generic but we have targeted younger groups to try the program.”
Through his international connections, McCarthy has also managed to conduct tours for young soccer stars.
He’s taken them to teams and academies all over the world and brought some of the techniques back to try at the camp.
We have added lots of new equipment and lots of new exercises,” he said.
“One thing we have been able to help with the players and the coaches is we are fortunate at Newington College to take the boys to tour Europe, Japan and been at professional clubs in Spain, Portugal and Japan.
“We brought a lot of that content back with us.
“We are giving them a really good European feel.”