Athletes given sporting chance at elite careers

Connor Prior #2  TBW Newsgroup
ASPIRING ATHLETES: Connor Prior, 16, is one of the athletes in the Limestone Coast Regional Sports Academy with an aim to reach the top level of his chosen sports of soccer and cricket. Picture: TODD LEWIS

Connor Prior #2  TBW Newsgroup
ASPIRING ATHLETES: Connor Prior, 16, is one of the athletes in the Limestone Coast Regional Sports Academy with an aim to reach the top level of his chosen sports of soccer and cricket. Picture: TODD LEWIS

DOZENS of South East budding athletes are being presented with clear pathways to realise their sporting dreams through the Limestone Coast Regional Sports Academy.

Starting off as a pilot program with just 12 youths, the academy has grown to a group of 42 athletes, aged 13 to 18, who are now in their second year of the elite sport focused system.

While its membership has grown, so to has the scale of its opportunities with a Tennis SA partnership set to give promising players access to an ATP tour event, while others are gearing up to be potentially drafted in the Australian Women’s Football League.

As these athletes aim to reach the top-level in their chosen sport, the academy aims to give them the tools to “tick off each box” along the way.

“The thing they did not previously have access to is gym and education programs and then when they get to Adelaide they meet children who have been doing programs for three or four years,” academy coordinator Tony Elleston said.

“The talent level is no different, it is just the opportunity to have the resources and the programs that we are now able to provide them with.”

Mr Elleston the academy had gone from strength to strength since its inception and athletes were starting to see the results.

“There is always a pathway for these athletes, but sometimes it is not always easy to see where that lies, so we try to help them understand and identify that pathway,” he said.

“We have now got athletes who are playing State AFLW football and are looking like they are going to get drafted, we have got swimmers at national competition and we have got a motocross rider who is probably sitting at five or six in the nation for his age.”

With the talent pool in the Limestone Coast widespread across a variety of sports, Mr Elleston said the academy endeavoured to build relationships with key stakeholders across the sporting landscape.

“We already have a programs in conjunction with AthleticsSA and HockeySA and we are looking to add a partnership with the South Australian Sports Institute cycling team,” he said.

“We had Olympic Gold Medalist Brett Aitken come down and do some testing and he was blown away with the level of talent we have here, so we’re going to have a cycling program and he will be down here quite a bit, which will hopefully unearth some really talented cyclists in the area.”

The academy has also been working on a timely partnership with TennisSA, which will coincide with the return of the ATP tour event, the Adelaide International in 2020.

“Athletes who make our tennis program will get to go along to that tournament and will have access to all the players and the coaches,” he said.

“They will get to experience what it is like to be on the tour, which is incredibly exciting.”

The ultimate goal for each athlete is to realise their dream at the top-level, but Mr Elleston said those who do not will end up thriving in their own community.

“Sporting academies that have been going for 30 years have shown the athletes involved end up becoming leaders in their community,” he said.

“While we will always endeavour to help them get to the highest level, it is also important to us that those who do not quite make it come back and can give back to their community as leaders.”