For 25 years, the Northern Inland Academy of Sport has been dedicated to developing potential future stars on and off the field.
A host of the Academy’s original committee members together with their biggest supporters gathered in Armidale on Friday for a sports luncheon to celebrate the milestone and support the NIAS4Life Foundation, which aids the current programs.
The Northern Inland Academy was the fifth of its kind in the state to be introduced and chief executive James Cooper said it’s the passion of everyone in the community which has kept it going.
“Twenty-five years of the Academy is obviously a milestone for us, we came in before some of the other academies,” he said.
“It is great across the network now, there's 11 regional academies servicing thousands of kids each year and it is something we are proud of.
“As a former athlete myself, and someone who came through the system, understands the system, it is great to be able to give back to NIAS and to create opportunities for kids to better themselves.
“We had our first executive officer, first chair of the board and a director in there [on Friday] to celebrate 25 years and that it is what it is all about.”
Cooper said it isn’t only about developing their skills in their chosen sports but to give the program’s participants skills they can carry to other areas of life outside the sporting arena.
“To do that, I think the kids see real value in it and the athletes certainly appreciate the pathway that is in front of them,” he said.
“Our new netball coach is a former athlete who took over from a former athlete, we have staff that have been through that have been part of the Academy so the most pleasing thing is there are people out there in the community that have been touched by NIAS that are now giving back to the next generation.”
As it stands, the Academy has more than 250 young athletes across 12 sports in the program.
It is growing larger every year and Cooper said they are continuing to look on ways to add new sports into the Academy and develop a wider range of athletes.
“There's a list of sport all regional academies across NSW have that we will build on,” he said.
“There's opportunities for us, cricket is an obvious one as far as national level and profile we don't have and then there's water sports.
“We had swimming and water polo and they're potential avenues as well.
“As long as the quality is there in the program we will maintain what is sustainable for us.
“If we can add one into 2019 and hopefully crack the 300 that will be great.”