The first cohort of ex-Apprentice footballers have taken the next steps along the Pitch2Podium journey.
The initiative, backed by LFE, The PFA, The Football League, The FA and The FA Premier League aims to re-assign released young players into Olympic sports.
At the initial Olympic Talent Assessments in July, twenty-three players were short-listed for six targeted sports. September saw those identified for Flat-water Canoe and Skeleton gain first hand experience into the prospective Olympic journey that lay ahead.
Three players attended a special Canoe Talent Assessment day at the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierre Point, Nottingham. Here, they were taken through a number of specific tests designed to assess the characteristics required for World Class performance.
Assessment included specific physiological tests looking to identify whether their capabilities could match those of current Olympians, and following this, the boys took to the water as coaches viewed their ability to learn the skills required.
Their performances over the day made an immediate impression on GB Canoe Coach Alex Nikonorov,
“It’s great to see such talented athletes. Their general physicality is very impressive, as is their potential to learn canoeing skills quickly. As an Olympic coach this is very exciting and leads me to believe they have every chance of making rapid progress towards London 2012 given the right environment.”
Those impressing on and off the water have been invited to partake in a longer, more intensive, Talent Confirmation programme. This will be under the watchful eye of Olympic coaches and sports scientists who will meticulously track their progression in the sport.
Later that month, nine players also made the journey to Bath to attend a special two day British Skeleton Talent camp. After surpassing the required Phase one targets set by the sport, further assessments were undertaken. Coaches worked very closely with the players to assess their Skeleton potential, with a particular focus being on the push-start.
Following this event, four players have been selected to attend a special skeleton familiarisation camp in Cesana, the site of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics. The camp will involve a more extensive investigation into their ability to learn new skills as well as their responsiveness to working on ice.
Skeleton Talent Coach Greg Kirk has been pleased with the progress so far. He said:
“We saw boys at Phase Two go way beyond their comfort zone, excelling in activities that are not ‘normal’ for them.”
“This is because they have come to us with ‘ready-made’ generic skills, abilities, and athletic qualities. Cesana will be the next step in assessing their versatility to transfer these attributes into Skeleton, and assess their potential for medal success in Sochi 2014.”
Further Pitch2Podium Phase Two assessments are planned with British Cycling, GB Hockey and Pentathlon GB in November.