Athletics Northern Ireland’s Coach Development and Physical Preparation Lead Laura Kerr has released details of Athletics NI’s new ‘Open Academy.’ Open Academy days will give any aspiring athlete between the age of 15 & 19 years old, and their coach, a chance to experience the core concepts behind the Youth Academy Programme.

In the past two years Athletics NI’s weekly Youth Academy, led by Laura Kerr & Tom Reynolds (Athlete Development Lead,) has supported around 45 athletes through physical competency screening, strength and conditioning, coach/athlete education seminars and movement training sessions with a focus on acceleration and upright running mechanics. In 2015 95% of Youth Academy athletes achieved a personal best performance.

Headline Successes for Youth Academy

Ben Fisher: 2x Bronze Medal at Commonwealth Youth Games 2015, (LJ & 110H)image-coachingconference16.jpg

Garbhan McKenna: European Junior Championships 2015 (110mH)

Kate O’Connor: 7th Place European U18 Championships 2016 (Heptathlon)

Megan Marrs: World Junior Championships 2016 (Great Britain 4x100m Relay Team)

Jack Agnew: Top 40 in world senior rankings (2016) for Wheelchair Racing aged 16

Open Academy days running approximately every 8 weeks will give developing athletes and their coaches exposure to movement screening, physical preparation sessions and athlete education seminars. Youth Academy coaches will introduce content similar to that delivered at the weekly Youth Academy and athlete –coach pairs can apply to attend Open Academy without the need to have met a selection standard.

Director of Athletics Tom Crick explains “talent identification research in athletics and other late specialisation sports suggests that is very difficult to predict which young athletes will go on to achieve senior success. Indeed, at 14, 15 and 16 years old many future champions are often not the best in their clubs let alone their country or the world. Many multi-medal winning Olympic/Paralympic and World Championship medallists often continue to play other sports into their late teens and early twenties. Since excellent youth performances do not seem to differentiate future champions from their peers, the research agenda is now shifting towards the psychological factors that determine long term success.” In line with this thinking Athletics NI wish to provide ambitious young athletes and personal coaches focused on long term athletic development with early exposure to the physical preparation and lifestyle planning that facilitates high performance training. Open Academy provides this opportunity.

Before signing up to attend the first Open Academy Session parents should check the personal coach’s availability to attend. Contact details for the personal coach of the athlete must also be provided at the point of registration. The Youth Academy curriculum and follow up resources will also be published on

Reflections on Athletics NI’s First Open Academy Squad