AIT and Westmeath GAA have launched an academy to nurture and develop highly skilled young players. Up to 80 players will be selected annually to participate on a development programme which will run for five years.
The initial focus for 2014 is on young hurlers and footballers playing at u13 level. The players will receive high quality coaching and sport science support on a weekly basis from experienced coaches and professionals.
Recruitment for the AIT-Westmeath GAA Academy will be by way of trials which will take place across Westmeath in February. This will be followed by a training and testing session in AIT in March, following which the boys participating in the academy will be selected.
Emmett Egan, sport scientist at AIT, explained the rationale for developing the academy: “Understanding the changing needs of the young player at each stage of their development is crucial towards helping produce a talented, successful, and injury-free player. It is important to understand that the development of the player is paramount in this regard. They must be schooled in all the necessary skills in their formative years to have the right set of tools - both physical and technical. Young players must be able to pass, tackle, block, kick, and catch correctly, as well as learning how to improve speed, stamina, flexibility, agility, and balance in a safe and progressive manner.”
The players participating in the AIT-Westmeath GAA Academy will be profiled according to their agility, reaction, speed, and power using state-of-the-art equipment. Training sessions will involve a combination of physical development, player education, and pitch-based skills.