A group of promising young Rotorua athletes have enjoyed a taste of expert athlete development.

The Rotorua Lakes Council, in partnership with Bay of Plenty Rugby and key industry experts, is looking to create an Athlete Development Programme to help local athletes aged 14-18 prepare for a high performance environment.

Before the programme can get under way, organisers need to be sure it ticks all the right boxes, so last week several sports teams were invited to take part in a pilot version.

Rotorua Lakes Council stadium events and sports manager Crispian Stewart said the programme was born out of Bay of Plenty Rugby setting up a Performance and Training Centre at the stadium.

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"We got on the back of that thinking rugby will be well suited, but part of the arrangement with council was other codes could use it.

"We started looking at where the gaps are for Rotorua athletes and it is this developing that sort of athlete space, the 14-18 age group.

"We all believe the sporting talent is in Rotorua, it's just harnessing that. At that age group they're pretty vulnerable in terms of staying with the sport, there are lots of distractions. But also, there may not be the opportunity for them to progress their sport here, so hopefully this can be a stepping stone."

During the pilot programme last week, a selection of Rotorua cricket, waka ama and netball teams took part in strength and conditioning, Pilates, sports nutrition and sports psychology sessions at the stadium.

Pilates instructor Barry Bird takes the Rotorua under-18 girls' waka ama squad through some drills. Photo / Andrew Warner
Pilates instructor Barry Bird takes the Rotorua under-18 girls' waka ama squad through some drills. Photo / Andrew Warner

Bay of Plenty Rugby assistant strength and conditioning coach Slade King ran the strength and conditioning sessions and said it was based on the foundations of training.

"It's the fundamental components, the importance of strength and technique, effective recovery. It's really important for kids that age to know the basics because it's the base of everything else.

"If you're an athlete looking to develop speed, power or agility, you need to tick those foundational boxes first."

King said the programme was "a great initiative".

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"I don't think there's anything like it, as far as I know, when I was at school there was nothing like it. It's a good taste of what's to come if you do go as far as the high performance sporting environment."

John Paul College student and Rotorua under-19 netball player Areta Pakinga, 17, said the programme was "a great opportunity".

"It's a good foundation for our netball and our sporting lives - our athletic pursuits."

She was in the middle of the sports nutrition session when she spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post and said it was easy to follow what they were learning.

"Other ones I've been to are really complex, but this one gives you the basics of what you need to do. It's simple, you don't have to overthink it. This whole programme gives you all the things you might overlook and a different way of looking at things. I'm taking notes, I think this will be very helpful. It's given me a whole new determination."

Stewart said the next step would be to survey the athletes and tutors who took part in the trial.

"We want to make sure we're getting the right mix, if it's the right age group for this and if the tutors are right for the kids. We're deliberately using local experts to keep that Rotorua flavour.

"This will give us something to hang our hat on, go out to other codes and tell them about this programme."