Young hockey player Daniel Olsen is one of almost 1000 up and coming sports stars competing in the ClubsNSW Academy Games in the Illawarra this weekend (April 13-15).
Daniel, 15, is playing in his second games, having represented the Illawarra Academy of Sport in Armidale last year.
A member of the Albion Park Club, he plays in both the Under 17 and Second Grade competitions. The Albion Park Club has proved a great training ground for talented young hockey players, with current Hockeyroos, Casey Eastham, and Kookaburra squad member Kieran Govers having played for Albion Park in their formative years.
After making the New South Wales Under 15 state squad and country team last year, Olsen believes that the Academy Games are vital in helping young athletes to further their sporting careers.
He said that membership of a regional Academy of Sport can act as a stepping-stone to the New South Institute of Sport, and potentially then onto Australian representative teams later on.
Daniel believes that going away as a team and spending three or four days with mates, as well as the new friends you make as a member of the team as one of the highlights of Academy membership.
Members of the Illawarra Academy hockey team come from as far north as Scarborough, to the Shoalhaven in the south and west to the South Highlands.
With the home-town advantage of playing in the Illawarra region this year, Daniel says the team has prepared both on and off the field, with the emphasis being on fitness and skill development.
Despite the fact that scores are not recorded in Academy games, he said that pride will ensure that all players will want to perform at their best.
After nine years of playing hockey, Daniel sees himself as more of a defender, playing as either a fullback or in the half line. He would like to some day be part of the Australian Hockey team, the Kookaburras like his idol, Jamie Dwyer. But for now he has other goals in sight.
The 2012 Clubs NSW Academy Games hockey completion will be spread across three venues in the Illawarra – the University of Wollongong, Unanderra Illawara Hockey Complex and the Mary Marley fields at Shellharbour sporting complex Croome Road will be used.
The hockey competition will host both a girls and a boys draw with teams from nine academies competing.
Words: KATE NEALON