The Illawarra Academy of Sport's Indigenous athletes are looking forward to the prospect of working with their heroes after the launch of a new initiative.
The Indigenous Sports Program will act to provide support to Aboriginal youths within the Illawarra, with the goal to help teenage athletes achieve their sporting dreams.
The Academy is currently designing the project with input from scholarship holders and the region's Indigenous community with a desire to tailor the setup to the athletes' needs.
While the final design is yet to be confirmed, mentorship from Aboriginal athletes will likely play a key role within the scheme.
For Illawarra Academy of Sport athlete Elias Oldfield, this is the most exciting aspect of the program.
"When mum read me the email I was stoked because I'd been hoping that an opportunity to not only meet, but be mentored by my sporting heroes was now looking likely to happen," Oldfield said.
"Hearing my heroes stories about how they reached the heights they have in sport will definitely be a huge motivating factor in keeping me focused and encourage me to keep training hard so I can hopefully become a successful sports star too."
The program has been established under a joint-partnership with Multi Civil & Rail, the company headed up by Tory Lavalle.
Academy chief executive John Armstrong said the initiative will allow his organisation to help the emerging athletes reach their full potential.
"It's really about trying to provide that unique level of support Indigenous athletes may need to go to that next level," Armstrong said.
"Providing that mentorship, communal support, knowing where to go within the broader community if they are facing challenges."
The Academy has taken a collaborative approach with the structure of the program, with input to be taken from a range of parties.
"We've engaged Paul Knight, the CEO of the Aboriginal Land Council and on the board of the IAS, he's been instrumental in trying to bring key people in.
"We want to go to our current athletes that identify as Indigenous and get their thoughts on what they want.
"Already some have said it would be lovely to have the opportunity to talk to some of those Aboriginal people who have made it within their sports for mentorship and inspiration."
The new initiative will be open to existing IAS scholarship holders as well as new athletes. Additionally, it won't be confined to the Academy's current programs, with youngsters from any sport who meet the qualification criteria encouraged to apply.
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