Young Norfolk Sports Academy is making good progress

Young Norfolk Sports Academy athletes (back row, from left) Cerys Maryan, Ellie Jamieson, Harry Shea

Young Norfolk Sports Academy athletes (back row, from left) Cerys Maryan, Ellie Jamieson, Harry Shearer, Josh Pond; (front) David Barclay, head of YNSA Richard Sims and Daniel Bainbridge, who have begun their involvement with the YNSA project, which is being led by Norwich School. Photos: SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The next generation of Norfolk sporting stars have begun the next stage of their development following the launch of the Young Norfolk Sports Academy.

The initiative, which is being led by Norwich School, invited talented youngsters to apply to join the programme based on a strict set of criteria.

The YNSA has now begun its work with 14 Norfolk athletes, in the hope of being able to help fully develop the best talent in the county.

Richard Sims, a former international cricket player for Zimbabwe and head of cricket at Norwich School, is head of the YNSA and says he has been bowled over by the talent the academy has attracted.

'To be honest we didn't really know what we would get at the start and we are very impressed with the calibre of athlete,' Sims said.

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'The criteria was pretty strict on the application form so they had to be in the top 10 of their age group in the country and the standard has been through the roof.

'It's very exciting, it's going to be quite hard to keep that up.

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'We've got some very talented athletes at the school who fitted into that criteria anyway, but we don't have too many of them, so the whole purpose of this was for them to meet other athletes of the same standards so they can share experiences and ideas.

'We've got six from the school and eight from outside the school and as a group they have gelled really well, so it's all good at the moment.'

The YNSA athletes cover a wide range of sport, from rugby union prospect David Barclay, through to alpine skiier Jazmine Butcher and boxer Emma Dolan.

The others involved in the programme are: Dan Bainbridge (javelin), Katie Clark (400m hurdles), Lillyella Craw-Seaman (open water swimming), Joe Ground (archery), Ellie Jamieson (javelin), Livvy Rowe (kayak), Isla Rush (cycling), Harry Shearer (kayak) and Nathan Wells (swimming).

All the athletes have started their involvement with the YNSA and Sims hopes they will enjoy plenty of benefits from what is on offer.

'So far they've had lectures on nutrition, they've got another one coming up, they've had the opportunity to have some functional movement screening, which for a lot of them was very interesting and they'll get some really good benefit from that,' Sims continued.

'Of the few lectures we've run so far, for the athletes and their physical development, that has been a really important one and they'll be re-screened in about two months time.

'Also to pick up any physical flaws that they have at the moment, especially if they have a specifically one-sided sport. Javelin throw, for example, is all one arm so you need to make sure that everything is balanced up.

'We've done some goal-setting, we've done a video conference with Amber Hill, the Olympic trap shooter, she was brilliant because she is only 17 or 18 herself and is number one in the world so it was great for the athletes to speak to her.

'A lot of them will be with coaches, academies and they are looked after technically, physically, those specific areas but they do not get as much specific information on psychology, nutrition, so we hope we are going to provide those to speed up their development.'

The youngsters still have much to learn, both with the YNSA and elsewhere, but Sims has high hopes that some of the first cohort will one day be able to achieve national success.

'The goal really is to try and get those athletes into a national academy programme, in which case they will then be looked after to another level really,' he added.

'They'll be prepared for that and hopefully a little bit ahead of other athletes at that standard so that would be one way of measuring.

'Ultimately it would be to have some sort of Olympian, to have played a part in that, to have played a small part in their development.'

Have you got a story about an aspiring sport star? Contact sports reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or send an email to


• The Young Norfolk Sports Academy (YNSA) is aiming to bring together young talent from different sports, to offer coaching in the various aspects of life for an elite athlete, as well as expert support, training and education.

• The YNSA athletes will be part of a physical tracking programme and will develop their understanding of topics such as nutrition, psychology, injury rehabilitation and handling the media.

• Norwich School completed a successful pilot scheme with their own athletes during the last academic year and has now extended the opportunity across the county.

• Applicants for the YNSA needed to be between 15 and 18 years old and ranked in the top 10 of their chosen sport in their home country in their age group, and also have a proven record of performance.

• For more information about the Young Norfolk Sports Academy, go to

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