Belfast Telegraph

Rendall out to help young talent flourish in the local game

By Martin Mawhinney

The future of football in Northern Ireland is a matter concerning everyone who supports the game at all levels – and a local academy is doing its part to address those growing concerns.

A perceived shortage of quality young talent in comparison to previous generations has largely been attributed the wide number of alternatives available to children and young people at the moment, with football falling down that growing list.

However, one Irish League reserve team coach believes the problem goes much deeper than that. Warrenpoint Reserves second string manager Kyle Rendall feels the right focus isn’t being given to children at entry level, and that an entirely new approach has to be given to young people taking up the sport.

He said: “I have seen at a few clubs that there is no structure in place to help young players develop.

“There is this mentality about kids having to win games. That’s fine at Under-17 and Under-19 level, of course, they will want to be competitive, but surely you should be teaching kids to enjoy it, first and foremost.”

That’s why Rendall got involved with the Balon-Ajax online academy, a non-profit organisation which has been set up to allow players from different economic, social and religious backgrounds to build lasting friendships creating mutual understanding and respect.

The aim is that young players, aged 7 to 16 and currently with clubs can supplement their current training with a weekly session with the academy to help them improve physically, as well as looking at their nutrition, social interaction, concentration and respect.

Rendall, a director at the academy, stated: “We could have done this over the summer, but I wanted to do this in a way that would make a real difference. This way, the clubs will hopefully see the benefit as the season goes on.”

Members will undertake a total of 32 of coaching sessions set and tracked by Ajax, including individual player tracking (giving parents and players objective feedback) and training gear at a cost of £229 split over three or six instalments.

The sessions begin on September in Belfast and Lurgan on September 7 and run right through until May.

The links with Dutch giants Ajax will no doubt raise expectations among hopeful parents that their child could one day be turning out at the Amsterdam Arena, but Rendall suggests this is getting away from the point.

He added: “If a child is outstanding, then it is obviously a possibility, but there is no point in raising those sort of hopes. This isn’t about finding the next Ronaldo – it’s about giving kids at every level the chance to improve.

“A lot of kids are walking away from sport, but this is to try and stop kids leaving football disheartened. It’s giving them somewhere where they don’t feel under pressure to perform.”

For more information, go to the academy’s website at www.balon-aoa.com

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