A new Queenstown football academy teaching children to curl free kicks like a pro and providing opportunities to play in overseas tournaments has been met “phenomenal” interest, its head coach says.
The Whitmarsh Academy – named after head coach Jamie Whitmarsh – has more than 170 children learning to bend it like Beckham at its after-school programmes.
It only launched at Queenstown Primary School in term 4 last year, Shotover and Arrowtown schools in term 2 this year, while Cromwell sessions will kick off in term 3.
Training’s held once a week at each school.
It’s all about developing children’s motor skills, Whitmarsh says, while paving a pathway to play a higher level at national and overseas tournaments, in places like Australia and Sweden.
“There’s the social side of having fun and interacting with each other too.
“I think football is the biggest-growing sport in the country, particularly in the girls’ space.”
And it seems women’s football is flourishing internationally on and off the pitch. An estimated 14 million Americans tuned in to watch the U.S. women’s soccer team claim victory over The Netherlands to win their fourth World Cup title last Sunday.
Whitmarsh holds a girls-only session, with more than 20 players, on a Monday. He wants to get more women involved.
‘It’s a challenge for everyone in football, but we want to change that, and have more and more girls playing football.”
Whitmarsh’s given a lot to the district’s football community over the last decade and coaches Queenstown AFC’s men’s and women’s senior teams.
He’ll continue running his Central Otago player development school.
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