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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Exciting new Football Development Programme launched at Northern Regional College

Northern Regional College has launched an exciting initiative to help aspiring young sportsmen and women fulfil their potential and pursue a career as professional athletes.

The College’s unique Football Development Programme will be offered to all students at the Coleraine campus who are enrolled on the Level 3 Extended Diplomas in Sport and Exercise Sciences and Sports Coaching and Development, as well as students doing a Foundation Degree in Sports Science, Coaching and Fitness.

Neil Beddow, Curriculum Area Manager for Sports, explained that the initiative’s multi-faceted approach would benefit students by allowing their education to progress in tandem with their sporting aspirations.

“The Football Development Programme will be offered as an additional option for Level 3 and Foundation Degree Sports students with serious ambitions to perform at a higher level and become professional athletes. It will be ideal for students, aged between 16 and 20 years, who want to achieve a recognised education qualification while developing and improving their performance at their respective sports,” he said.

Pictured L-R are: Lauren Wade, former Northern Regional College sports student and Northern Ireland Women’s football player; Neil Beddow, Curriculum Area Manager in Sport at Northern Regional College; Christine Brown, Vice-Principal Teaching & Learning at Northern Regional College; Jay Riley, Level 3 Extended Diploma sports student at Northern Regional College in Coleraine; and Chloe McCarron, former Northern Regional College sports student and Northern Ireland Women’s football player. Both Lauren and Chloe will represent Northern Ireland at the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 finals this summer.

Although primarily aimed at footballers, the programme will also be suitable for any young person with aspirations to achieve in other sporting disciplines. All students on the programme will receive structured and tailored support to meet their specific needs to allow them to reach their full potential.

The programme, which will run alongside and complement the core content of the Level 3 and Foundation Degree courses, will include: 10 hours additional training each week, delivered by UEFA coaches; fitness testing and detailed performance analysis; and an opportunity to represent the College at national and international events. Students will also be given support to identify and prepare for sports scholarship opportunities in America.

It will be delivered by a team of experienced sports lecturers, Conor McCullough, Greg McGovern and Damian McCarry, who have specialist skills in sports psychology, exercise and nutrition, strength and conditioning and sports analysis. In addition to their expert knowledge, they each have a wealth of valuable contacts with professional sporting bodies at home and abroad.

The College is no stranger to sporting success with a growing number of students representing Northern Ireland in football on the international stage, while there were also representative honours for students competing in other sporting disciplines, including hockey, netball and women’s rugby.

The new Football Development Programme will build on its successful record of identifying and nurturing future sporting stars. The College has a successful record in football competitions at both national and international level. The College’s Under 19 football team won the Costa Brava international championship in Lloret De Mar, Spain in 2017 and again in 2019. The competition, which attracts some of the world’s best young footballing talent, is a magnet for teams and football scouts from across Europe. One of the players, Eamon McLaughlin, is currently in the US, having secured a four-year soccer scholarship with California State University. Eamon also received offers from universities in New York and Texas.

The Football Development Programme has been warmly welcomed by former students and professional footballers, Lauren Wade and Chloe McCarron. Lauren and Chloe, who both play with Glentoran Women Football Club, helped the Northern Ireland Women’s team secure a coveted spot for this summer’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 finals.

Lauren completed a Level 3 Diploma in Sports and graduated from Ulster University and secured a sports scholarship to do a Master’s degree in the USA. She has represented Northern Ireland on 40 occasions and played professionally with teams in Iceland and Scotland before joining Glentoran.

“This development programme will help young players prepare for the world of professional sport. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to ensure that their sporting ability is backed up with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the importance of training and recovery, nutrition, strength and conditioning and learning about the strengths and weaknesses of your game,” she said.

Chloe McCarron, who has 26 caps for Northern Ireland, played for Linfield Ladies and Birmingham City before signing for Glentoran last summer. She said the development programme would give up and coming young players all the tools they needed to support their transition to professional sport.

“It’s an ideal opportunity for anyone looking to enjoy a career in professional support.”

Applications are now open for the Level 3 Extended Diploma and Foundation Degree Sports courses at Northern Regional College. The Extended Diploma is a two-year full-time course and is the academic equivalent of three A levels. The Foundation Degree, which is validated by Ulster University is also a two-year full-time course. On successful completion, students may apply to progress to the second year of an Honours Degree at Ulster University.

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