During the recent school holidays, a select group of highly talented young footballers were chosen to attend National Talent Centre (NTC) camps.
The NTC programme is part of New Zealand Football’s ‘Whole of Football Plan‘, and focuses on providing an opportunity for the country’s most talented young players, identified through Federation Talent Centre programmes, to play with and against each other in high-quality training environments. The NTC programme is considered the pinnacle for youth players and is the pathway to selection for NZ age group sides.
Young goalkeeper Morgan Whitson was among the group that spent four full-on days at Rathkeale College in Masterton. The 16-year-old Otago Girls High School student had previously attended two other NTC Camps, and has found them hugely beneficial as she strives to develop her talents.
“The NTC has been a huge help for understanding what I need to work on”, said Morgan. “I’ve improved so much since the first camp I went on”.
Morgan was one of four goalkeepers, and 32 players in total, in her age group attending the camp. Despite it being a competitive environment, there were still plenty of laughs too. “Us goalkeepers were quite a good tight-knit group – you’ve got to keep it close in the GK Union! We all had some fun but when we got down to it, we were all switched on. It was a great learning environment.”
Along with the group training sessions and matches, there was a big focus on encouraging the youngsters to take responsibility for continuing their development once the camp was over.
“With the help of the coaches, we created our own training schedules, which we’re able to go and do back home. It involved breaking everything down to a very basic step-by-step look at improving skills. We made up our own schedules working alongside the coaches and then tested them in action, which was good.”
It’s a big year for Morgan, who’s also in her first year of senior football at new club Roslyn Wakari. “It’s definitely a huge step up from Youths, it’s a lot more intense, but it’s a great challenge”.