SPORTING OPPORTUNITIES: Former Southern Cross School K-12 student and professional surfer Stuart Kennedy (front, left) with current Ballina Coast High School student and member of the Gold Titans rugby league club's development squad Rowan Mansfield at the launch of the Ballina Coast High School's Targeted Sports Program with (back, from left) program co-ordinator Justin Stewart, Micheal Crisp from Surfing Australia, Jeremy Kendle from the Brisbane Bullets basketball club, Jamie McCormack from the Gold Coast Titans, Craig Midgley from the Gold Coast United Football Club and school deputy principal Josh Gollan.
SPORTING OPPORTUNITIES: Former Southern Cross School K-12 student and professional surfer Stuart Kennedy (front, left) with current Ballina Coast High School student and member of the Gold Titans rugby league club's development squad Rowan Mansfield at the launch of the Ballina Coast High School's Targeted Sports Program with (back, from left) program co-ordinator Justin Stewart, Micheal Crisp from Surfing Australia, Jeremy Kendle from the Brisbane Bullets basketball club, Jamie McCormack from the Gold Coast Titans, Craig Midgley from the Gold Coast United Football Club and school deputy principal Josh Gollan. Graham Broadhead

School forges links with Titans, Surfing Australia, Bullets

WHEN Stuart Kennedy went to the former Southern Cross School K-12 in Ballina more than 10 years ago, he did surfing for sport once a week with a big group of students in the line-up.

Just quietly, he also skipped a few classes to surf, too -- but the end result was that he made it to the professional world Championship Tour.

He said surfing for school sport was "good fun", but there was no formal coaching -- though he did compete in the state-wide schools' surfing competition -- or targeted preparation for his life as a professional sportsman.

Fast forward to today, and Ballina Coast High School student, Rowan Mansfield, who is contracted to a youth development squad of the Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Club, is set to benefit from the Targeted Sports Program to be based at the school, and launched on one of the biggest days on the Australian sporting calender, Melbourne Cup day.

Mansfield, a Year 9 student, said he was "really excited for the future."

Under the program which will come into play next year, the school has made formal links with the Titans, Surfing Australia, the Brisbane Bullets basketball club and the Gold Coast United Football Club. Netball also will be included in the program.

Representatives from those clubs will attend the school and give the students selected for the program targeted lessons not only in their particular sport, but also provide instruction on things like strength training, diet and dealing with the media, which is part of life as a professional sportsperson.

The program will also link in with local sports clubs.

The idea for the program, which is the first formal program set up by a school on the Northern Rivers, came from Justin Stewart, who linked with the school's deputy principal, Josh Gollan.

Stewart said the sports lessons would be built in to the timetable for the selected students, and that's part of the school's philosophy of personalised learning programs.

Mr Gollan said the the program added to the school's philosophy of encouraging students to "dream big" and created pathways to give the students opportunities to fulfill those dreams.

"But there's always got to be a Plan B," he said, recognising that not every student will make the big time.

The program, he said, would allow talented kids to stay in the local area, rather than leave family and friends to attend sports high schools in metropolitan areas while they continued their schooling.

The program has been two years in the making, and it has been welcomed by the professional sports bodies who will have a direct link to tap into the talent in the region.

Craig Midgley, from the Gold Coast United Football Club which competes in second-tier competition to the A League, but has provided the pathway for Ballina's Tate Baldwin to head to the Brisbane Roar, said the region was "bursting with talent".

As for Kennedy, he said the program would be a "massive stepping stone".

"If we had these sorts of surfing programs back then (when he was at school), we would be producing more world champions," he said.

World champion surfer, Mick Fanning, lived in the Ballina area for a time when he was at school.