RYAN Cole is going to be a very busy young footballer over the next 12 months.
The 14-year-old all-round sportsman, noted for fortnightly interstate trips in search of high-quality soccer competition, has been awarded a one-year scholarship with Hunter Sports High School, which includes entry into the Northern New South Wales Institute of Sport football program.
For parents Neil and Anne, so used to regular treks to South East Queensland, it now means pointing the family car in a southerly direction.
“Not as often this time as Ryan will be staying in Newcastle with a host family we met and became friends with on a trip to Japan,” Neil Cole advised.
“We phoned him after his first day at school to see how he was settling in and already he's discovering what a full-on experience he's taken on.
“Along with sporting commitments they'll be keeping a very close eye on scholastic activities which we're very happy about because not only do we want him to come out at the end of this so much better at football, but with a good academic record as well.”
Beside the discipline of being a full-time student, Ryan will train five nights weekly, including two gym sessions, with a further training run each Saturday morning.
In the school football team, he'll play a match every Tuesday morning.
But his Academy side has entered the elite Hunter Under-23s competition beginning in March which dad Neil believes will be a unique experience for a bunch of 14, 15 and 16-year-old lads.
“They're certainly throwing them in at the deep end but there's a lot of care taken to prepare for the challenge,” Neil said.
“That's where the gym work comes in so they are physically able to mix it with bigger players who really can hit hard.”
Coffs Coast footballing icon Gary Phillips, coach of the Newcastle Jets W-League team, remains a mentor while Jets boss Gary van Egmond fills in whenever Phillips is on assignment.
“Ryan is fortunate having access to that quality of coaching advice and he's thriving on the program,” Neil added.
“The year started with a visit to Canberra for the inter-institute challenge series, practice matches against the W-League squad but from here on it's solid training and competition.”
A natural athlete, Ryan is also checking his schedule to find room for other pursuits.
As the reigning NSW Little Athletics long jump and 200m champion for his division, he's keen to further those interests as well.
“Sometimes, Anne and I wonder how he fits it together but he's young and while he's so enthusiastic, as parents we can only fully support and encourage him,” Ryan's father said.