ILLAWARRA Academy of Sport chief executive John Armstrong has called for more government support for the state's junior regional sporting academies throughout the coronavirus crisis.
While the IAS is financially secure, a number of the other academies are struggling as revenue streams have dried up in recent months.
The Illawarra Academy is one of nine in a state network of junior institutions that work together to help develop elite athletes across a range of sports.
South Coast products of the system include hockey players Grace Stewart (Gerringong) and Kyah Gray (Shoalhaven Heads), rugby league players Josh Morris (Kiama) and Luke O'Donnell (Milton-Ulladulla), rugby sevens player Tom Connor (Berry), lawn bowler Karen Murphy (Shoalhaven Heads), surfer Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa) and cricketer Nic Maddinson (Nowra) - with Armstrong saying it's vital every academy survives this crisis.
"We're one of the few academies that have got some resources to stick behind us," Armstrong said.
"We're in as strong a position as we can be, but some of the regional academies are doing it tough. If we don't get financial support from the NSW government at the next budget, some academies will struggle."
Armstrong has sat on a roundtable of industry leaders to help guide the NSW Office of Sport through the COVID-19 shutdown.
Throughout this period, he has watched as other states have announced grants and relief for sporting organisations, while the NSW government is yet to unveil a formal package.
Given the role community sport plays in NSW society, Armstrong has been disappointed to see his state falling behind but he's hopeful that will soon change.
"The academies put a new proposal to the Office of Sport and we're very hopeful of that coming through. It has been supported by the Office, they've ranked it highly, so that in itself is good.
"The challenge is nobody knows the budget processes and what's happening. When we sit down and work through our budgets, what will that support look like?
"We're well placed, but the strength of us has to sit within the regional academies as an entity.
"We're in a unique position with nine independent and two government regional academies in NSW, it's such a unique and well-functioning network.
"We are so important for supporting the athlete development pathway for youth in the regions, that's now at risk."
Armstrong's comments came as the IAS unveiled a new partnership with Illawarra Credit Union, an alliance that will involve financial education for the Academy's athletes.
With no sport as a result of coronavirus, the scholarship holders and coaches have engaged in a range of educational sessions.
But with training slowly starting to resume, Armstrong said the youngsters are desperate to return to the field.
"The kids are no different to top athletes, they're dead keen to re-engage as best they can.
"There are so many unknowns at the moment, but in the meantime we'll continue ticking along as best we can.
"We've had Zoom meetings, home workout videos and coach development sessions, I'm proud of the work everyone has been doing."