The Armidale School (T.A.S.) in New England, NSW is one of few schools in Australia with a long tradition of running kayaking as an optional supported school sport. The school has also been lucky to produce a number of Australian representative paddling athletes over the 40 plus years it has been running the sport.
In the early days students often made their own fibreglass kayaks and canoes with various moulds and they made the trip down to the Nymboida Canoe Centre when Goolang Creek whitewater course was still running. As often with the sport it goes from strength to strength relying on enthusiastic coordinators that have the skills to train the junior paddlers to the point of taking them on river trips and supportive staff to help facilitate the trips.
Currently the school has 20 students enrolled in the sport for primarily kayaking although some students have progressed to canoes as well. They train twice per week either on an artificial dam at the school or at their indoor swimming pool. Some of the paddling skills taught include focusing on developing clear paddle stroke delineation, safety skills such as entry and exit and using a throw rope, introduction to slalom competition, canoe polo skills and team play, whitewater river features and some basic river running experience.
This term the students have progressed enough that they are running a 3×3 canoe polo comp with four teams and playing 8minute halves. Their first river trip is planned soon on a grade 1 section of one of the various local rivers we have access to. Previously the students have also been able to organise excursions to the Penrith Whitewater Centre. The first Schools Competition will be held later in March this year.
The students range in age from 10 through to 18. Six of the current students have learnt to roll and some have attended the schools slalom events last held in 2019. Ex parents and students have been integral to keeping the sport going and the school invests in qualified coaches to build the student’s paddling skills. With this continued support and the T.A.S. ideals that encompass challenge and participation in outdoor activities it’s likely kayaking will continue to be a part of this regional NSW school for many years to come.