THERE’S that saying: “from little things, big things grow”.

And there is probably no truer statement when it comes to the Rising Star Hockey Academy (RSHA).

Created in Mildura by Jamie Pain and Lauren Harmer, what started as a seed has established into a three year venture, with no end in sight.

“Rising Star was created because there was a need to bring quality coaching out of metropolitan areas back to the athletes in regional areas for more than once a year,” Lauren said.

“This idea was developed to help the athletes reach their full potential, reduce excessive travel times and associated cost.

“We had one school term in mind and have now been operating for three years.

“We knew our local athletes were missing the opportunities their metropolitan athletes were getting so we bought it to them.”

Jamie said the academy started with one athlete asking for one on one coaching and, within just a month, three more had joined them.

“It continued to grow from there and now we have 13 full time and seven part time athletes,” he said.

“We have travelled into South Australia and all parts of Victoria performing clinics based on requests from areas who heard what we were doing.

“RSHA has even run an athlete clinic for the Fijian National Team during the National U21 Men’s Competition while in Fiji.

“There isn’t anything we aren’t prepared to consider and try.

“We are also fortunate to sponsor three Malaysian women who play in representative teams.”

The academy today focuses on 50 per cent development of hockey skills and 50 per cent mindset and personal development.

“We have developed a G.A.M.E.E training package which is an integral part of the program,” Lauren said.

“The athletes are exposed to the importance of practicing gratitude, having a can do attitude, being mindful, aware of the energy they bring and understanding and practicing empathy.

“The mindset of the athlete has become a huge focus for the academy to develop their resilience and emotions on and off the pitch.”

But the academy is also taking local hockey enthusiasts places –progressing into the North West Lightning.

“It is our zone for representative hockey at Junior State Championships and senior Metropolitan hockey playing in Victorian League One,” Jamie explained.

“I am the zone coach developer for NWL, academy head coach, player in the VL1 team and major sponsor.”

But the pair’s involvement is the sport doesn’t stop there – the academy also sponsor Sunraysia Hockey Association.

“I also coach the Hockey Victoria U18 Men’s team, Hockey Victoria Country Mens team and the Australian U21 Men’s Country team.”

It’s hard to imagine how these two have the time, isn’t it?

But the fact that they are two busy individuals doesn’t impact on their commitment and passion in delivering the academy.

“In 2021 we have had athletes in various programs throughout the year,” Lauren said.

“We are branching into coach the coach and umpiring programs in 2022.

The Sunraysia Hockey Association Summer Hockey involved all our athletes which made up two teams.

“It was great to see the athletes representing RSHA in the tournament.”

But the tournaments come after plenty of work both off and on the pitch.

“With hockey skills, we do a lot of work on the fundamentals,” Jamie explained.

“Off the pitch, we do a lot of analysis, videoing athletes in play and going over the video to help them improve.

“The mindset work is mostly covered by Lauren who has a strong passion for personal growth and getting the athlete’s to have open minds to learning and growing a strong connection with the group .

“I work with the athletes on lesson’s and positive outcomes, attachment and their ego and how it can work either in their favour or against them.”

Although Jamie and Lauren would probably refuse to take as much credit as they would be entitled to for the success of their athlete’s, the RSHA participants are already making an impact outside of the regionn.

“There are numerous tournaments ranging from Junior Country Championships, Junior State Championships to State Trials, (we have participated in),” Jamie said.

“We have two athletes in the South Australian Fire Academy and two trialing for the Hockey Victoria Draft Camp. “Dusty-Rose Pain and Krystal Stenner also played shield with Bendigo North West Lightning which is a big leap in their progression.

“Dusty-Rose also progressed and played in her first Victorian League One game with North West Lightning.

“All the RSHA athletes have had great success personally and when representing North West Lightning, local clubs and during trial processes.

“We are very proud.”

Both Jamie and Lauren admit they were heading into the journey after the initial term blind.

“We asked our athletes and families for feedback and they wanted more,” Lauren said.

“We worked with the athletes to develop the academy and its been well attended ever since.

“We just wanted to be of service in areas we knew we could help.

“We now have a full package which includes skills, mindset theory and practical exercises, nutrition awareness and goals as well as personal and professional goal setting.”

Ultimately, the pair agree, they would like to see an equal pathway for regional junior athletes to progress their hockey and join their metropolitan peers at state and national tournaments.

“We will continue while there is a need and ultimately would like the athletes to have a supported pathway because they all possess significant skill sets, despite the challenges they and their families face with travel and costs associated with programs being held in metro locations.”

And if the weren’t busy enough in the hockey world, RSHA also have another project in the pipeline, with Jamie designing a range of gear.

“The hockey sticks are designed by myself with the help of the manufacturer in Pakistan,” he said.

“The sticks are all composite.

“I design the mixture of fabrics, how they are carbon wrapped for strength and wear resistance.

“We also have stick bags and balls.

“We are progressing into a wider range of hockey equipment from shin guards, goalie equipment and clothing.

“A long term vision is to manufacture all of it in Mildura.”

While Jamie and Lauren dedicate their time outside of their every day jobs to the academy, and the students spend plenty of time developing off and on the pitch, Jamie said there is a way businesses locally can get involved and ease the burden on the athlete’s families.

Being based regionally, costs to travel to locations like Bendigo, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Riverland add up, which is an expense athletes living closer to the cities don’t experience.

“Ultimately, we want all of our academy athletes to have full sponsorship from local businesses so they can continue to focus on the pathway and not have the burden of significant travel costs,” Jamie said.

“Some of our families have two or three children involved and we would love to hear from any businesses that would be interested in sponsoring an athlete in 2022.

“The sponsorship would include the academy program as well as funds to assist with accommodation and fuel when representing Sunraysia.”

Although I get the feeling after chatting with Jamie and Lauren, they deserve the credit here for delivering a program locally unlike any before, they pass on the praise.

“Lauren and I are extremely grateful for our employees who understand our passion, support us along the way and never say no when we need a day off to travel to support our athletes,” Jamie concluded.

To get involved in or support the academy, email admin@risingstarha.com.au or visit their Facebook page: Rising Star Hockey Academy.

By ZOEY ANDREWS