For Adam Woodage, the journey with Oly Cats continues to have an upward curve, with more exciting developments in the pipeline.
The 17-year-old’s involvement at Catuvellauni’s handball side stretches far and beyond partaking in fixtures, and crosses over into the nurturing of the next generation of budding players.
He’s encouraged about what the future holds and, in Woodage’s eyes, things will only improve, given the talent coming through the youth ranks.
Training sessions in his school days gave the man from Aylesbury his first involvement with Oly Cats, and from then onward, Woodage has extended his presence beyond the handball court.
“My first interaction with Oly Cats was as a player — that was in conjunction with the U16 county team,” he explained. “That came as a result of our school squad, so we went to the county tournament in Aylesbury – won that, and then some of the players were identified to come along to some country trials.
“I followed that through, and I was really enjoying the sport at that moment, but at the same time the school route was developing very well, and we actually got through to the national finals. The two, put together with some really strong role models in place, helped me carry it on as a road I wished to continue on.
“After that first season, in year 10 I made the commitment to go along to the Oly Cats training, with the U18s and senior players as well. There was also the U18’s matches for Oly Cats, and that helped develop massively the inspiration for a game that’s very easy to play.
“You can train every week, but being able to put some matches in there makes a huge difference to how you view the sport, and the opportunities it brings in that respect.
Working within a structure that he believes will enable youngsters to blossom, the goalkeeping coach says things are in place for a bright future.
“Things have really developed,” Woodage declared.
“I’m now training twice a week, and coaching as well beyond that. It’s an interesting one, because there was a bit of a gap from the U16’s up to those U18 and senior levels.
“You’d go from the U16 county squad, straight into the deep end with the U18s and senior squads. That was almost a good baptism of fire in a way, because it made you step up your game very quickly.
“Where as now, we’ve got the ability to take players from 10 and 11-years-old, right the way through to the U18 and senior age.”
Furthermore, Woodage highlighted the growing interest in the sport – something typified by increased participation within the younger age groups at Oly Cats.
Woodage said: “From the schools competition last year, we set up a joint U13 and U15’s session which runs on a Monday evening at 7-8pm.
“This was so those players had the opportunity to develop, and the numbers we’ve had taking that up have been really positive.
“We’ve got some guys who are now quite committed to the club and have joined us. Some of them stay back to watch some of the senior sessions.
“They’re really enjoying the chance to play handball as well, because England handball have now put on an U14 and U16 competition, they’re having the opportunity to develop themselves and get playing as well.
“That was a big risk, and we’re thankful to Oly Cats for allowing us to open up that avenue. The long-term benefits of having players starting from a young age and developing their skills from there are huge.”
Casting an eye to the future, the Under-15 coach is optimistic about what lies ahead, with no shortage of talent being honed locally.
Woodage stated the opportunity exists at Oly Cats for any aspiring youngsters, and he’s greatly anticipating what lies ahead.
“This also starts to put us back in line with what’s happening on the continent. Players are starting much earlier, developing and are getting inspired, so we can build up a base from there,” he highlighted.
“Some of the guys we’ve got in the U13, U14 category at the minute are really exciting, and they can already compete with a lot of the U16’s.
“So to think about where they could be in 3, 4, or even 5-years time, considering where we were at their age, is very exciting for us as a club.
“We wait with anticipation to see where the path goes.”