This year’s crop of under-18s members could not have done more to uphold the revered values of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy at a three-day camp last month. 

That was the insight presented by Academy General Manager Chris Smith after the young stars sweated through the first camp of its kind on the last weekend of January.

The under-18s had long grinded through the camp over a four- to six-week period, but the 2019 edition of the Academy Camp saw them tackle a hike from the SCG to Bondi on Australia Day, two “gruelling” training sessions, a seminar on nutrition and hydration and plenty more inside the three-day block. 

The Academy prides itself on responsibility, work rate, respect, cherish and enjoy – and Smith said every one of the values shone through in the troops on the camp.

“These boys set a very high standard. They set their benchmark high at training, they’re coachable, and they’re a group of young, motivated men that are disciplined and really want to achieve – not only as individuals but as a group,” Smith told Swans Media.

“Responsibility means they are responsible for their own development – not their coaches, not their parents. Work rate means their work rate off the track, on the track, in games and also when they’re by themselves. Respect is about respecting the Academy brand, respecting their teachers, respecting their parents and respecting their coaches. And lastly, we want them to really cherish and enjoy. This is a wonderful experience. It’s not necessarily about playing 300 games of AFL football. This is about doing something that’s very unique and special as part of a team throughout the course of the year. There are expectations on themselves and each other – and they’ll be better off for it.”

One army colonel addressed the under-18s on teamwork, courage and comradery, and another colonel on table manners, meaningful conversations and other forms of etiquette, while Academy Systems and Operations Manager Anthony Cahill ran them through using sports-management systems to communicate. 

The program also saw the youngsters complete a strength session, study the Academy’s game plan, enjoy a team dinner and conduct a peer review on a teammate’s camp performance.

The peer reviews saw every one of the under-18s pair with a teammate on the opening day of the camp, keep a watchful eye on them throughout the three days and discuss their performance in a one-on-one setting on the final day.

While Smith says a key focus of the Academy is the skills side of the game, he insists the peer reviews centred on the boys’ attitude to the camp. 

“It was about the energy they bring to the group, it was about their professionalism, it was about their ability to use voice and communicate, and it was about their capacity to lead and set a really good example,” Smith said.

“And I’m pleased to be able to say that that’s what the boys saw in each other and it’s what I saw in them too.

“We have another tough but rewarding year ahead, and the challenge now is to use the really strong camp as a foundation for the remainder of 2019."