The music was blaring, the laughter was long and loud, however the outfits were pretty ordinary, the quality of the performers was questionable, and the dance moves, well, the cast from the movie “Step Up” have nothing to worry about from this lot when they sign up to screen test the sequel…The National 18 Years Youth Development Squad were ‘competing’ in a friendly “dance off” competition as a team building activity at the TFA Inaugural Youth Development Camp at the Runaway Bay Sports Centre on Queensland’s Gold Coast in January 2006.Players had to perform random routines from across a range of categories – anything from ballroom to gangster rap… anything the guest mentors and coaches thought would stretch the dance repertoire of our brightest young touch football starlets.Players who adhered to the edict made famous in the movie “Strictly Ballroom” of “using their own flashy, crowd pleasing, non federation dance steps” were scored best by the mentors and coaches. The competition was set down along traditional State of Origin enemy lines, Qld v NSW…or so the competitors thought…At the height of the intense “dance off”, a new team entered the contest…Dressed in their fashionable “Jim jams”, and sporting bright green zinc with the letters “TAS” emblazoned across their faces, youngsters Emma Haines and Emily Hudson from Tasmania entered the fray.The outgoing Tasmanians danced up a storm and took the challenge right up to the opposition and made a huge statement about who they were, the pride they felt in their home State, and their place in the fabric of the National squad.Haines and Hudson (whose footwork was infinitely better on the field than on the dance floor) impressed all at the Inaugural Youth Camp with their talent, passion, skill, and enthusiasm for the sport.Their attitude to learning and improving was exceptional, and their ability to apply new knowledge was duly noted.Twelve months on Emily Hudson 16, is progressing well and is sure to be a leading light in the Tasmanian 18 Years Girls team at the National 18 Years Championships in Coffs Harbour from 19-22 September 2007.Emma Haines, after representing Crusaders at the last two National Touch League tournaments in the Women’s Open division, continues to go from strength to strength.Emma was one of 93 of Australia’s best Youth Touch Footballers who took their first steps towards selection for the 2009 Youth World Cup during a comprehensive training camp on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast from Thursday June 29 to Sunday July 1, 2007.The young talent described the opportunity to take part in the latest National Youth Camp as “awesome”. “It’s great meeting new people, getting new experiences and working with new coaches. Just to get information and to soak it all in is really good and you’re always learning something,” she said. The 19-year-old plays for local club Condors in the Southern Touch Association in Hobart and has been playing Touch Football for seven years.Emma’s Dad Stephen, and mother Janet, are both long serving Tasmanian Touch Football representatives who have been a constant support and the driving force behind Emma’s career.Stephen represented Tasmania at Men’s Open, Men’s 30s, and Men’s 35s level and was selected in the Australian Men’s 35s Merit team at the National Championships in 1992.Janet was a pivotal player in the Tasmanian Women’s Open Team for many years, and they are both immensely proud of their talented daughter’s achievements.“She absolutely loves Touch, she is so excited about being in the National squad and she just looks forward to every game she plays, at home or against the best players from Interstate. She works hard, and is very focussed on achieving her goals and we’re happy to support her in whatever direction she wants to take in the future,” Stephen said.Emma’s position as one of Australia’s leading Youth players will benefit her home state immensely. The bubbly youngster is already being promoted as a role model and a mentor to Tasmanian junior representative teams.She is sure to introduce some of the skills she picks up at events such as the National Youth Training camp to her local competition in the same way that current Australian Open stars Bo de la Cruz (Northern Territory) and Shelley Matcham and Rebecca Tavo (Western Australia) have done for their respective states. Haines said she really enjoyed witnessing the difference in play on the mainland. “It’s a lot faster and there are better skills in other states because they’ve got a lot more players to choose from and higher level coaching. It’s good, but I still love playing at home because there are lots of friendships down here. That’s where I started so I always respect everyone.” Haines said the most enjoyable thing about Touch Football is the friendships and social aspect of the game. You couldn’t half tell, very rarely will you ever see the young Tasmanian with anything other than a huge smile on her face… even during fitness testing!The young tyro revels in the big time atmosphere and gives the impression that she belongs. She is confident and believes in her own ability, but is conscious of the gaps in her learning and seizes every opportunity to improve and develop.“I just try and be myself. You look at all the names and their talent and it is a bit intimidating, but once we get started, I just figure I’m like everybody else, and it’s heaps of fun. I have heaps to learn and I have a great chance to improve, so I just go as hard as I can,” Emma said.Current Australian Women’s Open Coach Kerry Norman was involved in the recent National Youth Training Camp and has watched Haines for the past three years.Norman said, as well as being immensely talented, one of the ‘Tassie Devil’s’ best attributes was her outgoing nature. “The thing that impressed me was that she can come into a camp and probably not know anyone, but she’ll just fit in with everyone. She’s accepted really well by the others and she’s got a great personality for the sport,” Norman said. The Australian coach also said Haines’ ability to put advice to good use was impressive. “When she’s given advice at a tournament she goes away and comes back and you can see that she’s grown as a player. I see Emma as a future representative, especially at youth level,” she said. Emma’s fellow National 20 Years Youth squad members also see her immense value to the program as a player and a person. Queensland’s Alyce “The Rat” Hulbert, and NSW’s Nicole “Sero” Beck, were full of praise for the Tasmanian’s contributions at National Youth camps.“She’s great – full of energy. She talks to everyone and is always smiling, great fun to be around and she makes friends quickly. On the field, she never ever gives up and runs the whole time. I feel like she’s always got my back in defence as well, and she just seems to pick up with the squad where she left off last time. She learns quickly and she has everyone’s respect because she just competes hard always,” Hulbert said.Beck was similarly impressed with Haines’ progress.“Emma’s really outgoing and makes a real effort to get to know everyone…she loves the social things as well – she is not the least bit shy or self conscious. She definitely flies the Tassie flag! On the field, she is always asking questions and takes everything in. She is always keen and just gives everything she’s got. She always steps up and keeps going all day. She is a big asset to the program,” Beck said. Touch Football at the elite level has long been dominated by the “super powers” Queensland and New South Wales who with long established histories in the sport and strong links to the Rugby codes have been able to consolidate Touch Football as a mainstream game of choice.A plethora of skilled and experienced technical personnel in Queensland and New South Wales have also helped create an accelerated training and learning environment across their entire States to allow an elite level of competition to prosper.The sport is blessed to have Elite players and coaches in every State, but there is little doubt that the pathway to the top has a few more obstacles for talented players in the emerging States.The tyranny of distance, the reliance on Satellite coaching and correspondence, the limited quality high level week to week competition, the lack of consistent interaction and training with elite level peers, limited access to the latest developments in skills, techniques, and game play in the sport could all add up to significant roadblocks to representative participant development.These difficulties have been identified by each State, and as the sport continues to grow, more State’s are advancing High Performance Programs and camps to help improve, expand, and access representative pathways for players, coaches, and referees.Maree Tomlin, Tasmania’s Director of Elite Programs and a highly respected National Selector for the past thirteen years, is mindful of providing pathways for talented representatives in every State.“It’s really important that we offer experiences and programs, particularly for our Youth players. We don’t have well-established competitions and experienced coaches and a lot of Elite players, but we will be looking to improve the situation with the development of pathways with TFA and the High Performance area in the near future.We want talented players like Emma to have access to opportunities that will further her touch football career and we are very keen to help make the pathway smoother for a lot of our talented players in the future,” Mrs. Tomlin said.TFA High Performance Coordinator Wayne Grant is mindful of the need to provide effective High performance programs all over the nation.“We have identified the need to assist each State towards a High Performance Program. We are working closely with the States to assist them in developing representative pathways for their members. There are key areas TFA can assist the States with, such as identifying appropriate TID events, player development programs, access to elite player mentoring, coaching development and mentoring, and administration and support structures. It is a high priority to help review and implement High Performance processes that achieve the outcomes each State targets,” Mr. Grant said. For now Emma Haines will keep working hard and looking forward to her next chance to learn.She says her position in the current Youth World Cup squad is her proudest achievement in the sport. There is no doubt she is aiming to earn a berth for Australia in the 2009 Federation of International Touch Youth World Cup. “It would be so great getting to represent your country. It would be awesome playing at the highest level, to step up and see if you can make it,” she said.If Emma is a part of the final contingent she will be the first female Tasmanian to represent Australia at Youth World Cup level, and only the second Tasmanian in history behind Mark Holloway who played in the Australian 20 Years Mixed Team at the 2005 FIT Youth World Cup. Beyond that though, the young star has one major goal. “The ultimate would be to play for the Australian Women’s Open team,” she said. The dance skills may still need some work, but if the popular Tasmanian remains dedicated to her training and improving her skill level, maintains her outstanding attitude to learning, continues her rate of development on the field, and keeps that smile going for the duration, anything is possible.