"It's crazy," Oscar Mitter, 17, says.
"There's so many people around and so many people passionate about their sport. It's a great environment."
The Wagga hockey player sums up the atmosphere that makes the Academy Games something special.
With the three-day multi-sport event on in Wagga in just three weeks, Southern Sports Academy athletes are pumped.
"Absolutely. Just the support we'll get from friends, family and the wider community here in Wagga it will be great to see familiar faces and I think that's ultimately going to lift everyone's game, whether that's hockey, basketball, cycling or any of the sports," cyclist Luke Nixon says, ahead of his first Games.
"It's always great to represent your local club but representing the Academy, representing the cyclists of the Riverina, it's amazing to be able to do it."
That's a big attraction for young athletes who have been developing through academy programs and get to put it into practice in a Games setting against teams and competitors from other regional academies throughout NSW.
"It's the highlight for our program and the kids, I know, and coaches as well, to be able to test their wares against like minded athletes from other programs across the state," Calverley said.
"It gives them a marker of where they're sitting from across their sport, from a competitive point of view. And it gives them motivation after that in terms of what their training needs to look like and whether they need to make adjustments."
Claudia Hocking's basketball team will aim for back-to-back championships for the Southern Sports Academy.
"Definitely there'll be a target on our back but we're looking forward to it," Hocking says.
"Basketballers did really, really well last time. It was great watching the boys play too, and the young ones, the under 14s. Everyone's supporting each other it's a great environment to be in."
Netballer Ava Moller said the competition was tough and the Academy Games offers a different experience to her regular weekly competitions or other representative programs.
Hocking said the academy program has particularly helped athletes understand the importance of health in their preparation, as well as skills. And the holistic approach takes in looking after mental health and understanding the importance of other factors beyond their games.
Action will take place across 11 sporting venues, potentially including triathlon at Lake Albert if the water quality improves.
The Southern Sports Academy said Wagga's vibrant sporting culture was a big factor in securing the Games which, with thousands of visitors coming, are set to inject millions into the local economy.
"When we pitched to Council and to Regional Academies of Sport that we wanted to host it, a big part of that was, 'What type of suppport can you get from the local community?'," Calverley says.
"From day one, from Wagga City Council to the associations and the clubs involved with each of the sports that we'll be hosting, their support has been unwavering, both from a volunteer perspective but also what can they do to make it bigger and better.
"We're excited to bring it to town for that reason too ... for them to be able to show off their facilities and what they as associations and committees can do in terms of running the event."
And the athletes can't wait to do their bit on the fields, courts and courses.
"One hundred per cent. All the training we've been doing over the past months, and sme people past years, it's all culminating into the Academy Games so we get to see how much we've improved, especially at this level we're playing at," Mitter says.
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