Australian Olympic Committee Chief John Coates is very interested in seeing the Australian University Sport system play a much bigger role in developing the country’s young athletes.
Coates told The Australian that he feels universities are the missing link in Australian sport, “I have long believed that the missing link now in Australian sport is tapping into the universities sector,” Coates told The Australian.
“With all the resources they have and I’ve seen in some sports like rowing, it’s very much the backbone of the sport. It has that potential across many other sports.”
“With our economy where it’s at, it’s clear there’s not going to be more money for Australian Olympic sports, as I acknowledged … in London. We have to be pleased with what we’ve got and spend it more wisely. But there’s still this other resource we should be tapping into.”
Currently AUS (Australian University Sport) has 41 member schools that participate in 33 different sports.
The university sporting system has been an area of great interest for Swimming Australia whose President Barclay Nettlefold has been active in speaking to different schools about developing a more comprehensive and competitive swimming program,”Six universities have come to us on the back of the London Olympics with proposals for us to make use of their facilities and sports science expertise,” Nettlefold told The Australian in October.
“It’s real and it’s very exciting for us. If we can set up 100 swimmers through university scholarships, getting the best sports science support while also getting an education, we’ll keep them in the sport at an age when we have a lot of dropouts.”
On the heels of over 100 current or former NCAA swimmers participating at the 2012 London Olympics Nettlefold would love to see Swimming Australia help provide the same type of system to their athletes, “That’s where we’ll look to take it. Last year we sent a very strong swim team to the World University Games and I’d like to think we could send our best swimmers there in future.”
Even though it is not the norm there have been some great Australian swimmers who have participated in university sport including Grant Hackett and Libby Lenton, who both won Most Outstanding Sporting Achievement of the Year Honours, as well as Brenton Rickard, Christian Sprenger and Cate Campbell.
It has been confirmed by The Australian that Nettlefold met with Don Knapp, the chief executive of Australian University Sport Ltd last week to discuss how they could create a stronger program.
Coates made sure that he not only pointed to how the universities could benefit the athletes performance, but he expressed his feelings on just how important a university education is for athletes in their lives after sport, “And it also has the advantage of addressing one of the great problems we have, which is life after sport for athletes.
“So many of them are not these days bothering with tertiary education or with work while they’re practising sport. And then they finish sport and think that sport owes them a living and they haven’t prepared for it themselves. I’m not talking of the superstars. It’s probably the next level down.”