Helping our sports stars strive for excellence
Combining top-level sport and study has been made easier, thanks to a new support program established at the University of Adelaide.
Known as the Elite Athlete Support and Information Service (EASIS), the program will give student-athletes the flexibility needed to achieve both academically and in their chosen sport.
The program is part of the university's membership of the national network of Elite Athlete Friendly Universities. Member institutions provide assistance and support for students who are also elite athletes.
The network also has the backing of the Australian Institute of Sport, the South Australian Institute of Sport and professional player associations such as the AFL Players' Association and the Australian Cricketers' Association.
So far, some 38 student-athletes currently studying across all five Faculties at the university and taking part in a wide cross-section of sports have been identified as potential beneficiaries of the program.
Sports represented include cricket, hockey, water-skiing, AFL, kayaking, sailing, water polo, basketball, beach volleyball, athletics, ice hockey, rowing, orienteering and baseball.
In launching EASIS recently, Vice-Chancellor Professor James McWha said students taking part in the scheme would be offered flexible and timely options to continue their education, while meeting the demands associated with being an elite athlete.
"We will be able to offer leave of absence to attend major competitions, or the opportunity to sit exams externally if needed," he said.
"I am particularly pleased that the project officer for our program is Amber Halliday, who has two degrees from this university and has won world championships and represented her country at the 2004 Olympics.
"Amber knows exactly what it is like to combine study with sport, and her experience and knowledge can only benefit those current students who are in a similar position."
One student who has welcomed the introduction of the athlete-friendly program is volleyballer Travis Moran, who is studying for an Arts degree and represented Australia in indoor volleyball at the 2004 Olympics (he has since switched "codes" to beach volleyball).
"Often my study or my sport gets really hectic for a period of time and it's hard to find a balance sometimes," Travis said. "I've had to sacrifice a lot: academically when I was at school, and socially too, to get where I am but I'm still happy with what I've achieved."
Miranda Bennett, too, has experienced the rigours of combining study and sport. A world champion rower, she completed a double degree in Law and Commerce in 2004 and after working for law firm Minter Ellison in Adelaide, she recently moved to Sydney to work for law firm Sparke Helman.
"It wasn't easy! I still had to complete all the components of the course," she said. "If I couldn't be at classes, I still had to complete other assignments to make up the attendance. I also had to prove myself to my lecturers that I could handle it.
"I guess I never lost sight of the importance of study. Sport is there but you always have to think about life after sport."
Story by Ben Osborne