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AIS celebrates women leaders in sport

07 May 2022

Twenty six athletes, including the likes of basketball legend Rachael Sporn and Olympic gold medal water polo player Danielle Woodhouse, met at the AIS in Canberra last week as part of the AIS Accelerate program.

Now in its second year, AIS Accelerate supports women athletes to pursue careers and leadership positions in Australian sport beyond their athletic careers. The AIS Accelerate network now includes a total of 41 athletes from 21 different sports.

Danielle Woodhouse, who has successfully made the transition from Olympian to Sports Physiotherapist, said AIS Accelerate Program has been an invaluable experience.

“Coming here to the AIS for the Accelerate Program has given us the opportunity to step away from our day- to-day lives and the business and the grind, to actually focus on ourselves and our mindset,” Woodhouse said.

“It has made us all realise that we aren’t alone, that we’ve all gone through the same struggles facing the same sort of transitions regardless of what levels of sport you played, whether you went to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, which you wouldn’t be able to do in any other situation.”

AIS Accelerate Program Event, May 2022
Australian Sports Commission Board Member Lynne Anderson with members of the AIS Accelerate Program in Canberra.
AIS Accelerate Program Event in Canberra, May 2022
Australian Sports Commission CEO Kieren Perkins with members of the AIS Accelerate Program.

The week at the AIS included an evening event with members of the Australian Sports Commission Board and Executive, including ASC Chair Josephine Sukkar AM, ASC CEO Kieren Perkins OAM and AIS Director Matti Clements. Accelerate participants shared some great insights into the challenges many women athletes face when transitioning from their high performance athletic careers.

Olympian and AIS Accelerate Participant Rachael Sporn
Olympian Rachael Sporn and and fellow AIS Accelerate Participant Juliet Haslam with Port Adelaide AFLW player Erin Phillips.

Rachael Sporn has recently been appointed as the AFLW Operations Manager at Port Adelaide and was encouraged to apply for the AIS Accelerate Program by fellow Olympian and 2021 Accelerate Alumni Juliet Haslam.

“For me it has ticked every box,” Sporn said.

“The professional development part is really what interested me and I also love being around likeminded people and the opportunity to connect with women from other sporting codes.

“I think because we have been elite athletes we haven’t been building up our skillset that someone else in a normal job environment has been able to do. But I think we all need to believe in ourselves a little bit more in the skillsets that we do have and realise that it is going to transition us really well into the workforce.”

Olympic archer Alice Ingley
Australian archer and AIS Accelerate Program participant Alice Ingley at the Rio Olympic Games.

Archer Alice Ingley retired from her athletic career following the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, a decision she said was made easier by the connections she has made through the AIS Accelerate Program.

“Coming from a sport that is very male dominated, I never had experienced the knowledge and mentorships from other women athletes,” Ingley said.

“Having access to the other athletes in the program, learning off them and learning what paths they have taken to transition out of sport has really built up my idea of what I want to do and what I can do.”

For more information about the AIS Accelerate Program, please visit the AIS website here.

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