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AIS grant helping female coaches thrive on international stage

08 March 2024

Emerging female coaches are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of 11 women who boosted their resumes with international competition experience through an AIS program.

Woman stand in two rows.
2023 ELP cohort 1 attend final workshop in Brisbane.

In its first year, the AIS Experiential Learning Program (ELP) helped the female coaches from ten different sports gain crucial experience at benchmark sporting events by assisting with travel costs.

The seven-month program enables coaches to travel to an international sporting event they otherwise would not have had the funding to attend, with applications now open for the 2024 cohort.

Last year’s program participants attended events such as the 2023 World Aquatic Championships in Japan and the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Hungary.

Gymnastics Australia coach Skye Benson used her grant to join the Australian gymnastics team for a training camp in Wales and the 2023 GymNova Cup in Belgium, an experience she said greatly improved her confidence.

“The experience in Europe is something that cannot be replicated domestically, so it was invaluable for my development as a coach and forms a very important piece as I step into the next level of competition,” Benson said.

In addition to their international competition experience, coaches attend face-to-face workshops focused on gaining confidence in communication, establishing strong connections and learning through storytelling and reflection.

2023 program participant and recently appointed Australian Shotgun Olympic Athlete Coach Renae Birgan said despite the invaluable opportunity to travel to South Korea for the 2023 ISSF Junior Shooting World Championships, the workshops were the highlight of the program for her.

“Being able to share experiences and reflections with other women who are at a similar stage in their career, made for a tailored learner-centered and safe environment where optimal learning was had,” Birgan said.

“Having strong mentors in the workshops to help guide our learning, reflections, unique experiences and perspectives and build new knowledge and expertise was invaluable.”

Coach talks to athlete.
Renae Birgan (right) coaches Molly Bretag at 2023 ISSF Junior Shooting World Championships.

Likewise, Boccia Australia coach Bruna Accurso said: “I am grateful for the time I had during the workshops, the support I gained was pivotal for both my professional and personal growth, inspiring me to advance in my career and contribute more significantly to my sport.”

AIS High Performance Coach Development Senior Lead Michelle De Highden said she was delighted to hear the impact the inaugural program had and is excited to soon be welcoming a second cohort.

“Removing funding barriers immediately assists coaches with additional opportunities, so we are pleased to have helped our coaches experience authentic learning and development through an international experience,” De Highden said.

Those interested in joining the 2024 ELP program should contact their national sporting organisation for application details.

Learn more about the Experiential Learning Program and other AIS High Performance Coach Development initiatives.

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