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New AIS programs helping to Elevate women coaches

09 September 2021

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) continues to prioritise the progress of women in Australian high performance sport, with 47 talented pathway coaches – 33 women – participating in two new professional development programs.

Olympic Medallist Emilee Cherry
Olympic gold medallist Emilee Cherry is one of 47 coaches taking part in the AIS Elevate Coach Program.

The AIS Elevate Coach program is collaborating with leading tertiary institutions to deliver professional development for two focus groups of pathway coaches: one for women coaches; and another for former high performance athletes now focused on coaching.

Twenty-eight coaches from 20 different sports are participating in the inaugural AIS Elevate Women Coach program, while former Rugby Sevens Olympic gold medallist Emilee Cherry is among five women and a total 19 coaches chosen for the AIS Elevate Athlete2Coach program. In total, the programs comprise 47 coaches from 27 different sports, including Paralympic specialists.

Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck said it was another positive step towards increasing the prominence of elite women leaders in sport.

“It was incredible to see a record majority of female athletes represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics and win the bulk of medals but, along with the leadership of the AIS, the Australian Government is committed to addressing the under-representation of women in other sporting roles, particularly coaching,” Minister Colbeck said.

“The individuals selected for these AIS Elevate coaching programs are now undertaking an intensive six-month course, but it is part of a longer-term vision to increase the diversity in our Australian coaching ranks so the make-up of our sporting leaders is more reflective of the athletes they guide and the nation they represent. Many of these coaches will be dedicated to identifying and progressing our most talented young athletes and there is a huge incentive on the horizon with the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics on home soil.”

Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar said the new coaching programs were in addition to other AIS programs launched this year focused on women leaders in sport.

“The AIS currently has two other programs underway to support the advancement of women in leadership roles, the AIS Talent Program focused on women in sport science, technology engineering and medicine, and the AIS Accelerate program which aims to increase career pathway options in sport for retiring women athletes.

“The Australian Sports Commission, including the AIS and Sport Australia, is determined to see more girls and women in sport, from playing fields to board rooms. We are focused on strategies and programs that can help attract, retain and elevate more women in sport, across all roles and all sports. The 33 women involved in these two new Elevate Coach programs are linked with 23 different sports, which means these targeted development programs can have wide-spread impact.”

Olympic gold medallist and pioneer of women’s Rugby Sevens, Emilee Cherry announced her playing retirement in February this year and since been coaching with the NSW Rugby’s Development Academy. Cherry has experienced first-hand the progress for women athletes in recent years and said it was encouraging to see more professional development opportunities being created for women in other roles across sport.

“Women’s sport has exploded for players in recent years, but there’s been a lag in having more women in coaching and senior management roles,” Cherry said. "I’m sure there will be a flow-on effect of more women players into coaching and other roles within sport.

“Coaching is a new pathway for me, but I’ve learned from great coaches throughout my career, I’ve always loved the tactical side of the game and I have a teaching degree. I think this AIS program will help me develop in other skill areas coaches need, like player management. I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from the AIS and Rugby Australia.”

AIS CEO Peter Conde said the AIS Elevate Coach programs had a strong educational component and he commended the collaboration with La Trobe University, University of Sydney and University of Queensland. These programs are part of the AIS Performance Pathway strategy, but also align significantly to the AIS’s National Coach Development Strategy, launched this year and aimed at making Australia the world leader in modern high performance coaching development before the end of the decade.

“The results in Tokyo were a huge boost, but the AIS’s vision is to build sustainable success for Australian sport,” Conde said. “It’s fundamental, therefore, to continue investing in the professional development of pathway coaches and, more broadly, the high performance workforce guiding Australia’s emerging athletes,” Conde said.

“In addition to these AIS Elevate Coach programs, the AIS has this year provided almost $130,000 in AIS Elevate Learning Grants to support the education and professional development of 43 Performance Pathway practitioners and coaches. These staff are crucial in helping identify, develop, support and progress our most talented athletes.”

AIS Elevate Women Coach program: Cathalina Walsh (Athletics); Lisa Norrie (Baseball); Kristen Veal (Basketball); Jessica Cashman (Boxing); Haley Jones (Cycling); Emma Lynch (Diving); Liz Doherty, Helen Winterburn (Football); Rachel Bailey (Golf); Alison Morgan, Crystal Yeo (Gymnastics); Stephanie Andrews (Hockey); Alison Tucker-Munro; Jennifer Wright (Netball); Demi Obrien (Paddle); Christine McLaren, Hally Chapman, Judith Ungemach (Rowing); Lyneene Orsini (Softball); Amanda Hopps, Jemma Wratten (Squash); Chelsea Hedges (Surfing); Abby Sangalang (Taekwondo); Teresa Theaker, Janine Kaye (Triathlon); Edwina McCarron, Anne Meijnderts (Volleyball); Georgina Kovacs Muller (Water Polo)

AIS Elevate Athlete2Coach program: Steve Cain (Athletics); Ben Walkemeyer, Hayley Clarke, Annie Eastgate, Brody Riley (Sailing); Jonathon Dean (Cricket); Kevin Chavez (Diving); Daniel Whyley (Golf); Kyle McIndoe (Judo); Tully Watt (Modern Pentathlon); Jed Altschwager (Rowing); Emilee Cherry (Rugby Union 7s); Biba Turnbull, Cahill Bell-Warren (Surfing); Rick Pendleton, Thomas Fraser-Holmes (Swimming); Thomas Auger (Taekwondo); Vedran Cirkovic (Water Polo); Ethan Topalovic (Winter Sport)

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