The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is delivering on its $35million commitment over two years to help sports identify and develop Australia’s talented athletes of the future.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are the immediate focus for 2021, but the AIS has maintained its strong commitment to building long-term sustainable success by investing in jobs and strategies that support the country’s emerging talent across Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports.
The total $35.3million in direct funding to National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) comprises:
- $21.6million in Performance Pathways Solutions grants, an initiative that helps sports implement strategies that develop their emerging athletes, and:
- $13.7m in Pathways Workforce Grants to 36 NSOs, funding the equivalent of more than 45 full-time positions over two years in areas such as pathway leadership, coaching, sport science and sports medicine support.
In 2020 alone, the AIS has allocated more than $10million in Performance Pathways Solutions Grants for ongoing projects across 23 sports: Archery; Artistic Swimming; Athletics; Baseball; Basketball; Golf; Hockey; Modern Pentathlon; Netball; Paddle; Para-Table Tennis; Equestrian; Rowing; Rugby; Sailing; Shooting; Skate; Snow Australia; Softball; Squash; Surfing; Swimming; and Wheelchair Rugby.
AIS CEO Peter Conde said high performance sports had identified supporting athlete pathways as their biggest challenge prior to COVID-19 and, despite this year’s disruptions to sport, it remained a priority.
“Pathways support is critical to the future of Australian sport, helping the AIS and sports to discover and develop our champions of the future,” Conde said. “In some sports, it can take eight to 12 years to identify and develop a talented young athlete with potential through to them being a contender for medals at major international events. It requires long-term planning, commitment and investment.
“Even with an immediate focus on Tokyo next year, we need to be thinking about the Olympic and Paralympic athletes who will be coming through to represent Australia at Paris in 2024, Milano/Cortina in 2026 and Los Angeles in 2028, as well as the Commonwealth Games in 2026.
“It was important to begin by investing in the pathway workforce that will guide system and athlete development. Now we’re working with sports to initiate programs through our Performance Pathways Solutions Grants that will help progress these high potential athletes to become the very best they can be.
“The projects come in all different shapes and sizes, involving talent identification, enhancing training environments, providing competition opportunities and coach development. We have invested over a million dollars in sports such as swimming and athletics, focussing on such things as athlete data collection and resultant initiatives to minimise injury to young athletes. We’ve also invested in new Olympic sports such as skate and surfing as well as smaller sports like shooting and modern pentathlon, which both produced gold medallists at the last Olympics in Rio 2016.
“We thank the Australian Government for the funding that makes these sporting dreams possible for our next generation of athletes coming through.”
The Australian women’s softball team, the Spirit, is one sport program already planning for the future and benefitting from AIS pathways support.
Australian softball has claimed a medal in every Olympics it has contested and the Spirit is aiming to challenge for an historic gold medal when the sport returns to Olympic competition for the first time in 13 years, in Tokyo 2021.
The Australian Olympic squad is in camp at the AIS and the sport is not included for Paris in 2024, but Softball Australia is already planning for the 2028 Los Angeles Games with the support of the AIS.
Softball Australia CEO David Pryles said the Pathways funding had enabled the sport to put national coaching programs and intensive AIS training camps in place to develop the next generation of athletes.
“We have great optimism that we can challenge for our first Olympic gold medal on Tokyo next year, but we also need to keep an eye on the future of the sport. Given the likelihood that softball will be played at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, we need to start preparing potential athletes to be as competitive as possible, and our thanks goes to the AIS for assisting us with a generous grant towards our pathways program,” Pryles said.
“The intensive camp at the AIS will provide team members with the opportunity to gain insight into the daily life of being an elite level athlete, encompassing strength and conditioning, recovery and nutrition sessions and biomechanical filming and testing plus more. Offering an intensive AIS training and competition camp will be a huge morale boost for these girls and we can keep that passion for the game alive to hopefully continue on with their softball careers.”