Introduction, background and research methods. The Case for University Sport

September 12, 2016 | Author: June Wilcox | Category: N/A
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The Case for University Sport

Title: “The Case for University Sport” Author: Don Knapp CEO - Australian University Sport Ltd (AUS) Suite 1.12 Sports House 150 Caxton Street Milton, Queensland 4064 Australia Abstract: The purpose of this paper is two-fold. Firstly, to build a compelling case supporting the importance of ongoing investment into sports and recreational programs on university campuses in Australia; and secondly, to give voice to this case in support of sports administration professionals working in higher education institutions throughout Australia each year to establish, sustain and grow sport participation among university students, staff and members of the local community. There is a third, ulterior purpose for this paper which is as yet unrealised in Australia, and that is to strengthen the argument that sport participation and physical education are intrinsic to the pedagogy of education at all levels, including higher education. Research methods used for the collection of data for this paper were mixed. Included is an environmental analysis of current Australian Government public policy, reports and reviews in areas relevant to university sport, with a focus upon determining the political, economic and social issues that combine to posit sport as an integral component of the university student experience, while at the same time aligning university sport programs and activities with public policy objectives. Semi-structured interviews have also been conducted with key stakeholders including consultation with university sports administration professionals, vice chancellors, student-athletes and other sport industry experts. Some aspects reported upon herewith include findings from studies derived using quantitative research methods. It is hoped that the contents of this paper will provide university sports professionals with a solid political, economic and social framework that assists in better positioning sport on campuses. Ensuring adequate, ongoing resourcing for sport education at all stages of the educational continuum will underpin current Government public policy objectives in keys areas such as sport, health and higher education and this in turn, represents a solid investment in the health and well being of future generations.

Introduction, background and research methods On many university campuses in Australia, a range of student services including many sporting programs have experienced cut-backs since the introduction of voluntary student unionism (VSU) legislation in 2006. Research findings indicate that in 2007, the first year of the full impact of VSU legislation, approximately $40 million in revenue was lost collectively from the university sport sector Australia-wide. In this same year, participation in sport decreased by 17% nationally (VSU Impact Study 2008). The immediate, negative impact of VSU in 2007 was far reaching. Considering that the main aim of this legislation when implemented was to eliminate compulsory student unionism, sport on campuses suffered considerable collateral damage. Since the introduction of VSU, sport has shown resilience on campuses through innovation, increased commercialisation, increasing the quality and cost of service delivery, and through the support of the many universities that have been prepared to make available sport grants as a result of the loss of student fee revenue (AUS Annual Survey 2008). On most campuses, Vice Chancellors have been prepared to “prop-up” sport with modest grants through the VSU era. However, while addressing the AUS Annual Conference in 2011, AUS President Professor Richard Larkins stated: “The recent global financial downturn created losses in the value of endowment trusts and investments, reducing the capacity of universities to support sport at the expense of academic and research programs in a meaningful, long term way” (12 May, Adelaide, South Australia). With the Australian Government having passed legislation introducing a compulsory Service and Amenities Fee Bill (for implementation in 2012), university sport stands to benefit greatly if successful in attracting new revenue generated from the fee. In accordance with the structure of the Bill, it is the university in consultation with students that will determine how much revenue various student services receive. The university sport sector must build a compelling case to ensure a fair share of any new revenue available for student services on campuses in 2012. At the same time, the sector must protect the future of sport on campuses in case the Bill was eventually repealed by a succeeding government. Pre VSU, it is estimated that a total of $172 million was collected and spent annually on student services: as mentioned above approximately $40 million of the total went to sport, or 23% (VSU Impact Study 2008). This figure represents a reasonable historical benchmark, and can be used as a target percentage that campus sport providers could aim to attract for program support from overall revenues generated from the new Services and Amenities Fee. Some facts about AUS AUS is the peak body and national authority for the promotion and conduct of university sport in Australia on behalf of members and student participants (Australian University Sport 2007, p. 3) and is recognised as such by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and the Australian Olympic Committee.


The Case for University Sport

The AUS strategic mission statement is „building the environment for success and well-being through education and sport‟ (AUS 2007, p. 7). AUS membership includes 41 university institutions and there are just over onemillion university students in Australia, of which approximately 25% are international students (Bradley Review 2008). Approximately 159,000 university students are regular participants in club sport and/or regular physical activity on campuses in Australia annually. There are approximately 600 registered sporting clubs spread across AUS member institutions (AUS Survey 2010). There are approximately 500,000 regular users of university recreational facilities from the general public annually (VSU Impact Study 2008). Over 15,000 higher education students participate in AUS multi-sport events and championships each year, and approximately 250 studentathletes participate in FISU championships or universiade events annually (AUS Survey 2010). Research methods  Exploring the link between physical fitness and academic performance A brief overview of several of the significant studies that support the strong link between physical fitness and academic performance is included.  Analysis of relevant public policy Three major Australian Government reports that have been instrumental in shaping Australian Government public policy have been scrutinised using the PESTLE (or PES) analytical technique (Oxford University Press 2007). These reports include the Australian Government Review of Higher Education: Final Report (Commonwealth of Australia 2008); Australia - Healthiest Nation by 2020 (Commonwealth of Australia 2010); and The Future of Sport in Australia (Commonwealth of Australia 2008). Findings from these reports, of direct relevance to building the political, economic and social value of university sport are presented herewith.  Semi-structured interviews, personal communication and findings from workshops and conferences

The link between physical fitness and academic performance This correlation has been corroborated by many studies conducted in the USA by the California Department of Education which cites, in addition to its own findings, the research of: Dwyer et al. (1983); Shephard (1997); Linder (1999); Tremblay et al. (2000); Dwyer, Sallis, Blizzard, Lazarus, & Dean (2001); and Linder (2002). These studies all indicate that when increased amounts of school curricula are dedicated to physical activity, academic performance exceeds that of students not receiving additional physical activity. Further, James Grissom‟s research „Physical fitness and academic achievement‟ (2004) was the largest of the California Department of Education‟s attempts to measure the relationship between academic performance and physical fitness. The graph below created from Grissom‟s findings (2004) clearly shows that as Physical Fitness Test (PFT) results improve, so do California Standards Tests (CST) results for English and Language Arts.





360 350



336337 329330


321 317

320 310



326 323


300 0



3 Overall PFT Score




Figure above: Where female n = 188, 624 and Male n = 189, 654 (California Dept. of Education 2004, p. 4)


The Case for University Sport

Crossing gender, age and cultural boundaries Scheuer and Mitchell (2003) cite other studies indicating that the relationship between physical fitness and academic performance is significant in both genders, while Dwyer, (2001) showed this same correlation crossing a broad range of age groups. Additionally, Scheuer and Mitchell (2003) cite the findings of Linder (1999) who has shown that similar studies conducted in Hong Kong and Thailand are consistent with those in the US and UK, indicating that the relationship between physical fitness and academic performance also crosses cultural boundaries. Scheuer & Mitchell (2003), also cite studies that showed improved brain attributes associated with regular physical activity including increased cerebral blood flow, enhanced nutrient intake and greater arousal (Shephard 1997). According to Cocke (2002) studies presented at the 2001 Society for Neuroscience Conference suggest that regular physical activity can improve cognitive function and increase levels of substances in the brain responsible for maintaining the health of neurons. Additionally, at a 2010 ASC Conference, presenter Steve Grainger, CEO of the UK Youth Sports Trust, outlined how the case was made to the Blair Government in respect to the causal relationship between increased physical activity and reduced incidences of truancy, disciplinary problems, violence and mental disorders among UK school children. These findings were pivotal towards influencing increases in the funding of school sport and physical education. From the substantive amount of corroborating research, it can be deduced that it is in the best interests of education to vigorously support campus sport and regular exercise programs for hard-studying students. This is not always the case however, and the levels of support per capita vary greatly across university campuses in Australia (AUS Survey 2010). AUS President (and recently retired Vice Chancellor of Monash University) Professor Richard Larkins stated in a recent interview that: “Most educators understand and appreciate the link between the discipline of physical fitness and achievement, but this understanding does not necessarily translate to adequate funding support for sport in universities. The case for encouraging increased resources for sport needs to be broadened to include additional factors in order to create a more compelling proposition. This remains an ongoing challenge for university sport administrators but must be pursued relentlessly” (2011, pers. comm., 7 July).

Australian Government Review of Australian Higher Education (2008) This comprehensive report of the Australian higher education system is better known as the „Bradley Review‟, named after the Chair of the expert panel that completed the review, Professor Denise Bradley AC. The first paragraph of the Executive Summary provides insight into the core theme and purpose of the work: „Australia faces a critical moment in the history of higher education. There is an international consensus that the reach, quality and performance of a nation‟s higher education system will be key determinants of its economic and social progress. If we are to maintain a high standard of living, underpinned by a robust democracy and a civil and just society, we need an outstanding, internationally competitive higher education system‟ (Bradley Review 2008, p. XI). A major aim of the Bradley Review was to identify the factors that will enable the Australian Higher Education system to increase and sustain its international competitiveness in the future. Chapter 3.4 of the Review entitled „Providing students with a stimulating and rewarding higher education experience‟ identifies and defines the critical importance of student experience and engagement on campus through activities provided beyond the lecture hall. Bradley cites the work of Professor Geoff Scott (2008, p. 32), a leading researcher on student experience who found that „the social climate established on campus, the academic, social and financial support provided by the institution, student in-class and out-of-class involvement with campus life‟ are factors critical to improving the quality of student engagement. Bradley (2008) further proposed that quality student engagement influences effective recruitment and retention of students, including international students, and these factors are critical to the international competitiveness of Australian higher education institutions. John Inverarity, former test cricketer, highly regarded educator and now Head of St. George‟s College at the University of Western Australia placed a more direct emphasis on the role of sport on campus when quoted recently in „Campus Review‟ (2010, p.22): “Many first year students moving into colleges have big cultural and social adjustments to make. It is often the case that new students from regional communities did not want to leave the family farm while many international students suffer from home-sickness. We know that if we can connect first year students with a sporting club, or get them using the fitness centre, the likelihood of them dropping out is substantially reduced”. 3

The Case for University Sport

International competitiveness University sport has a valuable contribution to make towards enhancing the student experience on campus. Research indicates that Australian universities are falling behind other nations‟ higher education systems, including the UK, USA and Canada in respect to the provision of quality student experience and engagement beyond the lecture hall (Scott 2008). In light of these findings, university sport represents a good investment towards enhancing student experience, including the highly valued international student cohort which is equivalent to 25% of all students enrolled in the Australian higher education system (Bradley Review 2008). When considering sport as a factor in better engaging and improving the university experience of international students, institutions must ask several questions of themselves, including:  What are the expectations of international students in respect to sport on campus?  What sports do international students want to participate in?  Are universities proactive in creating culturally diverse and inclusive sporting programs?  Do university departments of sport have communications strategies in place aimed at recruiting international participants? The story of the founding of the La Trobe University Badminton Club (below) provides intriguing insight into the value international students place on sport as part of the university experience and underscores many of the points made by Bradley, Scott and Inverarity about student engagement.

Above: Tony Yao – Founder of the La Trobe University Badminton Club – (Image courtesy of La Trobe University Badminton Club)

The following article about the work of Tony Yao in founding the La Trobe University Badminton Club was written by Rennie Cirillo, Clubs and Intervarsity Manager at La Trobe University in a recent staff newsletter. „Tony Yao, a second year Bachelor of Accounting student, who within a day of arriving from China in late November 2009, approached the Clubs and Intervarsity Manager to seek out the badminton club. Tony had played badminton back in his home country for a number of years and was enthusiastic about continuing with his sporting passion whilst studying at La Trobe. After being informed that a badminton club didn‟t exist, Tony set off on the path to establish a club and visited the Sports Centre daily trying to understand the University Club Affiliation and Incorporation process which included preparing a budget, business plan, establishing a committee, a constitution and completing an application to incorporate to Consumer Affairs Victoria. Tony began making contact with students from the International College and other parts of the University, attempting to identify other students interested in playing badminton and setting up a club. Tony also participated in the Club Weekend Workshop held in Bendigo last December along with thirty other club officials and received training in sports administration. To his credit and persistence, the Badminton club was granted affiliation status in March 2010 and became an incorporated club, which now trains three to four times per week in the Sports Centre and has a membership of over 150 students. In late March the club hosted an Intercollegiate Badminton


The Case for University Sport

Tournament and provided sports participants with technical skills and officials to umpire the competition, which ensured a successful event. The next major objective for the club is to organise their first tournament in 2011. Tony is an extraordinary young adult with a passion and determination to succeed and has provided many other students the opportunity to participate in their chosen sport, in developing social networks and assisting international students in making the transition to study La Trobe University‟.

Above: The Badminton Club in action above – (Image courtesy La Trobe University Badminton Club)

The story of the La Trobe University Badminton Club is a happy one. Many universities in Australia do cater well for all students, including internationals, but for those that do not, there are lessons to be learned from the La Trobe experience. In a recent phone interview Cirillo added: “We have developed a new found confidence and determination to develop programs at La Trobe that encourage increased participation in sport by international students. As a result, the students are happier, and our programs on campus are more inclusive – a total win-win” (2011, pers. comm., 28 July).

Australia – Healthiest Nation by 2020 „Since 2007, the Australian Government has made preventative health a key element in its reform agenda. In April 2008, the Minister for Health and Aging the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, announced the National Preventative Health Taskforce to develop strategies to tackle health challenges caused by tobacco, alcohol and obesity‟ (Australia – Healthiest Nation by 2020, 2010, p. 1). The Taskforce referred to above was chaired by Professor Rob Moodie, Chair of Global Health from the University of Melbourne and co-chaired by Professor Mike Daube, Professor of Health from Curtin University of Technology. The task force published its report themed „taking Preventive Action‟ in October 2010. There are many strategic objectives identified in this report aimed at creating a healthier Australia by 2020. As in the Bradley Review, many of these strategic objectives are either currently being reinforced on university campuses by existing sports programs, or can indeed be given new impetus through the proactive alignment of university sport programs with these same preventative health objectives. The report targets obesity, tobacco and the excessive use of alcohol as the „key modifiable risk factors‟ that drive nearly 40 per cent of the disease burden in Australia. The Australia - Healthiest Nation by 2020 report (p. 3) establishes 3 key objectives:  „halt and reverse the rise in overweight and obesity;  reduce the prevalence of daily smoking from 16.6 per cent to 10 per cent or less;  reduce the proportion of Australians who drink at levels which place them at short-term harm from 20 per cent to 14 per cent; and the proportion at longer term harm from 10 per cent to 7 per cent‟ There are over 1 million university students enrolled in Australia‟s university system today and another 1 million enrolled in the TAFE sector (Bradley Review 2008). It is the opinion of the author that firstly, the higher education student demographic is a critical target audience in the Government‟s quest to modify those identified risk factors (above), and that through encouraging participation in sport and regular physical activity among higher education students, positive long-term behaviours in respect to preventative health can be instilled. It is a 5

The Case for University Sport

stated core, strategic objective of AUS to „effectively promote the long-term societal benefits of investing in sport and the health and well-being of students in the tertiary sector‟ (AUS 2007, p. 3). As stated previously, there are over 2 million higher education students, or nearly 10% of Australia‟s population when considering total enrolments in both the university and TAFE systems. The case could be put, that indeed it is unlikely the objectives of the „Healthiest Nation by 2020‟ report can be met without targeting the higher education student demographic, and sport is an ideal medium through which to do this. Many of the findings included in the „Healthiest Nation by 2020‟ report further reinforced the growing need to target university students for key health messages. The report cites the research of Roberts L, Letcher T, and Gason A (2009) indicating that in 1985, 11 per cent of boys and 12 per cent of girls aged 7 to 15 were classified as obese in Australia. By 2007, obesity rates had risen to 24 per cent and 26 per cent for boys and girls aged 7 to 15 respectively. It can be deduced from these findings, that more students enrolling in Australian universities have an obesity problem than ever before and that there is an increasing need for action. The report‟s findings in respect to alcohol use more directly place the university student demographic in the spotlight. Not surprisingly, according to the results cited from the National Drug Strategy Survey (2001, 2004 and 2007), 20 to 29 year olds engage in significantly greater levels of high-risk-of-harm from longer-term drinking behaviours than any other age group. Furthermore, research conducted by AUS in partnership with Macquarie University in 2009, found that an alarmingly high percentage of students were binge drinking by consuming 5 or more drinks a day on several occasions during the annual Australian University Games event (Anderson 2009). AUS became so concerned about these findings that the organisation no longer accepts alcohol sponsorship, and is currently appealing to the Federal Government Department of Health and Aging to secure replacement sponsorship to promote safe behaviour and responsible use of alcohol programs. A strong case can be made for the growing need for more investment into programs that encourage regular participation in sport and physical activity at our university campuses. The university sport sector, with its many well qualified and professional sports administration staff, an abundance of existing sporting facilities, including swimming pools and fitness centres on most campuses, represents an excellent investment opportunity for those aiming to escalate the fight against obesity, tobacco and alcohol abuse. AUS President, Professor Larkins clearly articulated this message recently when he stated: “While the incidence of obesity and diabetes are on the rise, any public policy that has the effect of improving the quality of sport and recreational services on university campuses, with the aim of attracting greater participation, will prove to be a solid investment in the national health interest in the longer term” (2011, Pers. Comm., 17 June). “The greatest wealth is health” – Publicus Vergilius Marco (Virgil, 26 B.C.)

Australian Government Independent Sport Panel – „The Future of Sport in Australia‟ The Independent Sport Panel was created in late 2008 by the Australian Government to conduct a broad ranging review of the national sports program managed by the ASC and delivered through the Australian Institutes of Sport network (AIsS) in partnership with National Sporting Organisations (NSOs). The Panel, in its final report, made a number of recommendations urging the ASC to adopt numerous initiatives so that the national program continues to deliver success at elite level, wide scale participation in the sport of one‟s choice; and the continual improvement of the health and well-being for Australia (The Future of Sport in Australia 2009, p. 3). The Panel‟s report, „The Future of Sport in Australia‟ is better known as the Crawford Review, so named after the Panel‟s Chair, Mr. David Crawford. University sport does attract significant attention in the Crawford Report, particularly in the area of high performance sport. For a variety of historical reasons however, the national and university sport programs have evolved separate from one another, although the divide has narrowed significantly over the past few years owing in large part to a shift in strategic direction of AUS in 2007 and increased funding support from the ASC. A core strategic objective of AUS is „to systematically improve the quality and culture of university high performance sports programs and their standing in the national sporting landscape‟ (AUS 2007, p. 3). The need to narrow the great divide between the university and national sport programs was also acknowledged in the Panel‟s final report: „It is important that every effort is made to improve the integration of tertiary institutions into local communities. Sport and sharing of resources is potentially a way of strengthening this integration (The Future of Sport in Australia 2009, p. 84).


The Case for University Sport

Increasing the capacity of high performance programs: Can university sport play a bigger role? Australia‟s population is relatively small when making comparisons with many of its international and Olympic Games rivals. A catalyst for the Crawford Review project was the growing concern among stakeholders that Australia‟s international success throughout the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympiads, showed signs of waning at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Several NSOs have raised the „size matters‟ issue and what may be emerging is that, overall [for Olympic Sports combined] the elite athlete cohort is too small in Australia, and can be improved with a greater depth of talent (NSO Survey 2008). Can university sport reposition itself to help grow the elite athlete talent pool in Australia? This would be valuable space for universities to move into if feasible. The AIsS network services approximately 3,000 elite athletes with scholarships at any one time (National Athlete Career Education Network: National Report 2010). Governments at Federal and State levels do not appear to have an appetite for significantly increasing the funding and infrastructure investment required to increase the AIsS servicing capacity, nor does the Crawford Review recommend significant increases in funding for high performance sport. There may well be a great opportunity for universities to become more engaged and integrated into the national high performance program as service providers. A means of increasing the capacity of NSOs to service athletes could be to „buy services from various providers to deliver elite programs, with the NSO choosing from providers such as AIsS, but also universities‟ (The Future of Sport In Australia 2010, p. 21). While the current contribution universities in Australia make to the national sport program is significant, this contribution tends to fall under the radar of many stakeholders of the mainstream national sporting program. According to AUS Survey data (2010), universities contribute to the national sport program as follows:  The 2008 Australian Olympic Team (Beijing) was 40% composed of university student-athletes, many who received campus based support through the Elite Athlete Friendly University Program (EAFU).  38 of AUS‟s 41 university members support the EAFU, a program coordinated by the AIsS that offers academic support for student-athletes trying to juggle training, competition and academic demands at the same time. The EAFU program services approximately 1,000 student-athletes who are AIsS scholarship holders (National Athlete Career and Education Network: National Report 2010).  Several universities have established high performance programs in partnership with State Institutes of Sport and/or NSOs, like the University of Sydney Flames WNBL program (team pictured below).  The World University Summer Games, held every two years, mirrors an Olympic games in terms of athlete participation levels and organisational infrastructure. Many NSOs view this program as an ideal opportunity to blood elite athletes for future Olympic Games (ASC assists with funding this program).  There are approximately 600 university sporting clubs established in Australian universities, most of which compete in community based competitions, while at the same time providing a rich, experiential training ground for future club sports administrators for the national sporting program.

Sydney University WNBL Team the Flames (Image courtesy of Sydney University Sport and Fitness – 2011)


The Case for University Sport

Athlete welfare Former ASC CEO Matt Miller built a case for university sport this way: “The Crawford Review identified the need for greater engagement of universities with the national high performance program. It is clear several other nations have stronger alignments between higher education and elite sport. Universities have an integral role to play supporting athlete welfare (2010, pers. comm., 15 May). Greg Harris, CEO of the Australian Rugby Union Players Association and former Director of Sydney University Sport urged bridging the gap between elite sport and universities when he said: “The core activity of the Rugby Club is winning the Cup, while universities focus on educating young Australians, but let‟s not forget that each is in the people development business, and surely we can achieve both at the same time” (2011, pers. comm., 3 July).

Above: Athletics Australia and AUS star Madeline Pape, an RMIT university student, midstride in a Gold Medal performance in the 800 metres final at the 2009 Summer Universiade (Australian University Sport Images, 2009, Belgrade).

Retaining Australia‟s best and brightest It is estimated that over 2,000 Australian born student-athletes enrol in universities and colleges outside their native country each year - most of these are attracted to academic/competition programs offered in the United States (Knapp D, 2009). According to Basketball Australia‟s (BA) General Manager of High Performance, Wayne Carroll, approximately 400 of the aforementioned are male and female basketball players who graduate from BA youth programs and migrate to the US collegiate system (Knapp D, 2009). Carroll‟s views on the matter include: “For those that have NCAA Division I or 2 scholarship offers, the move is usually a good one, so long as they get enough court-time and we [BA] track their progress. However, the vast majority end up in small, less prestigious institutions where they often incur problems, such as a bad fit in terms of the academic and/or competition program. Many also run into financial difficulties as a result of small, or partial scholarship support and with the high cost of living overseas and away from home” (NSO Survey 2009, p. 7). Although not on the same scale as the BA experience, many other Australian NSOs such as Baseball, Softball, Swimming, Tennis, Golf, Football, Volleyball and Rowing also reported a significant annual brain-brawn drain of student-athletes to overseas programs (Knapp 2009). Although there is not an abundance of research available on the matter, 50 Australian born student-athletes were surveyed (26 males and 24 females) all of whom were enrolled in the US colleges or universities (Knapp 2009). Some of the results were surprising and provided some insight into the student-athlete experience overseas, including:  52% of all respondents indicated that the greatest attraction to the institution they were enrolled in was the training and competition program;  38% felt they were mismatched to their institutions academic program;  26% felt they were mismatched to their institutions training and competition program; and  32% indicated they had no definite plans to return to Australia after graduating. The question needs to be asked: Can Australia afford to lose such a large cohort of talented young people each year to overseas institutions, many of whom may not return to participate as elite athletes or in the workforce as skilled professionals?


The Case for University Sport

A measured response Few, if any of AUS‟s 41 university members or Australia‟s NSOs felt it was feasible to try to re-create an NCAA type intercollegiate competition structure in Australia in order to keep more of our best and brightest from going overseas (Ernst & Young 2011). The inherent cultures, systems and histories of sport in Australia and the US are vastly different, while the geographical challenges in Australia are also problematical. However, smaller, regional intervarsity competitions similar to National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) conference structures present as more feasible possibilities. Home and away, sub-elite regional (or State based) competitions in chosen sports could well have the effect of retaining more of those currently lured overseas by smaller, non NCAA Division 1 & 2 institutions (Ernst & Young 2011). In a country like Australia, with a small population base to begin with, and where some experts speculate that we need to grow and improve the quality of our elite athlete cohort: “Is it not time key stakeholders of the national sporting program and the higher education system examine measures to retain more of our best and brightest student-athletes through a competition response within our university sport sector” (Knapp 2009).

Above: Dani Samuels (Picture courtesy of Australian University Sport Images, 2009)

Dani Samuels (pictured above) won a Gold Medal in the Discus at the Belgrade Universiade in July, 2009, then went on to win Gold at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin one month later. Dani, a student at the University Western Sydney (UWS), has had many scholarship offers from international universities. However, with her coach, training facilities and SS/SM services provided by the New South Wales Institute of Sport, and academic support accessed at the UWS EAFU program, Dani exemplifies that student-athletes based in Australia and well-serviced through collaborative arrangements can succeed at the highest international levels. Dual careers Professor Paul Wylleman (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), a sports psychologist, is one of world‟s foremost experts in the area of “dual careers” in elite sport. Wylleman asserts that “successful initiation, development and ending of the elite athlete career and the post athlete career cannot be seen as separate from, or without balance for athletes‟ individual, psychological, social, educational and vocational development” (FISU Conference 2011). Wylleman also points out that as athletes with elite potential are identified at increasingly younger ages, dual career education should begin in primary school, extend through secondary levels, and intensify at vocational and higher education stages (2011). “Dual career education must be life-long in its approach to have real impact”, added Wylleman (2011, pers. comm., 14 August). Professor Wylleman is ambitiously endeavouring to gain acceptance of athletes‟ rights to dual career opportunities through the European Union Charter (Lisbon Treaty). Wylleman is hoping the European Union will adopt as part of its sports policy the principle that: „Athletes should be able and be effectively supported, in most optimal circumstances, to prepare, initiate, develop and finalise an academic career (secondary, higher, or post graduate) during their athletic career and achieve their best in both‟ (FISU Conference 2011).


The Case for University Sport

An area that the university sector and AIsS network work effectively in is athlete welfare through the Athlete Career Education (ACE) program. A key underpinning ACE program is the EAFU, which as discussed previously, provides elite student-athletes with academic support, flexibility and advice on how to juggle and multi-task the demands of training and competition requirements with higher education and other life activities. Although it was not always the case, today through programs like the EAFU and ACE the AIsS network encourages a balanced, holistic, athlete development approach. Dr. Nathan Price, the AIsS manager of the EAFU program, and associates Nadine Morrison and Sharyn Arnold reported some very interesting findings in a recent research paper entitled “Life Out of the Limelight”: Understanding the Non-sporting Pursuits of Elite Athletes (2010). Price, Morrison & Arnold surveyed 463 AIS sporting scholarship holders and unearthed some of the following points:  More than half of those surveyed were involved in some form of higher education (but of course unfortunately, nearly half were not);  Significant chunks of time elite athletes spent in non-sporting activities included time with a partner (20 hours per week); part-time employment (19 hours per week) and education (13.8 hours per week). Of great interest also was that 72% of those athletes surveyed indicated that they believed that their sporting performance had benefited from them undertaking employment, education and other non-sporting pursuits, while 90% indicated they felt that actively engaging in non-sporting pursuits helped lengthen their sporting career. Legendary coach Wayne Bennett quoted in the paper agrees, “Players have to get away from football so when it comes time to play, they‟re looking forward to the contest. We want them fresh, not sour” (p. 70). It is evident that Australian universities have a vital role to play in the area of dual career education. Indeed, greater support for dual education is needed at all levels of education, as pointed out by Wylleman (2010), and universities are ideally placed to lead this effort. In doing so, yet another opportunity for university sport to better position itself as a vital service provider on campuses is presented.

Balancing high performance sport and growth in sport participation The debate about whether investment in sport is better targeted at growing participation or at the “pointy”, high performance end of the athlete/coach pathway has long been topical in Australia. To date, Federal funding, or that granted through the Australian Sports Commission, has had a significant high performance bias (The Future of Sport in Australia 2009). It is interesting to note that in respect to sport expenditure at Australian universities, not only is there greater balance, but also perhaps a funding bias favouring programs that encourage mass participation in organised sport and regular physical activity (AUS Annual Survey 2010). University programs play a vital role in encouraging ongoing sport participation for a key age group prone to dropping out. „The drop-out rate in sport usually occurs in the late teens and early adulthood as young Australians are placed under increasing pressure to continue their learning and, at the same time, are participating in part-time employment‟ (The Future of Sport in Australia 2009, p. 124). Furthermore, most NSOs surveyed reported high dropout rates once participants reached the age of 18 (NSO Survey 2009). In the case of Swimming Australia, this syndrome is extreme, as although there are nearly 90,000 registered swimmers in Australia, the number aged between the ages of 19 and 30 is less than 2500 (Bruce, P & Savage, B, 2009).

University Swimming…. Why we need it?  Large “Drop Out” of swimmers once finished high school. Club Membership by Age Group 10 & Under

11/12 years

13/18 Years

19/30 Years

Over 30


Swimming NSW







Swimming Queensland







Swimming Victoria







Swimming WA







Swimming SA







Swimming Tasmania







Swimming NT













Above: (Bruce, P & Savage, B 2009) – (Courtesy of Swimming Australia)


The Case for University Sport

The average age of the Australian Olympic Swim Team is 20.55 and 23.16 years of age for females and males respectively, and getting older (Bruce, P & Savage B, 2009). “We are relying on drawing our Olympic Team from 3% of the total membership of Swimming Australia. We are concerned about the fact that we simply do not have enough competitive swimmers in the key age group – we need a competitive university program in Australia” (Bruce P, 2009, pers. comm., 18 June).

University Swimming…. Why we need it?  We are getting our National Team from 3% of our Membership!

Club Members by Age Group

Over 30 25% 19/30 Years 3% 13/18 Years 20%

10 & Under 34%

11/12 years 18%

Above: (Bruce, P & Savage, B 2009, - Courtesy Swimming Australia)

It is interesting to point out that while Swimming Australia supports the establishment of a “competitive” university swimming program, their motives are not based purely on elite sport: “A university swimming program is unlikely to produce Olympic athletes or prospects not already on our radar, but keeping a key age group in the pool and in university getting a higher education at the same time are the real benefits...and you never know, we might pick up the odd late bloomer” (Bruce, P 2009, pers. comm., 18 June). According to AUS Director Kim Guerin, the emphasis on participation and elite sport is a key consideration for today‟s university sports administrators: “Although historically high performance sport has attracted the lion‟s share of government funding in Australia, it is participation in sport in large numbers and the better engagement of the student-body that excites many Vice Chancellors. There should to be a balanced approach on campuses” (AUS National Conference 2011).

The start of the annual Monash University, Global Walk for Men‟s Health event - Monash has a good record of organising and attracting mass participation events that attract students, staff and the local community – (Image courtesy of Monash University Sport 2011).

The educational importance of sport: “Sport, cultural and social experiences are as crucial to students‟ development as are the skills, knowledge and training to cope with a global environment that they gain through studying. Sport teaches its participants vital lessons in the value of determination, practice and teamwork. To paraphrase Plato: you can learn more about someone in an hour on the sports field than in a year elsewhere” Professor Alan Robson, Vice Chancellor University of Western Australia.


The Case for University Sport

The link between university sport and alumni fund raising The author had the pleasure of visiting alma mater, the University of Oregon recently to tour newly developed athletic department facilities and a state of the art high performance sports science and medicine clinic. The clinic was built largely from resources derived by alumni contributions, most of which came from Phil Knight, the founder and owner of the Nike Company. Benefaction related to the alumni connection to sport is embedded in the culture of universities in North America and delivers enormous financial returns. Whilst the tradition is not as established in Australia, sport at the University of Melbourne continues to receive financial support from the alumni and others including two significant individual bequests. One of the bequests was from Sir Frank Beaurepaire, Olympic swimmer, businessman, civic leader and philanthropist who in 1954 donated £ 165,000 for the construction of a swimming-pool, gymnasium and trophy hall for physical education, training and research and to provide a focus for University life. Sir Frank was not a student at the University but was a passionate supporter of the role universities play in the development of character and leadership. Unfortunately Sir Frank passed away in May 1956 prior to the opening of the building which was named in his honour, „The Beaurepaire Centre‟. Over the last two years Melbourne University Sport (MU Sport) has established the University of Melbourne Sport Foundation with the objective to create a significant endowment to future proof sport and sporting clubs. The focus will be on sporting scholarships, capital works and equipment, coaching and management support to improve the professionalism of clubs. The University of Melbourne has engaged graduate and former Test Cricketer Paul Sheahan to support MU Sport in establishing and growing the Sport Foundation and MU Sport has set a target of $4m by 2015. Additionally images of students participating in sport and fitness activities are appearing in the University‟s Annual Campaign which sends a positive and evocative message about the role of the University in supporting healthy lifestyles and also speaks to the „heart‟ of the student experience for many of the alumni. The use of sporting images encourages benefaction to sport directly but also to the core business of research and teaching and equity scholarships and other programs that encourage opportunity and support the student experience. The continued provision of quality sport and fitness opportunities for current students is a critical component in developing a connection with the University. Director of MU Sport Mr Tim Lee commented that: “The ongoing support from the University for personal fitness and sporting programs and facilities is not only an investment in the health and wellbeing of the campus population but also develops a bond with our current student-body that can bring significant benefits to the University from donations and bequests in the future.”

Above: The trophy room of The Beaurepaire Centre today, featuring the distinctive Leonard French mural in the background - (Image courtesy of MU Sport 2011).


The Case for University Sport

Conclusion and summary of the key issues The main objective of this paper has been to highlight many of the compelling political, economic and social drivers that enable university sport to align with and reinforce public policy in key areas such as health, the future of sport and higher education in Australia. The university sport sector must find its voice in the current public policy climate, and it is hoped the observations and details provided herewith assists with that aim. Additionally, while the university sport sector can demonstrate a valuable contribution to the national sporting program administered by the ASC and NSOs currently, numerous additional opportunities exist and many universities have the potential to better position themselves in this respect. Australia‟s universities abound with professional sports staff and leaders, excellent facilities and programs that support a significant mass of participants in a key age demographic, and these resources and infrastructure investment are increasingly recognised. University sport represents an excellent value-add investment for governments and stakeholders looking for an extra boost to the national sport program, for the higher education industry generally that aims to sustain international competiveness through better engaging students on campus, and for the promotion of positive preventative health messages. In summary, there are a number of key areas whereby university sport can improve its positioning, status and ability to attract resource support from both internal and external stakeholders. Many of the items listed below have been discussed above. Others listed, for the sake of brevity, have not been discussed in this paper, although most have been raised in discussions with and among AUS members or external stakeholders over the past 12 months. Some of these areas include:  Aligning with Government public policy in response to the Bradley Review into higher education, particularly in respect to student engagement  Aligning with Government public policy in respect to preventative health promotion in response to the core objectives of the “Healthiest Nation by 2020” report  Aligning with Government public policy in respect to the Crawford Review, “The Future of Sport in Australia”  Alignment of sport strategic policy on campus with the university‟s strategic plan  Persistently reinforcing and propagating the links between academic performance, achievement, physical fitness and health and well being  Successfully promoting exercise, health and well being as integral aspects of educational pedagogy  Providing a variety of programs that appeal to students, staff and members of the community while balancing the needs of both high performance and recreational participants  Positioning university sport programs as critical in the fight to arrest the sport participation drop-out rate among 18 to 25 year olds  Developing competition and athlete support programs (such as dual career education) aimed at attracting and retaining Australia‟s best and brightest student-athletes  Aligning the campus sport brand with the university brand – in fact underpinning and better promoting the university brand through sport  Continuing to engage the community through the sporting club program, and by encouraging community usage of university sporting facilities  Ensuring programs on campus are inclusive in nature, crossing race, age, ability and gender boundaries  Creating programs that are valued by international students and that encourage the recruitment and retention of this cohort  Broadcasting the importance of the university sporting club program as being an important training environment for future community sports administrators; and ....The list could go on and on, and the reader no doubt could add any number of further, valuable suggestions. It is acknowledged that presenting and identifying these ideas (many of which are not particularly new) is one thing, and converting them into actions that are recognised as valued contributions is another, more challenging matter. It is also not likely that any one university sport department can effectively deliver in all of these areas, albeit, the best operators among the AUS membership are currently able to tick a number of these boxes. It is the fundamental proposal of this paper that for the university sport sector to improve its positioning, profile and attractiveness to both internal and external stakeholders, both the national (AUS) and campus based sport programs must connect with and have relevance to many, or most of the areas presented above. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Paper ends: Final – October 2011


The Case for University Sport

List of References Anderson, D 2009, Alcohol and Sport: Passions, Tensions and Contradictions: unpublished manuscript. Australian Government Independent Sport Panel 2009, „The Future of Sport in Australia‟, Crawford, D (Chair), Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia Publications. Australian Government 2008, „Review of Australian Higher Education – Final Report‟, Bradley, D (Chair), Noonan, P, Nugent, H, & Scales, B, Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia Publications. Australian Government 2010, „Taking Preventative Action – A Response to Australia The Healthiest Country by 2020‟, Moodie, R (Chair) & Daube, M (Deputy Chair), Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia Publications. Australian University Sport: 2010, „AUS Annual Survey‟, Milton, Queensland, Australia. Australian University Sport: 2010, „AUS NSO Uni-league Feasibility Survey‟, Milton, Queensland, Australia. Australian University Sport: 2007, Strategic Plan –“Healthy Body Healthy Mind, Milton, Queensland, Australia. Australian University Sport: 2008, „VSU Impact Study Second Draft Release‟, Milton, Queensland, Australia. Bruce, P & Savage, B 2008, „University Swimming: Why We Need It‟, Swimming Australia, Canberra, ACT. California Department of Education 2005, „A study of the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement in California using 2004 test results‟, Sacramento, California. Ernst & Young 2011, Interim Report: „The feasibility of establishing Uni-league competitions in Australia‟, Melbourne, Victoria. Grainger, S 2010, „From the playground to the playing field to the podium and growing school and community sport‟ – „the UK experience‟, Our Sporting Future Conference, presentation viewed 29 July, Gold Coast, Australia. Knapp, D 2011, „Building the Case for University Sport in Australia‟, Presentation at the Australian University Sport Annual Conference, 12 May, Adelaide, South Australia. Knapp, D 2008, „The Annual Student-Athlete Exodus from Australia‟, Paper presented at the 15th Annual Sports Management Association of Australia and New Zealand, 27 November, Bond University, Gold Coast Queensland. Knapp, D 2010, „The future of university sport‟, Campus Review, vol. 2 March. Oxford University Press 2007, „PESTLE ANALYSIS of the macro environment‟, viewed 7/07/2011. National Athlete Career and Education Network: National Report 2010, Australian Sports Commission, Canberra, ACT. Price, N, Morrison, N & Arnold, S 2010, „Life out of the Limelight: Understanding the Non-sporting Pursuits of Elite Athletes‟, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume1, Number 3, Common Ground Publishing, Champagne, Illinois, USA. Scheuer, L & Mitchell, D 2003, „Does physical activity influence academic performance‟, The New P.E. and Sport Dimension, viewed 8/07/2011. Scott, G 2008, Review of Higher Education Request for Research and Analysis: „University Student Engagement and satisfaction with teaching and learning‟, University of Western Sydney, 1 September. Singh, S. & McMahon, S., „An Evaluation of the Relationship between Academic Performance and Physical Fitness Measures in California Schools‟, California Journal of Health Promotion 2006, Volume 4, Issue 2, 207-214. Wylleman, P 2011, „Dual Careers in Elite Sport‟, The Importance of University Sport Conference (FISU), presentation viewed 14 August, Shenzhen, China.

Acknowledgments With thanks for interviews and conversations with: Dr. Robert Kidston, Matt Miller, Professor Richard Larkins, Professor Alan Robson, Greg Harris, Professor Paul Wylleman, John Inverarity, Kim Guerin, Rennie Cirillo, Mark Lockie, Tim Lee, Wayne Carroll and Paul Bruce.


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