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New era in Australian sport launched at Bond

Students at Bond University’s newest Master's degree may never lace-up a boot or crouch on starting blocks but they could still influence Australia’s Olympic standing, capture the AFL Premiership or better the nation’s Football World Cup record.

Bond University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine will launch its Masters of High Performance Science degree on Tuesday (June 16).

Designed in conjunction with people from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) and academics from Bond University, the evidence-based degree focuses on the high performance science of elite sport. It will be the first degree of its kind in Australia.

“Elite sport has undergone an incredible transformation in the last decade. There is now such a fine margin between winning gold and coming second,’’ said Bond University’s Professor Greg Gass.

“If you review the Beijing Olympics, the Australian team didn’t perform as well in gold medals as it did in Athens (in 2004) especially in areas like swimming and cycling. (In Beijing) we had world record holders in swimming who didn’t win (the) gold (medal) – how do we explain that? The new Master of High Performance Science will contribute to the explanation and debate.

“The Master's degree will use an evidence-based approach incorporating problem-based learning to find out how we get our athletes to shave that extra 0.1 of a second off their time on competition day, or understand why players make poor decisions  at critical junctures in a game.’’

The role of high performance managers has increased in importance as factors such as technology, sponsorship, and media rights place greater demands on elite sportspeople.

High performance managers should sit at the right-hand of the head coach and play a very important role, providing evidence-based and strategic advice on everything from diet to training, psychology and communication, decision-making and technology and innovation.

With Australia ‘punching above its weight’ in international sport, Professor Gass said the nation’s performance on the global sporting stage could be a valuable branding tool.

“Australia’s results are envious considering the size of our population is much smaller than many countries we compete against,’’ he said.

“Whenever Australia stands on the dais, wins Wimbledon or makes the World Cup, the brand recognition of Australia is considerable.
“Sport can be a tremendous instrument for international policy. Kimi Raikonnen’s performances in Formula One did wonders for Finland in brand recognition.’’

The degree focuses on training and adaptation, molecular biology, cognitive science, doping and detection, technology and strategic decision making.

The one year (fulltime) course also explores areas such as negotiation and dispute resolution which has emerged as a major influence in the corporatisation of professional sport.

“There are many external factors involved in performance which can have a major influence on the final result. Sponsors, board executives, media opportunities and personal relationships can influence the performance of our elite athletes.

“The high performance manager has to determine the optimum strategies to get the absolute best out of the athlete: this involves a multitude of factors like when the best time is to travel; what time of day should athletes exercise; what should athletes eat the night before or drink at half-time; what do players think about when scores are even; and the whole area of dose and response.

“The Master of High Performance Science is intended to address such issues.’’

The Economic Development Branch of Gold Coast City Council believes the Gold Coast has the potential to become an incubator for elite sport. Although boasting a population just over 500,000, the Gold Coast is home to national sports teams including The Titans (NRL), The Blaze (NBL) and the soon to debut Gold Coast United (A League) and Gold Coast Football Club (AFL).

Mayor Ron Clarke, an Olympian himself, said the Gold Coast had the potential to be an elite sports haven.

“Council believes high-performance sport can be a major economic contributor for our city,’’ said Mayor Clarke.

“We already have national sporting teams based here and further top-line sporting infrastructure planned. The fact Bond University will soon produce graduates who will help mould these elite athletes is another piece in the puzzle.

“I can personally say the approach to athletes has changed irrevocably since my days as a distance runner. Bond should be congratulated for harnessing these changes and creating the next chapter in elite sports.’’

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