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AIS opens up world of experience for up-and-coming women coaches

17 August 2023

The AIS Experiential Learning Program (ELP) will provide a unique opportunity for 11 emerging women coaches to gain international competition experience by attending upcoming major events.

ELP coaches stand in two lines smiling in front of purple wall.

Like many of her fellow aspiring women coaches, NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) Assistant Diving Coach Emma Lynch kept coming up against the same issue.

“Throughout my coach career I've heard ‘you just need experience’, yet the question of ‘how do I get experience’ always comes up.” Lynch said.

It’s a question the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) believes it may have helped answer through the introduction of its Experiential Learning Program.

The AIS ELP initiative was introduced to help up-and-coming women coaches gain crucial experience at benchmark sporting events by assisting National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) with travel costs.

Sport, like much of Australian society, hasn’t been immune from the rising cost of living pressures and increasing international travel prices, with the Australian Government and Australian Sporting Commission recently increasing support through the $20 million Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Preparation Fund.

Following an EOI process, the AIS ELP identified 11 up and coming women coaches from 10 NSOs whose presence at key international events will make a significant contribution to their sport’s Olympic, Paralympic or Commonwealth Games campaigns. Each coach will receive $6,000 to go towards their travel expenses.

“The Women in High Performance Coaching Project has shown us that the key barrier for developing coaches who identify as a woman is the lack of opportunity and support to gain experience and build reputational capital at international level competitions,” AIS High Performance Coach Development Senior Lead Michelle De Highden said.

“This is furthered by the barriers NSOs face in sending coaches on international tours due to the significant increase in travel costs over recent years.”

2 photo collage. Image 1 is Emma Lynch and her coach inside diving champs. Image 2 is Emma Lynch and 3 other coaches standing on top of diving board outside.
NSWIS Assistant Diving Coach Emma Lynch (left) at 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Japan.

After working her way up from a club diving coach in Western Australia, Lynch moved across the country as an eager 21-year-old to join the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) Diving Program as an Assistant Coach.

Fast forward five years and Lynch has ‘grown immensely’ with NSWIS, and thanks her mentors and the AIS ELP grant for the opportunity to travel as part of the Diving Australia coaching team for the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Japan.

“Before stepping foot in Japan, I felt quite intimated about being at a senior international event and worried if I really had what it takes to coach at this level - especially at something as big as the World Championships,” Lynch said.

“However, upon arriving and being immersed in the Australian Team and wider diving community, I realised it was just another diving competition.

“Being supported by the AIS and the Experiential Learning Program to attend the Championships not only gave me the opportunity to gain experience, but also gave me clarity and confidence around my purpose and why I was there. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Diving Australia National Coach Andy Banks mentored Lynch throughout the World Championships and said it’s crucial up-and-coming coaches are provided with real-life development opportunities.

“Emma is a sponge when it comes to learning and this was an ideal opportunity to see what the world’s best divers are doing in the year before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.” Banks said.

“The opportunity available to the youngsters of today through the AIS Experiential Learning Program will really help with their development and help to fast track the next generation of elite coaches for Australia.”

After receiving positive feedback from participating NSOs, de Highden is hopeful the ELP will be expanded to include coaches of all genders in the future. More information is expected to be provided in early 2024.

2023 ELP recipients

  • Emma Lynch, Diving Australia – 2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)
  • Casey Atkins, Swimming Australia – 2023 Paralympic Swimming World Championships (Manchester, UK)
  • Renae Birgan, Shooting Australia – 2023 World Junior Championships (Changwon, Korea)
  • Jody Erbacher, Athletics Australia – 2023 World Athletics Championships (Budapest, Hungary)
  • Joanne Clark, Water Polo Australia – 2023 World Aquatics Women’s U20 Championships (Coimbra, Portugal)
  • Claire Turley, Bowls Australia – 2023 World Bowls Championships (Gold Coast, Australia)
  • Jackie Caldwell, Gymnastics Australia – FIG Artistic World Championships (Antwerp, Belgium)
  • Skye Benson, Gymnastics Australia – FIG Artistic World Championships (Antwerp, Belgium)
  • Bruna Accurso, Boccia Australia – 2023 World Boccia Cup (Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal)
  • Asha Hargreaves, Golf Australia – 2023 World Amateur Team Championships (Abu Dhabi, UAE)*
  • Kate Jenner, Hockey Australia – 2023 Women’s FIH Junior World Cup (Santiago, Chile)

*Funded by Golf Australia

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