With expanded programs in sports education, research and sponsorship, La Trobe University has its sights on becoming one of Australia’s leading sport universities.
‘It’s an aim not in anyway incompatible with our focus on boosting La Trobe’s ranking as a world-class research institution,’ says Vice-Chancellor, John Dewar, ‘or with our objective of widening access and community engagement, especially in regional Victoria.’
If anything, it’s a perfect fit, says Professor Dewar. La Trobe courses include highly popular undergraduate degrees in sport journalism, physiotherapy, physical education, and sport management. A wide range of research is carried out at its Centre for Sport and Social Impact (CSSI).
The University also sponsors and serves as home-base for the Melbourne Heart football team as well as regional sporting bodies such as Bendigo Spirit women’s basketball. And it has recently appointed football legend and former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse as its first Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow.
Mr Malthouse works closely with a group of La Trobe sport enthusiasts, including CSSI director Russell Hoye, head of sport journalism David Lowden, Melbourne Heart Commercial operations chief Brad Rowse, and University engagement manager Lisa Hasker.
He says sport is a great way to engage young people and get them to think about higher education. He knows this through personal and professional experience, and from talking to school students in his new role.
Building stronger communities
‘As a young bloke I was too daunted by the idea of ever visiting a university. That still applies to many young people today, especially those from more disadvantaged areas,’ he says.
Apart from opening new eyes to wider educational horizons, universities with a genuine commitment to sport, good facilities and a sporting culture also attract to top students.
Sport, says Professor Hoye, helps higher education institutions build a profile with the key 15 to 18 year old age group. Learning and playing sport also leads to healthier lives, stronger communities – and encourages students from lower SES groups to access university through sporting prowess, creating a better educated, more successful nation.
Universities focused on sport, he adds, are a great asset to local communities. ‘Providing opportunities for participation in sport has substantial benefits for residents in the north of Melbourne around our main campus, and in key regional centres like Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga.’
Building on existing resources and expertise, and with the right vision and commitment, La Trobe can be a leading university of choice for study, participation and partnering in sport, he says.
Way of the future
Professor Hoye and Melbourne Heart’s Brad Rowse agree greater interaction between universities and major sporting bodies is the way of the future.
For example, in America and other countries, says Professor Hoye, sport partnerships are not uncommon. With increasing population density and demand for city real estate, sporting teams are locating on campuses where there are open spaces, training facilities and ancillary services.
Mr Rowse, who has also worked for the AFL’s inner-city Melbourne Football Club, says locating Melbourne Heart at La Trobe has been a great move.
‘Our players have easy access to playing fields, gym and a swimming pool. Coaches, administrators and players interact with each other in one location which helps build club unity,’ says Mr Rowse. ‘And La Trobe benefits by being able to use our players as “guinea pigs” for research and for promotional opportunities with our fan base.’
‘Real’ experience for sport journalism
David Lowden says having teams like Melbourne Heart on the Melbourne campus offers his sport journalism students real-life experiences as part of their education.
‘They can more easily interview players and report on matches, much as they would working for media organisations, and gain experience in corporate journalism by helping out with such things as writing profiles and news for club web sites.’
Engagement manager Lisa Hasker says the group is working within the University, strengthening links and developing plans between academic and administrative areas with interests in sport.
‘We are also seeking external support to upgrade our community facilities, in line with State government objectives to invest in elite and community sport.’
As well as Melbourne Heart, La Trobe is a centre for the Australian Baseball League with its diamond and grandstand on the Melbourne campus, hosting games that have included the Claxton Field Grand Final.
Bendigo campus sport sponsorships, as well as the Spirit women’s basket ball team, include Bendigo Pioneers footballers. The campus is also home to the Bendigo Bank Academy of Sport which offers support to the young elite athletes in the Bendigo area.
More sports news and research
African football: La Trobe’s Centre for Sport and Social Impact, in partnership with Football Federation Victoria, is helping African community soccer clubs with club development training carried out under a program called ‘United through Football’. Run in conjunction with VicHealth, it assists forty community clubs comprising more than 3,000 new arrivals, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Read more
Go global: Research into sports management education in Australia and the UK has found that the curriculum needs a greater international focus to boost career opportunities for students in a global sport industry estimated to be worth more than $400 billion. Read more
Warm up: A La Trobe study has found that low load gluteal muscle exercises enhances strength and power in the lower body. Although researchers compared three warm-up methods on AFL players. their results showed that such exercises are a great way to enhance athletic performance at any level. Read more