Thirty-seven athletes from 19 sports and 21 tertiary institutions have been awarded more than $100,000 in AIS Education Scholarships, a program supporting athletes to be successful in sport, education and life.
Rowers Alec Paterson (Tas), Alexander Rossi (WA), Cameron Girdlestone (NSW) and Joseph Wilson (Tas) are among the athletes receiving this round of AIS Education Scholarships.
A key feature of this year’s expanded program is supporting athletes with education earlier in their high performance sporting careers. More than three-quarters of athletes awarded scholarships in this round are categorised as ‘Developing’ or ‘Emerging’, the first two steps on an Australian athlete’s journey to becoming an international medallist.
The AIS Education Scholarship program is doubling from last year’s inaugural program and offering a total $200,000 in scholarships for 2021-22, thanks to support from the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation. A second round will open in March 2022.
Mr Wylie, former Chair of the Australian Sports Commission, said “sport and education is a winning mix. Every athlete goes into competition with a game-plan, this program with the AIS is about helping more Australian athletes to pursue education as part of their broader life plan. Every athlete receiving one of these grants has talents beyond the sporting arena, you just have to look at the breadth of education courses they’re undertaking. There’s health education like paramedics, speech pathology, sonography and medicine, though to diverse areas such as science, commerce, design, engineering and so much more.
“Our message to athletes is sporting success doesn’t have to be at the sacrifice of other ambitions, especially education and career pathways. If we can encourage more athletes to engage with education at the start of their sporting careers, we’ll no doubt have more successful leaders emerging from sport and into their communities.”
Dual Olympic Medallist Cameron Girdlestone said the AIS Education Scholarship would allow him to balance elite sport whilst completing a Graduate Diploma in Property Investment through the University of Western Sydney.
“Being a recipient of this scholarship is extremely important to me and will allow me to focus on my education goals whilst also being able to commit to my training and competition requirements with a clear head and clear focus,” Girdlestone said.
“Throughout my sporting career I have valued the importance of balance and this support from the AIS allows me the opportunity to continue this into the coming new year,” he said.
Having completed a four-year apprenticeship in HVAC plumbing, Alec Paterson is using the scholarship to fund a Bachelor of Construction Management through the University of South Australia.
“I was inspired to undertake University study in a similar industry as my apprenticeship to further my skills and future employment opportunities,” Paterson said.
“Balancing sport and study can be challenging at times, however, I’ve found university has provided me with a great balance away from rowing and I’ve been able to apply the new skills I’ve learnt studying to improve my rowing performances,” he said.
Alexander Rossi, studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Notre Dame, said: “I am incredibly grateful for the generosity displayed by the AIS to hand out these scholarships and am thrilled to be the recipient of one! The money will go towards one of four units at university I am required to pay upfront.
Covering this expense means I will not need to work as much throughout the semester, allowing me to focus more on training, study, and recovery. Additionally, this scholarship creates a financial buffer for general living expenses such as food (I need to eat a lot) and fuel (uni is a long way from home), which has an extreme psychological benefit and will thus be integral to my development as a rower going forward,” he concluded.
Joseph Wilson recently completed a Bachelor of Science [Hons] through the University of Tasmania.
“The AIS Education Scholarship is important to me because it allowed me to be able to pay my rowing membership fees without worrying about taking more shifts at work or compromising my study. Education is important to me because no matter how successful you are at your chosen sport, there is always a life afterwards in which it is crucial to be passionate about what you do,” Wilson said.
“As I have now successfully completed my degree, I would like to thank the AIS for their financial support, and for allowing me to achieve my goals to the best of my ability,” he said.
The AIS has prioritised athlete education and created more specialised athlete support by building its Elite Athlete Education Network (EAEN) across the country.
AIS CEO Peter Conde said: “The AIS now has formal links with more than 40 universities and 12 TAFEs, giving Australian athletes greater choice and flexibility with their education support. Our priority is to support those athletes who demonstrate a genuine commitment to study and can use their own experiences to inspire and benefit others, in sport and the broader community.”
View the full list of scholarship recipients on the AIS website.