Helping Girls to perform At Their Peak
‘The aim of the academy is to help all the girls perform at their peak.’
Tom O’Connor, Head Coach
To achieve success on the sporting field, today’s athletes take a wellrounded approach to training that involves conditioning, recovery and nutrition for the mind as well as the body. One Melbourne school has recognised it can play a role in these areas to support and develop the sporting prowess among emerging female athletes.
St Catherine’s School encourages all students to participate in sport to appreciate physical activity and the benefits it can bring them throughout their lives, as well as improve individual athletic ability. However, for those who aim for or are already competing at state, national or international level, its Athlete Development Academy provides enhanced, specialised support to help them reach their goals to perform at their highest level.
Whether they are competing in basketball, cricket, AFL, soccer, rowing, athletics, swimming, sailing, snow sports, gymnastics or dance – or several of these sports – the academy aims to bring balance to their overall training program and help them succeed across the board.
Academy head coach Tom O’Connor says a successful pilot program held last year led to the academy expanding in 2023 for sports achievers in years 9 to 12. “The aim of the academy is to help all
the girls perform at their peak,” he says. “We have support services that supplement the sports-specific training that they do either here at the school or externally.
“It looks at performance in terms of their specific sports but also a bit more generally, given they are still all developing in general athletic development. We’ve had some fantastic results already in terms of state and national championships that have been held already this year in swimming and athletics and we’ve had some really exciting improvements and results.”
Participants take part in specialised sessions outside of other classes and in addition to the school’s health and physical education curriculum. This year the school built a new sports centre, designed around the academy, featuring a high performance fitness studio that includes ergometer and spin bike facilities, and a strength and conditioning studio.
Rather than adding more sports specific training to their load, physical sessions held twice a week target sports conditioning, recovery, and injury management and prevention. Sports psychology and goal setting sessions help students become mentally fit for the rigors of elite competition, and nutrition sessions best prepare them to perform.
“The gym work they do is specific to the sport but the students do it all together –we might have 10 or 12 girls all in the gym at once but they might be across eight or nine different sports,” O’Connor says.
“There’s a lot that the girls can learn from themselves and each other, gaining from different people’s experience in different sports. The challenges of a team sport such as football, basketball and soccer are quite different than running a race.
“I think it’s a unique program in terms of the breadth that we like to offer and we try to be quite comprehensive in terms of all the different things that might benefit performance.”