For over three decades the Regional Academies of Sport (RAS) have enjoyed a strong partnership with the NSW Government through the Office of Sport which has allowed the RAS network to help foster the development of young regional talent across NSW. This long-lasting relationship was highlighted in the last Olympic cycle (Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang), where the Regional Academy system produced 34 athletes that represented Australia, winning an unbelievable 41% of Australia’s medal tally.
The Regional Academy collective, made up of 9 independent organisations and two government managed operations, support 2,500 young athletes & 350 coaches across 30 varied sporting codes. Holistic education for the younger generation with a focus on building mental resilience and goal setting is among many healthy lifestyle directives the academies promote. With the disruption caused by COVID-19 the RAS network has been able to make some groundbreaking advances in athlete and coach education and athlete support.
Chairman of the independent Regional Academies of Sport Ian Robilliard OAM said, “Across the Regional Academy network our athlete development programs never stopped, indeed the Academy network have delivered some quite remarkable results during these extremely difficult COVID times. Our athlete engagement through technologically driven programs has delivered some really good results. Necessity can be a catalyst for innovation, and during challenging times the ability to think outside the square has led to some great opportunities for regional athletes. We have successfully transitioned to online teaching and coaching quite successfully.”
In a recent show of support for the Regional Academies of Sport system, taken from a RAS Letter of Support SportNSW CEO, Mr Steve Loader said “The impact and importance of sport and active recreation, particularly for people in regional NSW, cannot be underestimated. The members of the Regional Academies of Sport (NSW) network are specialists in the provision of high-performance training programs and are an essential resource. They (RAS) are the leaders in innovation and provision of support for athletes throughout NSW.”
From an economic standpoint, the Regional Academies of Sport also contribute over $59 million and 187 jobs annually to the regional economy, highlighted each year by the running over the Regional Academy Games. Last year, hosted in the Hunter Region it produced almost 7,000 hotel bed stays and a huge regional tourism boost. “The event not only provides vital pre-elite competition and scouting opportunities for aspiring regional athletes, the event showcases regional facilities and provides visitation to country NSW where family and friends spend and have a great time“ said Brett O’Farrell, CEO Hunter Academy of Sport and current host of the Academy Games.
The RAS network is represented on the COVID-19 Sector Recovery Group, and RAS appreciate the difficult and at times unprecedented decisions being made by the NSW Government across many industry sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on how important sport is for NSW. The Regional Academies remain committed to being a long-time player in supporting a robust sport and active recreation sector in NSW. It is anticipated in the coming days and weeks announcements regarding future funding for the NSW Regional Academy system will be made, but one thing is for sure, the long supportive partnership between the state government and the regional academies remains strong in NSW, it is both innovative and integral to the future of our states regional youth.