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Sports science island-style

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The AIS’s Michael Davies recently travelled to Nauru to run a training course.

10 Jul 2013

Kicking a footy on a crushed coral oval, experiencing local customs and being dinked around an island on a Yamaha postie bike — Nauru was a long way from Michael Davies’s daily routine as a PhD student in the AIS Department of Physiology.

‘When you fly into Nauru and see this tiny island surrounded by water and there are kids playing soccer on the tarmac, you know you’re in a very different place,’ says Michael.

Michael recently travelled to the island country to run a sports science course for volunteer coaches in the Epon Keramen program — an initiative aimed at encouraging people to participate in sport, improve their health, embrace opportunities to become community leaders and gain sport-specific training.

Epon Keramen — which translates to ‘people gather to play games’ — is part of the Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP), an Australian Government initiative managed and delivered by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and funded by AusAID.

Over four days, Michael worked with coaches on sports science basics such as physiology, coaching methods, nutrition, recovery and injury prevention.

‘My role was to build on their knowledge. The hope was that at the end of the course the coaches would be confident to change the way they prepared their athletes. They already did a lot of the practices we do at the AIS, like strength training, but they didn’t understand the science behind why the body gets fitter, stronger and faster with training.

‘They’d never had the opportunity to learn the sort of things we take for granted when we study exercise sports science, like energy systems and nutrition or how these things link with their coaching.’

Sport for Development consultant Warwick Povey, who looks after the ASOP’s Nauru Country Program, says the course was hugely successful.

‘With increased knowledge, skills and practical abilities these coaches are now more confident to run better sessions for a greater range of people. Ultimately that means more people participating, more often,’ says Warwick.

For Michael it was also a great professional development opportunity.

‘The time I spent in Nauru has motivated and inspired me to get through the tough times I will face as I finish my PhD. It’s made me a better sports scientist and given me some fantastic insights,’ he says.

‘What this experience taught me is the profound impact sport can have. It can be the vehicle for community development and it’s also opened up opportunities that I never thought were possible in sport.’

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