WRAS honoured with prestigious award

The Western Region Academy of Sport (WRAS) has recently been recognised internationally by being honoured with the prestigious Strength of America Award for the third consecutive year.

The Strength of America Award honours schools that exhibit the highest standards in the safety and success of young athletes, with WRAS being recognised alongside Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Human Movement for their joint program for strength and conditioning interns.

CSU Senior Lecturer and program coordinator Dr Stephen Bird says it’s a great thrill to be recognised as having one of the best high school or pre-elite athlete programs in the world.

“The Strength of America Award is a wonderful recognition of the terrific work our Strength and Conditioning Internship Program is doing based out of WRAS, especially since we are the only program to ever be recognised outside of the United States,” Dr Bird said.

“The program began seven years ago and was birthed from the idea of giving regional kids and University students the same opportunities as their city-based counterparts in terms of providing resources and tools to become elite athletes.”

“Interns are receiving real-time experience in professional strength and conditioning environments, an opportunity they wouldn’t get elsewhere and are going on to work with professional sporting clubs in the NRL, AFL and ARU.”

“Being based in Bathurst, I’m even more proud of our efforts as a regionally-run program and wish to thank everyone who has been involved over the years.”

The CSU-WRAS Strength and Conditioning Internship Program is a 12 month course for Human Movement students in their final year studying at CSU.  The program combines students with experienced mentors, giving the interns a rare insight into the inner workings of a professional environment.

The program is extremely popular as spaces are limited to a maximum six students per intake making internships highly competitive, and Dr Bird said since winning the Strength of America Award the program has began attracting applications from US-based students.

The Internship Program is involved with the WRAS netball program, concentrating on educating high school-aged athletes and their families on the importance of monitoring training loads and recovery.  Dr Bird says it’s important to educate athletes as well as their parents, as they need to understand the real load on these young netballers.

“For us, it’s about educating these families on stress fatigue levels, about caring for their body and mind, and preparing them for what it takes to be a world-class athlete.”

Nancy Haslop, WRAS Executive Office, says the academy was extremely proud to be involved with such an internationally-acclaimed program and the work that it is doing in the community.

“We are very proud, particularly as a regional academy, to be recognised with this award for the third year running.  WRAS covers an area of 90,000 square kilometres and our interns keep in contact with athletes up to three times a week, which is an incredible effort,” Haslop said.

 “Over the last two, three years the biggest change we have seen is in the attention to recovery, with the program making huge advances in teaching our athletes how to look after themselves. “”

“Dr Bird has been a real driving force with this program and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.  Winning the award is fantastic recognition, however we aren’t resting on our laurels – we are constantly looking at ways we can continue to improve.”

Along with the Strength of America Awards, the CSU-WRAS strength and conditioning Internship Program received a NSW Sports Safety Award for injury prevention in 2007, and the NSW Sports Safety Award for ‘Outstanding education and promotion of safe sport practices’ in 2009.

The Regional Academies of Sport, including WRAS, form an important step in the Netball NSW Athlete Pathway, focusing on athletic development, acquisition of elite skills and the broader concepts of injury prevention, recovery, lifestyle management and education.

Players who are selected into these Talented Athlete Program (TAP) squads, along with training and development, are also involved in two round robin competitions to put their skills into practice; the Academy Games held in April each year and the NIB Games held in July.

Congratulations to Dr Stephen Bird, Nancy Haslop, Charles Sturt University School of Human Movement and the Western Region Academy of Sport, plus all the interns and mentors involved in the program over the last seven years, on this fantastic international recognition.

2013 Service of America Award Recipients
Athens Academy | Athens, GA | Coach Bryan Pulliam, CSCS, RSCC
Castle High School | Newburgh, IN | Coach Joshua Wildeman, CSCS, RSCC
Castle View High School | Castle Rock, CO |Coach Patrick McHenry, MA, CSCS, *D, RSCC
Charlotte Country Day School | Charlotte, NC | Coach Darnell Clark, CSCS
Fellowship Christian School | Roswell, GA | Coach Hunter Chadwick
Greater Atlanta Christian School | Norcross, GA | Coach Gary Schofield, ATC/L, CSCS, *D
Homewood-Flossmoor High School | Flossmoor, IL | Coach Steve Szymkowiak, MA, ATC, CSCS, RSCC*D
Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas | Dallas, TX | Coach Jeremy Weeks, CSCS, RSCC
Marquette University High School | Milwaukee, WI |Coach Mike Duehring, CSCS, *D
Mesa Ridge High School | Colorado Springs, CO |Coach Rob Braaten, CSCS
Muhlenberg High School | Laureldale, PA | Coach Todd Eisenhofer, CSCS
Muskego High School | Muskego, WI | Coach Mike Nitka, MS, CSCS, RSCC*E, FNSCA
Niles North High School | Skokie, IL | Coach Mark Feldner, CSCS
Niles High School | Niles, MI | Coach Mike Michelakis, CSCS, RSCC*D
Prairie School | Racine, WI | Coach H. Keith Owsley, MS, LAT, CSCS
Providence Day School | Charlotte, NC | Coach Tom Caruso, CSCS, RSCC
Robert E. Lee High School | Springfield, VA | Coach John Girton, MS, ATC, CSCS, RSCC
School of Human Movement Studies – Western Region Academy of Sport | Bathurst, Australia | Coach Stephen Bird, PhD, CSCS
Woodruff High School | Woodruff, SC | Coach Andrew Caldwell, CSCS