WAIS aims for excellence

The Western Australian Institute of Sport will be well represented at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, with 27 athletes from the institute having won selection in the games team. WAIS executive officer Steve Lawrence said the institute was ecstatic at the number of athletes chosen and the focus was now to prepare the athletes so they could perform “at their absolute best”. And the Turin Winter Olympics team will also benefit from WAIS’s expertise, with institute exercise physiologist Ted Polglaze a technical official for the Australian luge team. The inaugural WAIS board of management was appointed in January 1983 to provide opportunities for talented WA sportspeople to achieve sporting excellence from within their home state. Since that time the organisation has grown from a two-person operation to a world-renowned sports institution with more than 50 staff, including 20 coaches. WAIS began life at the University of Western Australia’s Department of Human Movement and Recreation Studies with a budget of $300,000, before moving to its current premises at Challenge Stadium in 1987. Today, it operates across 29 sports catering for 490 athletes on a budget of $5.2 million. Funding is received from the state government (69 per cent), 27 per cent comes from partner sporting organisations, with the balance from the corporate sector. WAIS supports WA’s elite and potential elite athletes through two programs – the individual scholarship scheme and sport squad programs. The individual scholarship scheme is based on performance in competition during the preceding competitive season, and to qualify athletes must achieve a minimum level of performance needed to gain national selection. Individual scholarships are offered in all Olympic disciplines and are awarded in June each year for a one-year period. Currently the institute has 146 scholarship holders. Sport squad programs operate for certain sports based on a rating against specific criteria, and are run in conjunction with a sport’s national and state organisations. Coaches are employed to run the programs and work closely with national coaches to ensure WAIS programs are consistent with the national direction. There is a lot more to competing at elite sport level than just physical participation. WAIS’s athlete and coach services department provides a range of support services to help athletes and coaches achieve maximum performance. These include, sports medicine, strength and conditioning and sports science to provide access to cutting edge techniques and information. Away from the sports arena there is career and education counseling to assist athletes’ personal development which also enhances their performance. The institute’s work is ongoing and after the Commonwealth Games up to 50 athletes will endeavour to qualify for other international competitions across a range of sports throughout the year. On the business front there are other challenges. WAIS has outgrown its Mt Claremont home and, in conjunction with the state government, is seeking $30 million in funding to bring the facility in-line with other institutes to attract the best athletes.

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