Deakin on the ball with new research centre

Improving Health and Wellbeing

Whether it be devising strategies to encourage children to participate in sport, working to improve AFL players’ performance through heat training, or improving governance protocol across a sporting league, Deakin researchers are using the latest knowledge and technology to improve performance, participation and governance across the sport spectrum.

Marking a new phase in sport research at the University, the Centre for Sport Research (CSR) Strategic Research Centre will unite several research areas at Deakin – and allow the University to extend its reputation as one of the nation’s leaders in sport research.

The University gained the top rating of five (well above World Standard) in the 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ratings for Human Movement and Sport Science.

To create the new Centre, academics from the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences have joined colleagues from the Deakin Business School to pool knowledge and resources in sport and exercise science, sport development, sport management and sport marketing.

CRS researchers will continue working with partners such as the Australian and Victorian Institutes of Sport, the AFL and Geelong Cats, the WNBL Deakin Melbourne Boomers basketball team, sports academies and many other organisations. They will pursue research projects related to coaching, sport technology, measurement, governance, marketing and membership behaviour.

It will also explore strategies to increase participation of children, women and people with disabilities, as well as ethics and sponsorship issues.

CSR Co-director Professor David Shilbury, who is also Associate Dean (International) at Deakin Business School, explained that the Centre’s broad goals are to publish quality research that will inform policy, positively influence decision makers and assist the industries that develop new sport technologies.

Co-Director, Associate Professor Paul Gastin added that, despite media focus on elite levels, “sport is really about participation at all levels and the benefits it can bring to the entire community.”

In fact, over 11 million Australians participate in sport each year, with the sector contributing over $12.8 billion to the Australian economy (two per cent of gross domestic product).

“It is not just beneficial to those actively playing sport, but also the mums and dads, family, friends and volunteers. The local sporting club is often the hub of a community,” he said.

“In order to create healthy communities and organisations through sport and exercise, sport itself needs to be healthy – well managed, well delivered and providing favourable participant outcomes. The phrase ‘Healthy sport, healthy organisations, healthy community’ describes both our focus and intended outcome.”

As one example of the influential role that Deakin researchers have played in Australian sport over the past decade, a two-year research project by a team from CSR has influenced junior football across the nation.

Robust research and extensive stakeholder engagement with state bodies and junior leagues led to the development of new policy and guidelines by the AFL, published in the “Junior Football Match Guide.” The Guide reflects the need for modified rules for junior players, with a staged progression towards the adult version of the game.

Professor Shilbury added that, in respect to governance, CSR researchers have worked with organisations such as Bowls Australia and Squash Vic to introduce collaborative models of governance – achieving greater levels of trust, respect and a unified vision within the organisations.

“Collaborative board leadership influences governance behaviour, from central leadership, through to the member associations. This helps to overcome the dilemma of multiple stakeholders and achieve a more transparent, co-ordinated, and cohesive strategic direction, to the benefit of all those involved in a sport,” he said.