THE Sunraysia Academy of Sport (SAS) has undergone a number of changes over the past 12 months, with the new team on board aiming to continue to offer opportunities for young athletes to get a taste of life as a professional.

Long-time sports administrator Susan Watts, PICTURED LEFT, has taken over the role of SAS executive officer, and is joined in office by sports scientist Maddy McManus, RIGHT, who is the new manager of programs.

Both are employed on a part-time basis.

SAS aims to support and develop local young athletes through sport-specific education and training, provide services that are not normally accessible or available at club level, and complement or value add to existing sporting club/association activities.

SAS also aims to improve performances, provide athlete pathways and increase development.

Susan has previously been a staff member of SAS, and has also been involved at board level.

Maddy finished her sports science degree at Australian Catholic University (ACU) in 2016 before returning to Mildura.

“I moved back home afterwards, and strength and conditioning work isn’t super prevalent in Mildura, although I spent time coaching with the GWS Development Squad,” she said.

“I saw the opportunity available with the SAS and thought it might be a great way to get into junior sport, even if it’s coming from a different angle.

“Moving away… you really do see the difference in standards between rural and city athletes, more so in the education of athletes and the opportunities afforded to them.

“Sometimes from the country the pathways aren’t as obvious to reaching a higher level in your chosen sport.”

Susan said SAS would potentially move away from purely providing coaching for athletes.

“I think that (coaching) is up to their sports, and it’s what sporting organisations here do well,” she said.

“I see SAS providing more of the ancillary services and extra options that they might get at the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS).

“Maddy’s qualifications fit in with the philosophy that the Academy tries to provide.

“I think it’s up to us to try and be innovative and try new things.

“There really is that need to be innovative with sports, especially with technology.

“That could be, for example, recording video footage of athletes and sending it away to specialist coaches.”

“The Academy is there to provide the experience of what it is like to be a professional athlete and to show them what is required if they want to go to the next level,” Maddy added.

Funding for the SAS comes through the VIS from Community Sport and Recreation, Sport and Recreation Victoria, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

SAS has used both a single staff member and dual staff members in the past, with Susan saying that there were pros and cons to both models.

“As soon as we had an executive offier, we could bring on someone else to be able to pass on the knowledge and strategic planning and discuss how we can make the whole system better,” she said.

“It’s a tough job because someone could be running up to 12 sports at a time.

“For someone in that position it’s a lot of information to get your head around.

“In any sport you have to build relationships with multiple people, and that’s further increased with more sports.

“The positive with two staff members is that they are there to support each other and we can also expand the number of days we work each week if it’s required.”

SAS has worked with 73 young athletes across six different sports in 2018, including a record 24 athletes in the football/soccer program.

SAS is also looking for a new coach to take charge of the athletics program.

No accreditation is needed for now, but SAS can help with the necessary qualifications.