NEW FACE: Matt O’Connor is the executive officer of the Sunraysia Academy of Sport. Photo: KIERAN MANGAN
By MITCH RODD
GIVING Sunraysia’s sporting rising stars the best possible chance to succeed is a big deal for Matt O’Connor.
The long-time Sunraysia sportsman experienced first-hand the challenges junior athletes from a regional area can face along the path to reaching the heights of their chosen sporting field.
O’Connor has taken over the executive officer position at the Sunraysia Academy of Sport (SAS) after previous EO Louise Tarrant vacated the chair late in 2017.
The SAS provides local young athletes with specialist coaching and assistance to help them on the path towards high level sporting competition.
Matt has served on multiple sporting committees, including being president of the Merbein South Cricket Club for the past two years.
He has been affiliated with sport for most of his life, having played cricket, footy, basketball golf and tennis. He came through the Cricket Victoria junior program and was a sports scholarship holder for both cricket and football at the prestigious Assumption College.
Matt said making sure athletes have access to quality training and other complementary services such as sports psychology was the most important factor going forward.
“We want to make sure the kids can get access to quality training,” he said.
“I’m really keen on getting the support and services of qualified people in to supplement the outstanding coaching that is on offer locally. Sports psychology is an example.
“I’m a passionate sportsman, I always have been, and I’m all about finding ways for local kids to be coached at the same level as those in the city.
“I’ve always seen it as a bit of a disadvantage, that’s why I’m all about finding ways to give these kids the same opportunities as they would get in they were based in the city.
“We want to show these kids that if you do all the right things and really work hard that there are opportunities available.”
Matt said it has been a busy first month in the job but he is looking forward to the progress of the SAS from here.
While there is unlikely to be any changes to the coaching structures, the new EO will explore the possibility of more sports being part of the SAS program, plus opportunities to work with other local sporting organisations to host special guests and events.
“I’ve been really impressed with our coaches and the structures in place,” he said.
“I’m not looking at making any real changes there, just maybe bringing in some of the stuff that isn’t really available here.
“We can’t rest on our laurels though. I’ll still be looking at opportunities and ideas to up-skill our coaches, and potentially for new sports, or sports the Academy has had a program for in the past, to be part of it.”