By Greg Blood
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) prior to the cessation of sports programs in 2013 frequently facilitated AIS coaches in transferring into its high performance management areas.
It should be remembered that the inaugural AIS Director Don Talbot had an extensive swimming coaching career in Australia, Canada and the United States prior to the AIS. I often reflect that the appointment of Don Talbot, a highly experienced elite coach, as the inaugural AIS Director was critically important as he intimately understood the requirements of high performance sport and the need to create the optimum culture with staff and athletes. Interestingly the inaugural Directors of South Australian Sports Institute (SASI) and Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) were highly credentialed elite coaches – Australian football coach Mike Nunan and netball coach Wilma Shakespear.
AIS decision to transition highly credentialed coaches into high performance management positions started in the early 1980’s when it employed Dr Jean Roberts (Australian Athletic Union National Coaching Director) and Henry Daigle (Australian Basketball Federation National Coaching Director) to assist in the management of early AIS sports programs. The first AIS Head Coaches to transition into AIS high performance management were Brendan Flynn (AIS Women’s Basketball), Wilma Shakespear (AIS Netball) and (Charles Turner (AIS Men’s Water Polo). Their transition has led to their expertise and experience being widely utilised by the Australian sport system.
Shakespear went on to the become the inaugural Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) Director (1991-2001) and English Institute of Sport Director (2001-2008). Turner led the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) (2003-2016). Flynn managed the establishment of AIS cricket and track cycling programs in Adelaide in the mid 1980’s and held senior leadership positions with the Australian Paralympic Committee.
These initial transitions led to a regular movement of AIS coaches into high performance sport management positions particularly within the AIS. The AIS still employs elite coaches in its high performance management but now days they have previously been employed by a national sports organisation.
The list below intends to highlight many of the elite Australian coaches that have transitioned to high performance management in Australia since the early 1980’s. It includes transitions from the AIS, state institute/academies of sport and national sports organisations. The list is not comprehensive but hopefully provides a historical view to the depth of transition in Australian sport. It does not include the many elite coaches that have established high performance consultancies – swimming coaches Bill Nelson and Bill Sweetenham and water polo coach Istvan Gorgenyi come to mind.
Note – the list below includes coaches that I’m aware of and does not include all the positions they have held. It is an indicative list.
- Dr Jean Roberts – Australian Athletic Union National Coaching Director to AIS high performance management
- Tudor Bidder – Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) Athletics Head Coach to AIS Athletics/High performance management positions
- Scott Goodman – Athletics Australia Paralympics Program Head Coach to Athletics New Zealand High Performance Manager & Athletics Australia Director of Performance Coaching
- Henry Daigle – Australian Basketball Federation National Coaching Director to AIS high performance management positions
- Brendan Flynn – AIS Women’s Basketball Head Coach to AIS Adelaide Manager and Australian Paralympic Committee leadership positions
- Patrick Hunt – AIS Men’s Basketball Coach & Basketball Australia Manager of National Player and Coach Development to AIS high performance coaching and leadership positions
- Jan Stirling – Australian Women’s Basketball Coach to Basketball Australia High Performance General Manager
- Dave Crosbee – Irish and English National Slalom Coach to VIS Performance Director
- Richard Fox – AIS / Australian Slalom Canoeing Head Coach to Australian Canoeing High Performance Director
- Bennett King – Queensland & AIS Cricket Centre of Excellence Head Coach to QAS Director
- Richard McInnes – AIS Cricket Academy Senior Coach & Australian Women’s Cricket Team Head Coach to Netball Queensland High Performance Manager & Water Polo Australia CEO
- Peter Spence – AIS Cricket Academy Men’s Coach to VIS Programs Manager
- Andrew Logan – AIS Men’s Road Cycling Coach to British Swimming , Cycling Australia, Gymnastics Australia & NSWIS high performance leadership positions
- Kevin Tabotta – Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS) Cycling Coach to Cycling Australia & SASI high performance leadership positions
- Steve Foley – AIS Diving Head Coach to British Diving, USA Diving & Diving Australia high performance leadership positions
- Frances Crampton – AIS Gymnastics WAG Head Coach to NSW Gymnastics / NSW Sports Federation/ Women’s Golf NSW CEO, Golf Australia Deputy CEO
- Warwick Forbes – AIS Gymnastics Head Coach to AIS high performance management position including Head of AIS Europe
- Peter Sharpe – Australian Gymnastic Federation National Coaching Director to AIS high performance management positions
- Barry Dancer – AIS / Australian / Great Britain Men’s Hockey Head Coach to QAS high performance management
- Toni Cumpston – Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) Women’s Hockey Head Coach & Hockeyroos Assistant Coach to AIS high performance management positions, Hockey Australia High Performance Director
- Ian Rutledge – New Zealand Hockey & Canada Women’s Head Coach to AIS high performance management positions
- Wilma Shakespear – AIS Netball Head Coach to QAS Director and English Institute of Sport Director
- Nick Hunter – ACT Academy of Sport Rowing Head Coach to AIS high performance management positions
- Chris O’Brien – VIS Head Coach to Rowing Australia High Performance Director, AIS high performance management positions & Gymnastics Australia High Performance Director
- Bill Tait – VIS Rowing Head Coach to VIS General Manager High Performance
- Paul Thompson – AIS Rowing Coach, British & China Rowing Head Coaches to Rowing Australia Performance Director
- Matt Lyons – Olympic Winter Institute Ski Cross Head Coach to AIS high performance management leadership positions
- Michael Scott – Miami University of Ohio Women’s Swimming Head Coach to NSWIS Director, AIS Director, British Swimming & Swimming Australia National Performance Director, High Performance Sport New Zealand CEO
- Don Talbot – Australian Olympic swimming coach to inaugural Australian Institute of Sport Director
- Bill Davoren – Triathlon Australia Head Coach to High performance leadership positions at Collingwood AFL, Western Bulldogs AFL, St Kilda AFL &, Hockey Australia
- Shaun Stephens –Triathlon Queensland / Triathlon Australia Head Coach to AIS high performance leadership positions & Paddle Australia Performance Director
- Phil Borgeaud – Australian Men’s Volleyball Team Head Coach to AIS high performance management leadership positions
- Russell Borgeaud – Australian Men’s Volleyball Team Head Coach to AIS high performance management leadership positions
- Sue Jenkins – Australian / AIS Women’s Volleyball Assistant Coach to AIS high performance management leadership positions
- Charles Turner – AIS Men’s Head Coach to AIS high performance management leadership positions & NSWIS Director
- Don Cameron – AIS Men’s Head Coach to AIS high performance management leadership positions
I’m happy to add any Australian elite coaches not listed that have been employed to work in high performance management by sports organisations.
Charles Turner former NSWIS Director in a published interview stated “understanding what athletes and coaches need to be successful has provided me with the appreciation that every decision I make must be in the best interest of the athletes. I always put the athlete first in all considerations.”
Elite coaching positions can have a limited lifespan due to the high work demands – it is often a 24/7 lifestyle and longevity is related to success and failure and the politics within a sport.
AIS, state institute/academy of sport and national sport organisations should continue to assist their elite coaches transition into high performance management where appropriate and desired by the coach. This can be through organisational transition programs or assistance to undertake high performance management courses at Australian universities or the AIS. Elite coaches bring many optimum skills to high performance management but they often need additional skills in financial management, human resource management and governance to successfully carry out high performance management positions.
There is limited published research in elite coaches transitioning into high performance management. A great PhD study would be to investigate the experiences of elite coaches transitioning into high performance management in terms of transition pathways, benefits to sports high performance programs and measures to enhance transition.
Last updated – 11 October 2022