The opening stages of the program will see USC join with Basketball Australia and the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science Research to start a study pathway for wheelchair basketball athletes.
The program will enable athletes with a disability to combine tertiary studies with high-performance sports training and coaching at USC’s state-of-the-art sports facilities, with scholarships to be awarded to high-achieving student athletes.
The SEED stream is the first dual para-sport and academic program to be offered at an Australian university and will be managed by USC PhD researcher Bridie Kean, an Australian dual Paralympic medallist and a research scholar at the Queensland Academy of Sport’s (QAS) Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science Research.
Ms. Kean will work alongside USC Professor of Sport Science and Paralympic gold medalist Brendan Burkett, as well as academics from the University’s public health and occupational therapy disciplines.
Ms. Kean, who captained Australia to a silver medal in wheelchair basketball for the Gliders at the 2012 London Games, said her own successes in sport and academia were due to participating in an existing program at an American university.
“As an athlete with a disability, I always knew the value of both sport and education in my life,” she said.
“It is Exciting to work towards expanding these opportunities to our future and current Paralympic athletes in Australia through the USC SEED stream.
“The program promotes an environment in which young athletes are encouraged and supported to achieve academic excellence as well as success on the sporting field.”
Ms Kean is currently researching study opportunities for student para-athletes, with initial findings demonstrating that dual stream programs based overseas had achieved success in both student athlete graduation outcomes and para-sport success.
Head of the USC School of Health and Sport Science Professor John Lowe said the SEED stream would offer a pathway not previously available to Australian para-athletes.
“Providing this kind of opportunity to elite athletes with a disability is an Australian first and I’m extremely proud to see USC taking a leading role in this area,” he said.
Anthony Moore, CEO of Basketball Australia, said “the program is very exciting and we are proud to be involved in order to offer study pathways for our wheelchair basketball athletes”.
This pilot program will also be the subject of a three-year collaborative research project.