Female Athletes Help AIS Shape Future Of Performance And Health

lympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games Athletes have teamed up with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to form an advisory board to help shape the future of female performance and health in sport.

The AIS Female Performance and Health Initiative (FPHI) was established in 2019 “to improve female athlete specific knowledge and systems of sport.”

The next step of the AIS FPHI involves the formation of a 14 strong Athlete Reference Group (ARG) including pole vaulter Nina Kennedy, rower Sarah Hawe, hockey player Stephanie Kershaw and water polo player Lea Yanitsas, all of whom are headed to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Australian Sports Commission chair, Josephine Sukkar, said she was looking forward to seeing the impact the advisory group will have for the future of the AIS FPHI.

“The AIS is deeply committed to supporting and elevating our women athletes and I am proud the organisation has once again taken a leadership role in establishing the AIS Female Performance and Health Initiative,” Sukkar said.

“The AIS FPHI was created to address a real need in the high-performance sport system and the Athlete Reference Group will ensure that this important resource remains relevant,” she said.

AIS FPHI lead Dr Rachel Harris, said the group’s diversity and varied sporting backgrounds would be “hugely beneficial.”

“Athletes are the central focus of the AIS FPHI, so it is essential that the Athlete Reference Group is representative of the diverse community of female athletes in high performance sport,” Harris said.

“We want to ensure the athlete voice is heard and that our resources are relevant and appropriate to the population they aim to assist,” she said.

Over the next 12 months, the ARG will meet quarterly to discuss issues relevant to the AIS FPHI with Dr Harris and AIS professional networks manager, Miranda Menaspá.

Olympic pole vaulter, Nina Kennedy and Olympic water polo player Lea Yanitsas agreed that these resources will make a difference in high-performance sport and for emerging athletes.

“I lacked the resources and guidance about these topics when I was a junior athlete and that’s when the guidance is most needed,” Kennedy said.

“Female health has a significant impact on performance and the more coaches are aware of this and have resources available to learn from, the implementation of strategies for elite performance will become more accessible and less taboo,” she said.

Yanitsas added; “The only way to achieve the best from our athletes is to understand them as a whole human.”

“As a mother returning to elite sport myself, I encountered multiple barriers in returning to training and I would like to see fewer barriers, better education, more resources and research available to athletes on their specific health concerns,” she said.

Current AIS FPHI resources for athletes, coaches and health practitioners are available on the AIS website.