Careers in sport: three Deakin graduates share their stories

If you’re a passionate sports fan, you can choose from many different careers in sport so you can make a difference to both players and the industry. Hear from three Deakin sports graduates to learn what it’s like working in the industry, and how they got there.

Landing highly-sought-after AFL careers after graduating

Although he initially had his heart set on human movement and biomechanics, Deakin graduate Dylan Marshall developed a passion for performance analysis while studying a Master of Applied Sport Science. He was lucky enough to secure a highly-regarded AFL industry job, and is currently a full-time Performance Analyst at Hawthorn Football Club.

‘This involves information technology support to staff alongside the provision of data and statistical feedback to players and coaches,’ Dylan explains.

‘Typically, we collate data with vision from games and training to drive game plan education to players and assist coaches in producing engaging and impactful game review presentations.’

Prior to completing his master’s degree online, Dylan studied a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin where he completed a practical unit with North Melbourne Football Club. This later led to an opportunity to help establish the club’s AFLW analytics program after graduating from his master’s.

Dylan credits the practical learning experiences to opening doors to a career in professional sport. For people looking to make a career in sport, Dylan emphasises the importance of saying yes to opportunities that are presented to you.

‘Take as many real-world practical experiences that come your way as this will best prepare you for any challenges that you may face in your journey toward working in an elite sporting environment,’ Dylan advises.

‘Working in professional sport is a rewarding experience but also requires a great deal of commitment to working outside your comfort zone.’

The benefits of exploring unexpected careers in sport

For Sam Joseph, another Deakin Master of Applied Sport Science the goal was to elevate his career as a strength and conditioning coach and move into a role in elite sport. Along the way he landed himself a job as a Sports Scientist with VALD Performance, a sports and health technology company based in Brisbane.

‘My role entails educating and assisting clients – elite sport, allied health and military – to utilise our products, which help staff make informed decisions with the help of objective measurement of human physiological traits,’ Sam says.

Initially, though, Sam’s interest in the role wasn’t immediate.

‘I was very narrow-minded in that pursuit but I was lucky to have some solid conversations with people around me and I figured out that I needed to experience something different, particularly in the middle of the COVID epidemic,’ Sam says.

As a Queensland-based student, Sam studied most of the course online, alongside completing several week-long intensive units in Geelong.

‘Deakin helped me by opening my eyes to the wider field of sports performance. Whilst I felt I had a good grasp on it, getting outside my comfort zone of strength and conditioning, and learning things like performance analysis, certainly helped me realise what drives performance.’

Sam also credits his success in landing the job to being in the right place at the right time, and staying in touch with the VALD team that he had connected with years prior at networking events.

And while sports science wasn’t part of Sam’s initial plan, he remains very satisfied with his job.

‘The most rewarding part of working in my role currently is that I feel like I’m helping advance the industry in terms of how we can assist athletes and people in general, and improve their performance and outcomes.’

How AFL industry jobs can open doors to other careers in sport

Bianca Litchfield’s journey to her job as a Performance Analyst and GPS/LPS Coordinator for the Collingwood Magpies Super Netball team was the result of hard work, persistence, and applying herself to every available opportunity.

But it wasn’t until completing an internship with the Collingwood Magpies Football Club that she truly realised her interest in performance analysis.

‘I had known about performance analyst roles primarily through my Master of Applied Sport Science, however I didn’t see myself in the role until I began my internship and really enjoyed it,’ Bianca says.

Bianca’s dedication and commitment to her internship awarded her exceptional references from Collingwood Football Club, and Head of School Academic Award in her cohort for her course.

In addition to seeking out her internship with the Collingwood Magpies Football Club on her own and getting it credited towards her practical learning hours, Bianca also found success by keeping connected with her peers and lecturers.

‘The connections I was able to build with my cohort as well as the staff at Deakin was invaluable and has helped me get to where I am now.

‘After applying for many jobs in the second half of last year, I was approached about this role by the General Manager of Women’s Sport at Collingwood Football Club, Jane Woodlands-Thompson, who had previously worked with one of my lecturers, Lyndell Bruce. Lyndell had recommended me for the role when it came up in conversation.’

For anyone looking to follow a similar path, Bianca’s advice is simple:

‘Passion can only get you so far. Go out and volunteer at a local club or event, because the more experiences and connections you build, the more employable you become and as long as you keep putting yourself out there, the opportunities will keep presenting themselves.’

Study a Master of Applied Sport Science at Deakin and gain the skills you need to kickstart your career in sport.