Increasing women’s representation in sport science research

After spending her days working closely with athletes and seeing first-hand the lack of women’s representation in sport science research and literature, Monica Kelly decided to personally fill the gap.

Sport is something many kids grow up with, especially in country areas. Raised on a farm in Western Victoria, Monica danced and played netball, badminton, tennis and volleyball, but it was track cycling that sparked her love of sport. ‘I represented Victoria at the Australian Junior Track Cycling Championships before transitioning to senior competitions,’ she says. That was when Monica first seriously considered pursuing a career in sport. She wanted to work with athletes and the organisations they were involved in.

Monica chose to study sport at Deakin to access the university’s strong partnerships with elite sporting organisations. She completed a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science followed by a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science (Honours).

How a Deakin sport placement can lead to a career

How a Deakin sport placement can lead to a career

Monica credits her third-year sport science placement with the Geelong Cats as a pivotal point in her sport career, where the link between theory from the lecture theatre and the real-world sporting field became clear.

She went on to complete her Honours degree in collaboration with the Geelong Cats and forged a career with the club. She worked with them for nearly 10 seasons as Performance Science Coordinator, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Women’s Physical Performance Coordinator – and it all started with a Deakin university student placement.

Why Monica chose to study sport at Deakin

'As someone who has directly benefited from partnerships, Deakin University is the ideal place to begin your career in sport,' she says. Monica’s practical placement was a game changer for her career, but she says it’s the options offered at Deakin that sets it apart. ‘The variety of degrees that are offered at Deakin, specifically relevant to sport, allow students to have a multitude of different roles and careers at organisations all around the world,’ she says. ‘You’re not locked into one role; it’s how you creatively use the skillset developed at Deakin to pursue your chosen career path.’

As a student, Monica was able to gain a foundation of relevant, practical skills she still uses now in her daily work. Whether she’s athlete testing or writing exercise programs, the core components learnt in her undergraduate degree allows her to relentlessly pursue on-field and off-field success for her athletes.

Deakin’s status in sport has continued to go from strength to strength since Monica did her undergraduate degree, with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences recently topping the ShangaiRankings Global Ranking for the third time.

The opportunity to complete a hands-on sport scientist role and experience an elite environment really enabled me to put my learnt skills into practice – I enjoyed every second of my student placement and it led me to the career I now have.

How Deakin supports women’s sport

Women’s professional sport is a growing industry both in Australia and internationally. As we see more representation of women in sport the opportunities to work in the industry continue to grow, something Monica is excited to witness firsthand and to be a part of. ‘Women’s sport is expanding at such a rapid rate. To ensure the longevity of this growth, investment in women’s sport from grassroots to elite levels is needed to develop the next generation of sporting stars,’ says Monica.

Deakin University is supporting this growth with access to some of the nation’s leading sport experts and facilities through long standing partnerships. There are also opportunities to share your knowledge, something Monica does through her work as a research assistant and casual academic at Deakin alongside her time collecting research for her PhD. ‘I have been very fortunate to be involved in a formative time in women’s sport,’ she says. ‘I hope as a researcher and practitioner, to grow the representation of women in sport science research to ensure future practitioners can apply high-quality evidence-based research to prepare the next generation of women athletes.’

Interested in learning more? Find out more about Monica’s research.

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