Theory-to-Practice Grant, ‘The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Across the Academic Spectrum’

Learn how OWU’s Course Connections, Travel-Learning Courses, Theory-to-Practice Grants, and other programs prepare students for global citizenship and leadership and help them…Make the Connection.


Five Ohio Wesleyan students and faculty member Richard Hawes traveled to Australia over spring break to visit the Australian Institute of Sport, renowned for its research to enhance athletic performance, fitness, and health. The trip was supported by a university-funded Theory-to-Practice Grant. (Photo courtesy of Richard Hawes)

Five Ohio Wesleyan students and faculty member Richard Hawes traveled to Australia over spring break to visit the Australian Institute of Sport, renowned for its research to enhance athletic performance, fitness, and health. The trip was supported by a university-funded Theory-to-Practice Grant. (Photo courtesy of Richard Hawes)

Experiences: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Across the Academic Spectrum,” in Canberra, Australia, March 7-March 16, 2014, with OWU professor of health and human kinetics Richard Hawes

Kaitlyn Eckert ’14

Kaitlyn Eckert ’14

Name: Kaitlyn Eckert ’14
Major/Minor: Pre-Professional Zoology; Pre-Med; Exercise Science
Hometown: Sandusky, Ohio

“Being my fourth travel-learning type experience, this trip added the icing to the cake before graduating in May. Every trip I’ve taken has solidified even more the fact that hands-on learning and getting to experience what you research in a classroom in real life is one of the best possible forms of education.

“Jennifer Erichsen and I proposed this grant as way to study the groundbreaking and cutting-edge training techniques that the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] use to solicit elite athletic performances. Because it is government-funded, the AIS is comprised of world-class facilities and continues to be on the forefront of research and development in all areas of performance, fitness, and health, both for its athletes but also for the Australian community. The AIS is unlike any other place in the world, as it brings all aspects of training into one central location allowing all the varying departments to work hand-in-hand. This was why the traveling component of the trip was so important.

“It was amazing to get the opportunity to test the theories and principles learned in the classroom and experience their real-world application.We met with AIS dieticians, a performance psychologist, and got tours of the physiologist’s research lab. Some of us were also able to participate in their biomechanics aquatic testing. …

“We all had a realization of how interconnected the various departments were, and how much they work together to create a high-level environment for research, education, and athletic performance.”

Jennifer Erichsen ’14

Jennifer Erichsen ’14

Name: Jennifer Erichsen ’14
Majors: Pre-Professional Zoology, Pre-Med, Neuroscience
Minors: Chemistry, Spanish
Hometown: Farmington Hills, Michigan

“The Australian Institute of Sport was developed by the Australian Government after Australia’s poor showing in the 1976 Olympics. We thought that their cutting-edge research and techniques made the AIS a perfect place to visit. Our objective was to learn as much as we could about each area related to sports performance, and to see how each of these areas interconnected.

“We attended biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, performance psychology, and recovery lectures to learn specifically about how each area is handled at the AIS. Since most of us are swimmers, we were also used as test subjects at the Aquatic Testing and Training Center, where we had our starts, turns, and drag analyzed by professionals. We also got a taste of what it’s like to be an AIS athlete by staying at the AIS residences, eating in the athlete dining hall, participating in a recovery practical session, and speaking with a current member of the AIS developmental swim team.

“Outside of the AIS, we wanted to take advantage of all that Australia had to offer. We visited the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney Opera House, the Capital Building in Canberra, and watched an aboriginal performance in the Sydney Botanical Gardens. We also met up with an Ohio Wesleyan Swimming Alum (Fred Orr, Class of 1963).

“I am so thankful to Ohio Wesleyan University and the Theory to Practice Program for allowing me to have this opportunity. This truly was the experience of a lifetime and something I will never forget.

“After graduation, I am hoping to continue my education with an advanced degree in physiology. Visiting the AIS has definitely solidified my desire to do this. At the Institute, I was able to see all the ways that physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, psychology, and recovery fit together and how each is an integral part in helping an athlete to achieve success. I am hopeful that our upcoming presentation and Sports Institute Camp can really show the Ohio Wesleyan and Delaware Community what we learned and why it is important for coaches and athletes to be educated in these fields.”

Marissa Esber ’14

Marissa Esber ’14

Name: Marissa Esber ’14
Major/Minor: Psychology, Sociology/Anthropology minor
Hometown: Akron, Ohio

“I learned that all of the aspects of sport that we studied while at the AIS are interconnected. Whether the sports component be biomechanics, physiology, or psychology, all come together to contribute to the wellness and effectiveness of an athlete.

“I would not have been able to learn about what we did as in-depth or with such quality if we were not at the Australian Institute of Sport. Speaking directly to the professionals and watching the athletes train was a completely unique and enriching experience for me. This experience mattered to me because it gave me direct knowledge that is helping me decide my future career.

“I believe that actually interacting with elite athletes truly was an experience that opened my eyes to a field that I hope to be a part of someday. Actually learning about their daily schedules and seeing them in action really gave me a good idea of some of the challenges and experiences that I would encounter someday as a sport psychologist.”

Robert Lindberg ’16

Robert Lindberg ’16

Name: Robert Lindberg ’16
Majors: Art History, Pre-Medicine, Zoology
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

“During the trip, I learned that the program the AIS runs is all-inclusive; that no sport is differentiated because of low-impact vs. high-impact, endurance sports, team sports, but they’re all treated equally and given access to any of the resources available.

So the main lesson was, in athletics, it’s better to be accessible to any sport in terms of nutrition and athletic performance opportunities, and all sports should be given fair treatment no matter what the sport is, in order for all of them to be successful.

“An experience like this matters because … [i]t allows you to put things learned in the classroom to actual practice.”

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