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Regional Victorian students inspired by nation’s top athletes

31 May 2018

EDUCATION: To be coached by an Olympian is something any aspiring athletes might dream of, but that dream recently became a reality for over 300 primary students from regional Victoria.

Nine Australian Olympians shared their Games experiences and their sporting skills with 10 local schools at the A.S.P.I.R.E Leadership Program at the Moe-Newborough Leisure Centre on Wednesday.

The program aims to connect regional communities and local school students with Olympians, increase participation in sport and promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle through values in sport.

When they weren’t trying their hand at athletics, basketball, football, gymnastics and volleyball, the year 5 and 6 students learnt about the Olympic Games and the positive impact sport can have on their daily lives.

ASPIRE session football

One such Olympian on hand was Athens 2004 gymnast Stephanie Moorhouse who, alongside dual Olympian Larissa Miller, took students through a gymnastics obstacle course and taught them how to do handstands.

“It’s an amazing opportunity the students have today,” Moorhouse said. “Not only to meet the Olympians but to have a go at trying all these different sports.

“I think it’s really important at this age, year 5 and 6, to try a variety of sports. It’s about giving them the opportunity to have a go at it and have some fun, not necessarily to do gymnastics at the elite level but teaching them to move and have fun.”

The athletes not only taught new sport skills, but discussed the importance of the A.S.P.I.R.E. values of attitude, sportsmanship, pride, individual responsibility, respect and expressing oneself, and how these values can apply to daily life.

“We’re teaching the students to appreciate what they’re doing and the opportunities that they have. We’re talking about how these values relate to the sport, but also in their everyday life,” Moorhouse said.

Steph Moorehouse ASPIRE

The Wellbeing Officer of St. Mary’ Primary School in Newborough, Cathy Colaciello, said it was great to see the students embracing every opportunity the day presented.

“The benefits of coming to today’s session was definitely getting the students active, participating, socialising, understanding respect and having fun with the athletes,” Ms Colaciello said.

“Having the athletes here is definitely a draw card. They’re showing the children that you can have a go, how to participate, have fun and that anything is possible if you just have a go.”

But it wasn’t only the students benefiting from the day.

“We [the teachers] have also picked up some skills and ideas from the athletes that we can take back to our learning and classrooms,” she said.

Similarly, Moorhouse said she still gets a lot out of participating in these community programs.

“For me, it’s one of the most special things about being an Olympian,” she said.

“While you’re going through the motions going through the sport, you don’t relaise how special it is. Now looking back and being asked to be involved in these opportunities and days like this where you can share your journey with the younger generation, it’s really special and something I reflect on more regularly now.”

ASPIRE session group

Local club representatives, coaches and athletes were also on hand during the day to share their knowledge and sporting skills.

The day featured Olympians from the Atlanta 1996 Games, up to the recent Rio 2016 Games, including: Monica Brennan (Athletics 2016), Michelle Brogan (Basketball 1996, 2000), Tamsin Hinchley (Indoor Volleyball 2000, Beach Volleyball 2008, 2012), Rachel Jarry (Basketball 2012, 2016), Tal Karp (Football 2004), Selin Kuralay (Football 2004), Larrissa Miller (Gymnastics 2012, 2016), Steph Moorhouse (Gymnastics 2004) and Sean Wroe (Athletics 2008).

The A.S.P.I.R.E. Leadership Program is funded by Sport and Recreation Victoria and delivered by the Victorian Olympic Council.

Special thanks to the following sporting associations and clubs who helped make the day possible:
GippSport and Gippsland Sports Academy, Moe Little Athletics Centre, Basketball Moe Association, Energetic Gymnastics, Latrobe Valley Volleyball, Athletics Victoria, Basketball Victoria, Football Federation Victoria, Gymnastics Victoria, Volleyball Victoria.

Georgia Thompson

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