What are you doing now? ESS alum Jessica Farley '13 shares her story:
I am currently enrolled full-time as a PhD candidate within the Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine at the Bond Institute of Health & Sport at Bond University on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The program is three years and is entirely research based (i.e. no coursework). The primary aim of my research project is to examine the physical fitness attributes mediating technical skill performance and risk of injury in female Australian football (not soccer or rugby, but AFL) athletes across various levels of game play. Female Australian football is a novel athlete population with the first-ever professional women's league consisting of eight teams established this year. They had their first competitive season this past Feb-March and was a huge success for women in sport. Being a novel athlete population, there is very limited research in this field. Hence, the results from this research project will establish a foundation for future research, generating the necessary data for development of appropriate performance enhancement and injury prevention programs that are gender specific and tailored to the developmental pathway.
As you can imagine, this is an ever-growing space to be at the forefront of. Female talent pathways are already underway, and we are starting to see girls who have had the opportunity to play AFL since they were 5 years old entering these talent pathways in the U14, U17, and U18 leagues. When I was an ATC for a junior club back in 2010, girls were allowed to play with the boys until they were 12 years old. After that, there were very limited female only leagues - in fact, I never heard of a female as an adult playing AFL up here in Queensland, which is a rugby oriented state (and still is). Therefore, many of the female players that took part in the first professional league this year actually played other sports (cricket, netball, soccer, I think there even was a javelin thrower!). Thus, I think the game is only going to grow, change, and excel - at a fast pace - over the next few years.
We just had a meeting yesterday with the head coach from the Brisbane Lions women's team (they were undefeated in this first professional season, unfortunately losing by 1 goal (6 points) in the Grand Final) and the club development manager for the women's state leagues here in Queensland. It was a positive meeting and they are very supportive of my research project, confirming access to collect data on their players. I am really excited to be able to work with the athletes, coaches, training staff, and medical professionals at the Lions' club, elite youth in the talent pathways, and with the community clubs to produce quality research in this athlete population to enhance player quality and promote player safety in female Australian football.
I am really excited about this journey - I think it will open many doors for me here in Australia. I will definitely keep you posted along the way!