The sports schools creating the athletes of tomorrow

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

Whether it’s realising dreams of Olympic gold medals, playing alongside national sporting teams or encouraging young people to excel in the game they love, Australia’s sports schools aim to help budding athletes realise their full potential. 

The promise these specialist schools offer is world-class education both on and off the field – a holistic approach that strives to turn the youth of today into the athletes of tomorrow through a mix of tailored training, professional coaching and academic excellence. 

And it seems to be working.

By creating an environment ripe for creating the household names of the future, many of these specialist institutions have a storied history of producing sporting legends (and netting Australia multiple Olympic wins).

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Sport remains a vital part of education

But why is sport so important to a well-rounded education? For students, physical activity is a critical part of their formative years. 

With research showing team sports are crucial to forming essential social skills, healthy habits and leadership qualities, sports education remains a key component to boosting the physical and mental health of young people. 

But beyond the release of endorphins and individual improvement in physical fitness, sports also play a surprisingly large role in the social consciousness of Australia.  

In the minds of today’s youth, modern athletes have replaced the mythical heroes of old. The tales of Hercules and Perseus are now replaced with the exploits of Australian sporting legends, with familiar names, such as Daniel Ricciardo, Shane Warne and Johnathan Thurstan forming part of a proud national identity.

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When we head into the stands to cheer for our team, we transform into a community of passionate fans. With players sometimes having huge crowds putting all of their positive energy behind their sporting achievements, that kid who was identified for running fast or throwing a ball accurately is transformed into something almost superhuman.

The opportunity to be idolised gives athletic students who might otherwise be disengaged with school study the chance to develop the drive and ambition to succeed.  

The best sports schools across Australia

Darling Range Sports College, Forrest Field (WA)

A private-public high school located 14 kilometres east of Perth, Darling Range Sports College is Western Australia’s first specialist sports school and currently has nine high-performance sports programs covering some of Australia’s most popular sports, including rugby league, AFL and netball. 

All of the college’s programs are coordinated and run by highly qualified and successful coaches who work closely with governing bodies to provide students with invaluable training, support and guidance.

Widely recognised throughout the state as the leader in the development and innovation of sport education, the college boasts state-of-the-art facilities for both in and out of the classroom.  

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By offering programs that provide opportunities for students to successfully combine their academic studies and sporting commitments, it helps talented athletes feel suitably equipped to pursue pathways to university, further training or employment post-graduation. 

Endeavour Sports High School, Sydney (NSW)

Located in the southern suburbs of Sydney, Endeavour High School has been built from the ground up to facilitate student sporting excellence. Its mission is to accommodate the best athletes the nation has to offer, with admission alone to the school largely based on proven athletic proficiency in the target sport. 

In 2020, The Endeavour Sports High-Performance Unit (HPU) was introduced to support the already successful Targeted Sports Program at Endeavour Sports High School. 

The initiative was the first of its kind in NSW, with a vision to establish the school as a one-stop-shop for all students’ athletic needs, giving alumni round-the-clock access to health and performance specialists all in one place.

This Endeavour Sports HPU provides sports medicine, sports science and strength and conditioning support to student-athletes, optimising and supporting their athletic development and performance need.

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With its affiliation and partnerships with highly qualified, experienced and in-demand professionals in their chosen fields, the HPU has assembled arguably one of the best teams anywhere in the country.

Hills Sports High School, Sydney (NSW)

Hills Sports High School is in Sydney’s north-west and offers a selective Talented Sports Program (TSP) where students receive elite coaching from nationally accredited educators and participate in fitness, nutrition and sports science courses. 

Students seeking placement in a targeted sports program must undergo fitness and skills testing in their nominated sport, while also satisfying high standards in attitude, work habits and academic achievement.

Students experience a learning culture that values academic and sporting excellence, and the school’s TSP offers a combination of elite coaching and comprehensive secondary education that aims to maximise both academic and sporting potential. 

Another benefit is the extensive partnerships with community organisations and associations, as well as the school’s assurance that it provides a caring environment in which students can excel. Classes are also formed for students with particular talents in their academic subjects, where extension work is supported by specialised teaching staff.

Fairholme College, Toowoomba (QLD)

Fairholme College is recognised as one of Australia’s leading physical activity providers, and boasts Olympians such as Emilee Cherry, Cathy Freeman and Dannielle Leisch as some of its former students.

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Sport is an integral part of life for the all-girls school, with the emphasis being on enjoyment, participation and sport etiquette. A wide variety of sporting activities are offered in both competitive and non-competitive environments, including football, tennis, cricket and more. 

Students who excel in their competitive sports are encouraged to pursue their talent at inter-house, regional, state, national and international levels by hard-working and caring accredited coaches. 

Regularly seen among the ranks of podium-finishers in events at all competitive levels, students from Fairholme College benefit from decades of experience on some of Australia’s most popular sporting fields. 

Maribyrnong College, Melbourne (VIC)

Maribyrnong College Sports Academy aims to inspire a new generation of young athletes by offering extensive academic and extra-curricular programs and world-class sporting facilities and opportunities. 

The first State Government Funded Specialist Sports School Program in Victoria, the academy is currently home to 550+ student-athletes who compete in popular sports such as cricket, soccer and AFL, as well as lower profile sports that include badminton, taekwondo and baseball/softball. 

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Students within the Academy can expect to be coached, taught, trained and mentored on a daily basis by some of the best teachers, coaches, dietitians, psychologists & sports scientists in the industry. 

Currently, this roster of staff includes five Olympians, numerous national representatives and individuals with significant experience working at the Australian Institute of Sport, Victorian Institute of Sport, professional clubs and with professional athletes.

With this impressive lineup of coaches and educators comes equally impressive results. According to the academy, more than 180 students have gone on to represent Victoria and/or Australia in national and international competitions over the last 12 months.

MSA also offers extensive High-Performance Preparation classes from years 7-10 to help student-athletes build the required strength and conditioning needed to succeed in a professional training environment beyond their formative years. 

Henley High School, Adelaide (SA)

The Henley Sports Academy at Henley High School was formed in 1997 with the goal of helping student-athletes maximise their sporting potential whilst balancing their academic, sporting and life goals.

Since then, the training students have received has allowed them to make South Australian and Australian teams, achieve personal bests in sporting events and win State and National Championships in a wide range of sports, and provided pathways to employment and further education post-school.

Highly experienced and credentialed coaches deliver the program in partnership with sporting programs across the state to bring cutting-edge industry guidance. 

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At its core, the program revolves around optimising skill training for student-specific sports and offering physical preparation, performance analysis, personal development, and a flexible and supportive academic program from Years seven to 12. 

More than 400 student-athletes from a wide range of sports participate in the Academy. To enter, applicants must undergo rigorous testing and meet the academic and sporting criteria of the school. Both able-bodied athletes and athletes with a disability are eligible to apply. 

Roma Mitchell Secondary College, Adelaide (SA) 

Roma Mitchell Secondary College’s Sports Academy offers successful year seven-12 applicants targeted mentoring and training programs in soccer, cricket and women’s AFL (AFLW), from accredited industry coaches.

Partnerships with industry sports associations include the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA), South Australian Women’s Football (AFLW) and Football South Australia (FSA), giving students at Roma Mitchell access to some of the best sports training in the state.

Sports Academy athletes develop their skills through participation in various state and national-level competitions whilst undertaking a specialised curriculum focusing on skill development, sporting pathways and academic excellence.

The college also boasts a Girls’Education Campus – which is one of only two ‘girls-only’ public schools in South Australia. Here, female students can experience a specialised curriculum that promotes leadership, academic excellence and equity within an all girls’ learning environment.

Students wishing to enter the exclusive program must undertake a trial examination, where they have to demonstrate advanced sporting skills, a strong work ethic, academic potential and character.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.