With the right leadership and support, it’s possible for student athletes to be remarkable in both sporting prowess and academic achievement.
As Director of the Griffith University Sports College, Duncan Free has been the driving force behind a cutting-edge strategy that has placed Griffith on the world stage.
Duncan, himself an Olympic gold medallist, graduated from Griffith with a Bachelor of Health Science in 1996 and represented Australia at four Olympic Games.
Since taking up his current position in 2012, Duncan has improved retention rates and more than doubled the number of athletes studying at Griffith.
“We provide guidance and support for 400 athletes today, working closely with their academic supervisors to make sure they have the right balance of study and sport to succeed in both areas,” says Duncan.
The motivation, vision and determination required to excel in any area of study are qualities already hard-wired into athletes at the elite level and this is evident in the accomplishments of Griffith athletes in both classroom and sporting arena.
“Our current athletes, in particular our sports scholarship holders, have a higher Grade Point Average (GPA) than the general cohort of students despite the incredible demands to also keep up with training commitments and travel for competition events,” says Duncan.
“As for sporting results, 2016 saw us named the top university in Australia for the number of athletes competing at the Rio Olympics and ninth globally for Olympic gold medallists—and we were up against the biggest and most respected universities in the world.”
Partnership with elite coaches and sporting associations including the Queensland Academy of Sport, the Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Roar, Gold Coast Suns and several Olympic and Commonwealth sporting bodies is one of the reasons Griffith student athletes are doing so well.
“Time management and flexible schedules are important because our athletes do tend to travel and some take longer to finish their studies,” Duncan explains.
“We’re also very lucky to have Naomi McCarthy, a Griffith graduate and Olympic gold medallist, as Manager of the Sports College and Elite Athlete Program.
“We both speak the same language as our athletes and have a personal understanding of the pressures associated with sport and study.