Following a number of annual submissions by Campbelltown City Council, on behalf of Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly councils throughout the 1990's, the then Department of Sport and Recreation conducted a review into it's network of regional sport Academies. It identified that a need existed to provide talent development opportunities to athletes in the South Western area's of Sydney. The Liverpool, Macarthur and Goulburn regions.
From the review it was clear that talent development opportunities for athletes living in these areas could be enhanced through the establishment of a Regional Academy. Even more so, as the Sydney 2000 Olympics was fast approaching.
In 1997, the South West Sydney Academy of Sport was formed.
Initially, the Academy was operated by the Department of Sport and Recreation, and based in Liverpool. Ms Mia Jenkins was appointed the original Executive Director of the Academy.
The first sporting programs inducted in late 1997, included Track and Field, Athletes with a disAbility (AWD), Swimming, Hockey, Netball, Softball and Soccer. Rugby League was soon added, recognising the sport's grassroot development heartland.
Initially, the Academy's catchment area (Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly LGA's). extended south down the Hume Highway, with athletes from the Goulburn and Crookwell council areas eligible to apply. This partnership with the area assisting in the discovery of Olympic Hockey athletes Glenn Turner and Emily Chalker (nee Smith). SWSAS' great relationship with the Goulburn region extended until the South Eastern Regional Academy of Sport (SERAS), and later the South Eastern Sports Academy (SESA) eventually took over the service of athletes in their region. SWSAS however continued to service Hockey athletes from this southern region until only recently.
The Sydney 2000 Olympics spurned a future legacy of Youth Sport and Excellence within the South West Sydney community. Past Academy athlete, Patrick Donachie provided the Academy its first Olympic experience, winning Gold in the Paralympic swimming.
During this early era, Mr Paul Taylor was appointed the second Executive Director of the Academy, with the Administration Centre moving its office from Liverpool, to the old Gym Centre, at the WSU Campbelltown campus.
"The Little Cottage that created Champions"
In late 2002, a new and exciting era dawned, with the South West Sydney Academy of Sport becoming an autonomous organisation. Whilst still having a very close relationship with the NSW Office of Sport, a move to an autonomous, incorporated organisation allowed the Academy to instil its own Board of Management, with Dr Barry Ridge endorsed as the incorporated Academy's inaugural Chairperson. Our current Chairperson, Peter Campbell also started on this original board, as the Academy's Finance Director.
Also during this time, Mr David Toll was appointed the Academy's third Executive Officer as the Academy continued to expand, with Tennis and Golf added to the sport program family.
2004 marked the year of the Athens Olympics, which saw former Academy athletes Bronwyn Eagles, Clinton Hill (both Athletics), and Jim Piper (Swimming) compete on the world stage, with great success.
The South West Sydney Academy of Sport also took the opportunity and moved closer towards the heart of Campbelltown, finding home in a small fibro cottage at the northern end of Queen Street, Campbelltown. The centre affectionately became known as the 'little cottage that created champions', testament to the community recognising the impact the Academy had on developing the region's athletes.
SWSAS also played a large part in the birthing of the Western Sydney Academy of Sport, by sharing of intellectual property, policies and procedures to assist the WSAS gain traction in the Parramatta and Penrith regions, with the WSAS commencing in 2004. A great level of co-operation continues to exist between the two academies, given their neighbouring borders and common goals for athletes within the west and south west metro regions.
The Academy was also instrumental in providing advice and cooperation in the inauguration of the Central Coast Academy of Sport. This increase in co-operation between Regional Academies eventually led to the development and formation of the Regional Academies of Sport Incorporated. (RASi)
The Regional Academies of Sport
In 2005, the South West Sydney Academy of Sport played a key role in initial discussions with, and ultimately partnered with, eight other NSW Regional Academies as a foundation member of Regional Academies of Sport incorporated (RASi). The goal of RASi is to collaboratively present a range of corporate partnership benefits and opportunities to its member Academy sponsors.
It also allows the sharing of a vast array of intellectual and information resources across the Academy network when facilitating sports program planning.
This collaborative venture culminated in the creation of the ClubsNSW "Your Local Club" Academy Games, which presents not only a highly attractive vehicle to gain brand awareness and reach within the sporting and general community, but in creating opportunities with events and inter-Academy competition. The Academy Games are awarded to an Academy to host for a three-year cycle, providing the host's the opportunity to grow and develop a strong working relationship with local sporting associations and key partners, ensuring the longevity and success of the event.
The Central Coast Academy of Sport was awarded the inaugural hosting rights, with the Academy Games conducted in Gosford and the surrounding region from 2006-2008, and again in 2015-2017. The Northern Inland Academy (NIAS) hosted the Games in 2009-2011, followed by the Illawarra Academy (IAS) in 2012-2014. Most recently the Hunter Academy (HAS) hosted the Games in 2018-2021, with the 2020 edition not taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2022-2024 Academy Games have been awarded to the Southern Sports Academy (SSA) in Wagga Wagga.
SWSAS has competed in each Academy Games competition since its inception, sending around 100+ athletes and coaching staff to each edition of the Games
Servicing the Wider, Growing Community.
Current CEO, Mr Gerry Knights is indeed a stalwart of the Academy. Knights commenced with the Academy, as an employee of Campbelltown Council sitting on the original working party. Knights then served on the Academy's sports sub-committee, followed by a stint on the Board of Management.
In 2006, Knights left the Healthy Lifestyles department at Campbelltown City Council, and in doing so, became the fourth dedicated leader of the Academy.
Knights has led the most significant changes and growth throughout the Academy's history, including the introduction of a Harold Mathews Rugby League team, which ran in conjunction with NSWRL and the Wests Tigers, Wests Magpies and Group 6 CRL. The venture saw the Academy undertake not only a vast array of junior Rugby League development pathway programs, but hosting a representative team in the NSWRL Competition.
Throughout his growing tenure, Knights has seen over 4000 athletes come and go through the Academy, in a number of sport development programs. With each sporting program ran in conjunction with the State Sporting Organisation, a large number of past Academy athletes have gone on to represent in Junior and Senior State and National teams.
Unfortunately some sport program's enjoyed only a short stay within the Academy, where others have been a part of the family since our inception. The Academy continues to provide opportunities for all athletes, who are not apart of a sport program offered by the Academy, through its Future Star program.
Throughout its history, the Academy has operated sport program squads in;
- AFL Development *
- AFL Women's *
- Basketball *
- BMX *
- Golf *
- Netball *
- Netball Umpires *
- Men's Netball *
- Rugby League
- Rugby Union
- Ten Pin Bowling
- Triathlon *
- Softball *
- Volleyball *
* denotes current squad program
A Strong Future, 25 years in the making.
By mid-2020, the South West Sydney Academy of Sport outgrew its humble little cottage, and moved to the southern end of Campbelltown, with the Academy administration centre finding home amongst Campbelltown's 'Heritage Precinct', in the 'Coach House', located at 2/298 Queen Street.
The location provides the organisation with the office and storage space needed to continue developing the regions athletes, and future community leaders.
And what a time to move and establish an even stronger foundation within the Region, with the Academy set to celebrate 25 years of Youth, Sport, Excellence and Community throughout 2022.
The Academy's future is strong.
The majority of squad training sessions occur at local sporting grounds and venues throughout the Academy catchment area, further strengthening partnerships with local sporting associations, and Friends of the Academy.
This decentralised approach allows athletes from the region access to train within their own club and association environments, as well as promoting the Academy within NSW Sport's high-performance pathway to our community's club level athletes.
With the Academy's focus more about the development of athletes with a mindset of competing with, rather than competing against other athletes, so that both may gain development and success. Our value is in the athlete as a person, not simply their athletic performance.
"Our success is not measured by the number of medals or trophies, or games won or lost; but by the number of young lives we have been able to influence and help along the pathway; whether in sport or in life."