“From the Field to the Future: Exploring the Post-Graduation Path for Sports School Alumni”

Sports school academies are rising in popularity, offering an alternative to traditional education. But budding athletes have been warned of potential disappointment.
"From the Field to the Future: Exploring the Post-Graduation Path for Sports School Alumni"

Title: New Islamic College of Sport Offers Alternative Education for Sports Enthusiasts

Adam Sweid, a 15-year-old student, has always had a passion for sports. “Even when I’m at my school normally, I’m always thinking about footy,” he said. Sweid is just one of many students who are choosing a sporting alternative for their final years of school, with hopes of attending the Islamic College of Sport, founded by former AFL player Bachar Houli.

The Islamic College of Sport aims to offer years 11 and 12 and is set to open early next year pending approval from the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority. The school plans to provide VCE vocational majors focused on multi-sport, physical training, and athlete mentoring, along with sports industry partnerships.

For Sweid, becoming an AFL player or reaching the highest level in his chosen sport is a dream. “Some kids aren’t always focused on school and education, so this definitely helps,” he said.

In a diverse and competitive landscape, there are currently 12 state schools offering sports excellence programs, private schools boasting their elite alumni, sports academies run by professional athletes, and now independent sports colleges offering senior school education. Box Hill Senior Secondary College, for example, produced athletes like Ben Simmons, who recently signed a $277 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.

While these alternative educational models cater to students’ sporting aspirations, experts caution about the importance of managing expectations. Going pro or securing a job in the highly competitive sports industry is not guaranteed. Last week, The Academy, an independent elite AFL-focused senior school run by former Richmond footballer Alex Rance, announced its closure due to teacher shortages and declining student numbers during COVID.

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Heath McMillin, the principal of SEDA College Victorian, an independent senior secondary school, believes that alternative educational models are essential to cater to every student’s needs. He emphasizes that inflating the potential for success in professional sports is a dangerous game. McMillin also suggests the need for clear definitions and regulations for sports academies to ensure that they provide the right facilities, coaching, and pathways for aspiring athletes.

Maribyrnong Secondary College, the only state government-funded sports academy in Victoria, offers 575 funded sports scholarships for 15 sports. The college has produced top athletes like Olympic bronze medallist Luke Plapp, Port Adelaide Football Club’s Zak Butters, and AFLW player Monique Conti.

David Shilbury, the director of Deakin Sports Network, acknowledges the growth of sports academies and elite training schools but cautions that the sports industry remains a highly competitive employment market. He advises students to be realistic about their prospects and urges the education system to continue exploring alternative ways of engaging students at the secondary level.

The Islamic College of Sport director, Ali Fahour, believes that there is a demand in the community for an alternative education model that combines sport and faith. The college plans to infuse its curriculum with both elements to create proud Muslim Australian role models.

The Islamic College of Sport is set to provide a unique educational experience for elite athletes and students interested in sports, filling a gap in the community and offering a culturally safe environment for those who want to complete year 12 while pursuing their sporting dreams.