James Madison University

Athletic Training Students Study Abroad in Australia

By: Vilina Phan
Posted: November 6, 2012

PHOTO: JMU Student with kangarooRugby, kangaroos, and the Great Barrier Reef are all associated with “the land down under,” better known as Australia. This past summer, a group of JMU students from the Athletic Training and Sport and Recreation Management programs had the opportunity to visit Australia to learn about the cultural differences that exist in relation to sports medicine and everyday life.

The Australia Summer Program was three weeks long. During that time, the students travelled to Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, and the Gold Coast.

“The program included cultural activities, academic learning, historical learning, and general learning about the country/continent of Australia,” said Connie Peterson, faculty member in charge of the program on the Athletic Training side.

The trip was broken down into three categories: academic, structured tourism, and free time.

The academic portion of the trip included volunteer speakers ranging from neurosurgeons to Olympic champions. “Sports medicine is different [in Australia] because they have a combination of physical therapist and EMT position called a physiotherapist, which is similar to an athletic trainer...but they have more proficiencies than an AT does. It is an interesting blend of two professions from the US,” said Lisa Kavjian, an Athletic Training student.

One memorable speaker was Andrew Gaze, the record holder for most points scored in an Olympic Basketball tournament. He was “visibly embarrassed when our tour guide began to brag about his accomplishments,” said Sam Snelgrove, an Athletic Training student. Gaze “helped the students realize the pride they [the Australians] had in their country. It was enlightening and refreshing,” said Peterson.

Structured tourism activities ranged from watching a game of rugby to scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. The activities were planned to give students a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. “Watching an Australian team live [the students had] the opportunity to see injuries as they occurred, and how care was provided first hand,” said Peterson.

Scuba diving taught the students how a body reacts when submerged underwater, injuries that can occur and their possible treatments. Other activities included surf lessons, a visit to an aboriginal cultural center and exclusive tours of national stadiums, such as the New South Wales Olympic Park.

Free time was allocated to students in each of the cities so that they could explore Australia for themselves. A few of the popular activities included a tour along the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, parasailing or sky diving in Cairns, and  taking a ferry out to Manly Beach in Sydney.

PHOTO: JMU Student playing cricketThe three weeks spent in Australia taught the students more than they could have learned in a classroom. They discovered that Australia has a socially democratic government structure. Social democracy is a mixture of socialism (welfare state) with traditional democracy (similar to the US). This mixture impacts how healthcare is administered, especially in athletics.

Leaning towards the socialist side, the Australian healthcare system is nationalized. The implication of this is that “healthcare is provided across the lifespan of participants in sports”, said Peterson. “In the US, healthcare coverage is superb when the athletes are younger, or in college, but access to that kind of care may decline with age…they [the Australians] provide excellent overall care, it is just accessed different[ly] than in the US. Their top professional teams are very similar to the US teams. Their club based system of sports at the emerging level require[s] more individual responsibility for health care than our HS and university based sport culture.”

In addition, all of the sports in Australia are funded entirely by the government. When visiting the New South Wales Olympic Park “students found out that those working for Olympic athletes were working on a four year job cycle,” said Peterson. “They were counting on their athletes to do well so that they could keep their job for another four years.”

The trip itself was a continual learning experience. Student Sam Snelgrove said, “I gained a lot from this trip, though I have to say I did not learn the kinds of things I was expecting to learn coming into it: I learned a lot about the history of Australia, the Australian healthcare system, and its political structure.”

 “I thought it was an amazing experience,” said Tim Cuddeback, an Athletic Training student. “While living in the hostel, we met European backpackers and Australian travelers. We got to see so many sporting venues and watch live sports. I would recommend this trip to anyone who has a[n] interest in Australia and has a passion for sports.”

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