Olympic pathway

NSW Sports High Schools partner with the Australian Olympic Committee 

Nick Mooney looks at a new kind of relationship between schools and the Australian Olympic Committee and asks is a new pathway emerging for Olympic champions”?

Australian Olympic Pathway Schools

In a recent announcement New South Wales has scored a first with the state’s seven Sports High Schools officially becoming ‘Australian Olympic Pathway Schools’. The first stage of the Australian Olympic Committees (AOC) planned national rollout of their new ‘pathway’ program,  this initiative is a new development in the ever-changing landscape of sports academies in secondary schools across Australia. The question we need to answer here is – will they make a difference and if so, to whom and for what?

Specialist sports high schools have become increasingly popular in recent years, as they offer a unique opportunity for student-athletes to pursue their passion for sports while also receiving a high-quality education. These schools are designed to provide a supportive environment for students who are interested in pursuing a career in sports, particularly in Olympic events.

Developing partnerships

One of the primary benefits of sports high schools is the opportunity they provide for students to compete at a high level. Many of these schools have strong sports programs connected to competition at regional, state and national level. This exposure to high-level competition can be invaluable for athletes who are ambitious to become Olympians. Additionally, many sports high schools have partnerships with local and national sports organizations, providing student-athletes with additional resources and support as they pursue their athletic goals.

The seven Sports High Schools in NSW receiving this recognition are Endeavour Sports High School, The Hills Sports High School, Hunter Sports High School, Illawarra Sports High School, Matraville Sports High School, Narrabeen Sports High School and Westfields Sports High School.

The NSW government are totally behind the initiative. NSW minister for Sport,Alister Henskens certainly believes that important new avenues are being open to competition at the highest level.

“The students at our sports high schools today will be our heroes standing on the podium at the Brisbane 2032 Olympics, and this partnership will strengthen their opportunity for international success.

AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll agrees that the Australian Olympic Pathway Schools designation is an important recognition of the value of the Sports High Schools network in NSW:

According to Carroll, “The key to sporting excellence is to align participation, pathways and high performance into a virtuous circle. To have this alignment at high school level is powerful, particularly as we look to Brisbane 2032 and beyond.”


The Australian Olympic Pathway Schools designation provides an additional motivation and validates the specialisation being undertaken within each Sports High School.

We have seen Olympic Training Centres recognised around Australia and overseas, but never at the school level in this country.


To be identified as an Australian Olympic Pathway School, a school must have

  • An established high-performance program including Olympic sports;
  • No less than five Olympic sports as part of its elite athlete development sports program(s) which must have accredited coaches in the respective Olympic sports;
  • A program that is recognised, endorsed as a formal pathway with relevant State sporting or National sporting organisations;
  • A program that has an integrated performance pathway (for each Olympic sport) towards state and national representation;
  • A program that has nutrition education and support included as part of the programs (including sport integrity, compliance, and education);
  • Clearly the AOC want high standards met from these partner schools.
How schools see it

Sports High Schools already have the ability to attract the best sporting talent from the local area because of their sporting programs and associated curriculum, coaches and facilities. Having the ability to roll out the Olympic rings is surely an added marketing advantage for these schools to lure an even larger percentage of talented youngsters through the gates.

So, is it really an advantage? Yes, it is. Many schools with associated sports academies already have far more applicants than they have places in their programs. The silver lining for these schools is surely the ability to attract an even higher quality applicant to apply for the program, hence attracting the most able athletes into their school pathways. This initiative is an interesting paradigm and sets a positive example of collaboration that will get international schools across the globe thinking about partnerships within their own region.

We look forward to reporting again on the national rollout of this exciting new initiative as we head rapidly towards Paris 2024 and then to Brisbane 2032.


Nick Mooney is a school sport and sport consultant with significant experience supporting schools in Australia  and internationally in schools, including at Gordonstoun school in Scotland.

Nick specialises in sport programs for schools and sport.



For more information about the support Nick offers, see




FEATURE IMAGE: by G.C. from Pixabay

Support Images: by Mohamed Hassan and by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay