Breaking the Queensland discus record at 15-years-old and qualifying for the Youth World Championships was a turning point for athlete Taryn Gollshewsky – she knew she had what it takes to make it.

Her talent and dedication was not going to be enough, or so she was told. 

“When I was leaving high school, I was told I had to move away from Bundaberg in order to succeed in any sport. And I made a quite controversial decision to stay in Bundaberg and a lot of people doubted me and whether or not I would make it. I was fortunate enough to be successful. I have a fantastic coach here in Bundaberg and we just made it work,” Taryn said. “I take great pride in being a professional athlete that’s living in a regional town because I know there are not very many who have successfully achieved that.”

The three-time Commonwealth Games competitor had to forge her own road to success, with no athletes in the Wide Bay showing her a pathway to an elite level. That lack of local opportunity and support is changing for young up-and-comers with the development of the Wide Bay Sports Academy. The not-for-profit organisation launched in 2020 and has been slowly building ever since. 

Executive Manager Scott Allison said similar programs in New South Wales and Victoria had been successful in bridging the gap between regional competitors to their capital city counterparts. “Why should we be sending all our talent to the South East Corner?” Scott said.

“We’re not here to take players, we’re actually trying to help clubs develop their players to the next level. Clubs are really good at developing them in the sport, but they’re not great at getting them from clubland to the next level,” Scott said.

“We provide all the ‘one percenters’, so things like nutrition, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning, injury prevention, hydration testing and access to gyms. 

“We run weekend events and bring up special speakers who cover topics such as sports integrity, nutrition and cooking, media and social media training, injury prevention, education and more. We will have olympians, scientists, university lecturers and health professionals speaking to the kids.”

Local sporting clubs in disciplines like football, cycling, rowing, triathlon, hockey and athletics refer players, aged 13 to 19, to the Academy. To keep it going, the Academy currently relies on the support of sponsors, like Auswide Bank, CQUniversity Bundaberg, Healthy Lifestyle Australia, Coral Coast Physio, Hervey Bay Physio, Scody Aus, Spotted Dog and Elders Insurance Bundaberg.

Ben Heidenreich, owner of Coral Coast Physiotherapy, has been one of the driving forces behind establishing an academy in the Wide Bay, providing physiotherapy, strengthening and conditioning, as well as ongoing support.

“Regional areas always punch above their weight with producing athletes. It’s that gap between being identified as a talented 16-year-old to being a state-level athlete. What happens in the next four years of their athletic development is quite crucial. Unfortunately, statistically, kids fall out of sport if they are regional and haven’t gone to Brisbane or are in a specialised program. That’s what we are trying to change,” Ben said.

“If they get a decent injury in that age group, they drop out because they just haven’t been managed correctly. Whereas, you talk to any athlete, they’ve all had the same injuries, they’ve just had the support around them to get over that injury and get better. So it’s just those little things that regional athletes need that we are trying to provide for them here.”

For Taryn, a primary school PE teacher, she is happy to be helping the next generation of athletes reach their potential from their home towns.

“This is giving them insight into what it takes to really reach that elite level and giving them access to physiotherapists and nutritionists. They are steps ahead of where I was, and that is really exciting for them,” she said.

Jodi Willis-Roberts is a decorated paralympian, having won two gold, two silver and three bronze medals at Paralympic games from 1992 – 2008. While she now calls Bargara home, she spent the majority of her athletic career living in Ballarat, Victoria, so she knows the challenges young regional-based athletes can face.

“Regional areas have a huge wealth of talent, but you don’t have easy access to coaches and an elite knowledge base. So things like the Wide Bay Sports Academy are awesome for people to get a foothold to start learning some of the other things they need, learning from others and progressing to the next step,” Jodi said.

Her best advice for future sporting stars is to listen and take it all in. “Physios have the knowledge about recovery, movement, and training. They will be the ones to get you through a competition.”


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