Tackling it all | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Tackling it all

Meet Hayley Maddick, the dynamic fullback for the Brisbane Broncos NRLW, who is gearing up for her fourth season in the squad. She juggles a demanding training and game schedule in Brisbane with her part-time job at a school, all while pursuing a double Bachelor of Education and Recreation and Outdoor Environmental Studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC).

Balancing high-performance sport with work and academic pursuits is not for the faint of heart. But it’s her love of sport, a desire to use her brain, and her joy at helping to pave the way for future female athletes that keeps Hayley going.

That, and the support she receives from UniSC’s High Performance Student Athlete (HPSA) program.

“I discovered the HPSA when I first started going to UniSC, and it’s been an absolute lifesaver, because I find it really hard to switch my brain from high-level sport to study,” Hayley says.

The Broncos Women’s team is currently in its pre-season, with the official season kicking off from July to October, so Hayley drives one and a half hours each way to Brisbane, four days a week, for training.

“Especially during the season it’s difficult to manage, and on my days off I’m exhausted so I don't have a lot of mental capacity,” she says.

There are many things athletes must consider, which are well outside the considerations of most uni students. Things like managing injuries and recovery, and planning their nutrition, which Hayley says she finds hard as a player that “has to put on weight.”

“I have to plan what and when I'm eating, how much I'm eating, and trying to find time to prepare all of that in advance… I’m at training for four and a half hours and driving three hours so I've got to have transportable food ready for the entire day.”

“I’ve had injuries through the season which makes it hard to study, but all my lecturers have been so helpful, they've been amazing."

“This year, I've got to do a practical work experience (prac) in a school, so the HPSA team helped me delay it until after the season, so I’m not training and trying to go to my prac and play games on the weekends… I wouldn't be able to do all of that at once.”

“During my last prac, they managed to get me in with a school that finished earlier so I could get to training and not be late – it’s this kind of support that has been incredible.”

She’s played sport her entire life – netball, tennis, soccer, touch football – and loved it all. So, at the age of 27, when she found herself working in a reception job and just playing sport on the side, Hayley felt something big was missing.

“Working in the office I’d get sleepy.... I used to have to go out and do star jumps because I’d get so tired sitting there and I really wasn't using my brain anymore.”

She enrolled at UniSC, hoping to find a career that supported being active and using her outgoing skills working with people.

“Even just going back and studying at uni was a big part of using my brain again, and that was exciting for me,” she says.

Already a touch footy player at a state and national level, it was a serendipitous meeting with the coach of the Broncos Women’s team at the 2019 Dally M Awards that set Hayley’s next sporting course. She was invited to play a nines competition in Perth, which she accepted before realising it was with the Broncos.

“I then got offered a contract with the NRLW for the 2020 season, which I turned down because it was COVID, and there were a lot of hoops you had to jump through… In hindsight it was a bad decision, but luckily, I got another chance and was offered a contract the following season and I took it.”

Her team has remained mostly intact during the four years Hayley has been with them, and she says her teammates are “great friends,” on and off the field.

While she hopes to play for as long as possible, Hayley understands that “footy is not going to last forever,” which is one of the motivators driving her uni degree. She studies part time so she can fit in her professional sporting career with enough work to pay the bills.

“It's different for men and women in this sport, we don't earn enough to support us for the rest of our lives,” she says.

“I’m sure it'll get better one day, but women's sports are still just building, so most female athletes that play NRL still have to work outside of football.

“It's changing and building each season… there are more opportunities, more pathways for younger girls coming through, and the minimum wage for athletes is higher every single year."

“We're part of the change right now, but we'd love to see it get to a point where you don't have to work and train at the same time, so girls can focus on their footy or whatever sport they're playing... it’s going to get there at some point, but it’s not there yet.”

In the meantime, Hayley says she hopes to be a “positive role model, specifically for girls.”  

“Even at Matthew Flinders, the school I'm working in now, the students are all so friendly and interested and want to hear about training and all of it… it’s inspiring for them to know they can follow a sporting pathway and become a female athlete.”

Bachelor of Education (Secondary) / Bachelor of Recreation and Outdoor Environmental Studies

Program summary, structure and study plan for the Bachelor of Education (Secondary)/Bachelor of Recreation and Outdoor Environmental Studies.

High Performance Student Athlete program

The High Performance Student Athlete program provides a suite of benefits and services to assist you in balancing the demands of your training and competition schedules with your study commitments so you can achieve your personal best in both pursuits

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