The Graduates of League (GOL) Program is a joint initiative and pilot program of the Athletes Education Foundation, University of Wollongong (UOW), National Rugby League (NRL) and three NRL clubs including the St George Illawarra Dragons.
It was established to increase university entry, retention and completion rates of elite athletes and professional sports people.
The program also conducts research into the higher education transition and learning needs of this group.
The founding members of the program are Mr Ben Creagh, Dragons captain and UOW Finance undergraduate student; Dr Sam Jebeile, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Commerce, UOW; Mr Scott Stewart, Dragons Education and Welfare Manager; Mr Stuart Philpot, Finance Analyst at BlueScope Steel; and Mr Paul Heptonstall, Education and Welfare Manager, NRL.
Having interviewed numerous National Rugby League (NRL) & National Youth Competition (NYC) players and NRL executives, the program has identified several key strategic areas that are likely to increase the proportion of NRL players to graduate from UOW.
It is evident that the percentage of NRL players that graduate from university is significantly less than that of the general population in Australia.
The founders believe that the mission and activities of the foundation will assist in enrolment and transition of young rugby league players who would otherwise remain semi-skilled and in some cases unskilled.
The primary goal objective in the inaugural year of the GOL program was to establish strategies and support structures for the transition and learning needs of all NRL and NYC players completing their higher education programs at UOW.
All targeted players attended an initial interview to ascertain their aspirations for higher education. This process included the provision of workshops conducted by senior players involved in higher education.
The GOL Program’s main objectives are to:
1. Assist players in applying and enrolling in their preferred university program.
2. Assist those players who are unable or less certain about their preferred program and to facilitate enrolment in targeted non-award subjects in order to get a "taste of university life".
3. Support players in their transition into university and assist them in obtaining peer support, peer tutoring and peer mentoring.
4. Provide continuous academic mentoring for each player through the entire program including the development of individual study plans and routine meetings.
5. Assist players with the funding of their programs and required materials where necessary. The program will provide a peer mentoring program for each player.
6. Develop an ongoing communication link within a community of learners involving club player students, club education officers and academics within and outside the club. This network will support and foster each player's learning and on and off-campus.
7. Assist in creating an environment conducive to study, the program will work with the NRL clubs, university and other partners to assist with the location and funding of university accommodation.
8. Working with the NRL and key employers in the financial industry to provide training workshops, mentoring, networking opportunities and connecting program members with potential employers.
Components Of The GOL Program
Below is a list of our standard GOL components:
1. Each player received one hour of student-peer tuition per subject per week. The peer tutors were selected based on their academic achievement in specific subject areas and were employed and supervised by Dr Sam Jebeile. Additionally, study workshops and meetings were also organised and tailored for the student players.
2. Tutors liaised between the players, the University and the education and welfare officers of the three NRL clubs and provided academic mentoring to each NRL player that was studying at the University of Wollongong. This included the organising of a study plan, ongoing monitoring and employing and support of a student-peer tutor for each player.
3. Senior players provided player-peer mentoring for each player and assisted with the location and employment of student-peer tutors.
In addition to this a small study space in 19.1039 was organised for the program at the University of Wollongong campus. The study room was used for player private study, student-peer tutoring and workshops and meetings.
The players also used the CRC room in the Faculty of Education and the UOW Library for meeting peer mentors and working on assignments.
Role Of A Tutor
The role of a peer tutor in the Graduates of League program is to provide guidance, support and encouragement to elite athletes who are completing tertiary studies.
A peer tutor helps to build the confidence of each player as a tertiary student, not only through sharing their understanding of the subject matter but also their knowledge and experience of university life.
While tutors may not all be experts in the football game, they seek to understand and appreciate the life of the players including the pressures that they face and the difficulties they experience in juggling high profile sport and study.
Peer tutors also assist with time management and planning skills, helping players to navigate subject content so that they may study efficiently and complete assessment tasks, while meeting their sporting commitments.
Players and tutors meet for an average of one hour per week to understand and apply the content of the subject.
This time spent with the players builds a relationship that fosters open communication and helps to identify the best study methods for each individual.
Benefits Of Tutoring
Peer tutors also benefit from their involvement in the Graduates of League program.
Assisting players in understanding the subject content reinforces the tutor’s own subject knowledge and enhances their understanding.
A peer tutor is challenged to be a better student by employing the studying strategies and advice that they share with the players.
This helps to build confidence in their abilities, skills and knowledge that they take into their own studies and provides the opportunity to learn from the perspective of others.
Peer tutors are provided with an opportunity to be positive tertiary role models who support and encourage elite sports people to also excel in tertiary studies.
Want To Get Involved?
Graduates of League is always on the look out for Tutors to join the program and help athletes balance elite sport with their education.
For further information, or to become part of the Graduate of League program, simply contact us.
The St George Illawarra Dragons were proud to play part in the 2017 Graduates of League Launch at the University of Wollongong earlier in the week.
The St George Illawarra Dragons were involved with the Playwise Training Program aimed at preparing rookie players for life after football on Thursday.
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Russell Packer was named the Mark Coyne Trophy at the annual end of season Presentation Night on Friday.
St George Illawarra Dragons National Youth Competition team halfback Jack Payne is proud to have been named in the NYC Academic Team of the Year for 2016.
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Russell Packer has been selected in the NRL RLPA Academic Team of the Year for the dedication shown to balance academic studies with football commitments.
St George Illawarra Dragons Ambassador Dan Hunt was humbled by a kind gesture from students attending TAFE Illawarra recently.
The St George Illawarra Dragons and University of Wollongong on Monday announced an extended partnership for a further two years, until at least the end of 2017.