26 August 2013

Recently, John Pompei (physiotherapist) spent a month at the Australian Institute of Sport’s European Training Centre (ETC) in Gavirate, Italy. His time away was eventful and eye opening. For all of our sports enthusiast friends......this one is a great read for you! Read on....

Gavirate, Italy is located in the ‘Lakes Region’ of Lombardia about an hour North-West of Milan. Built in early 2011, I must say that even upon jet-lagged arrival at the centre, I felt very comfortable at this little Aussie ‘bubble’ that literally provides a home away from home for many Australian athletes, either based or travelling through Europe. The universal language of sport that we all recognize, understand, appreciate and thrive on certainly compliments the Australian efficiency and care that is ever present in a truly impressive facility that not only can accommodate large teams but also provide clinical support, recovery pools, meeting rooms, IT access, gym and rehabilitation equipment plus the opportunity to wind down with a games room, lounge, snack bar and fully functional kitchen and outdoor BBQ and courtyard area. I promise this was a working trip! It was a challenging but ultimately fun environment that looking back I consider being one of my great life experiences.

From living locally and immersing myself in the culture to the clinical firsts and subsequent problem solving that took place within the centre, I can proudly say that the ETC has a very unique role in the Australian sporting landscape. On a full time basis, the staff there are among a very small group of people in the world that can attest to fulfilling a role that so many travelling athletes and their coaches, team managers, physiologists, biomechanists, doctors, physios, friends and family appreciate on a level that many others don't know exists.

Something that struck me in my time there was just how lonely elite sport can be. In a population of over 61 million people, this small group can shrink that perceived burden that many athletes encounter, on an almost regular basis. Even for a short time, such support goes a long way. And not forgetting the younger athletes that came through. Some are not even adults, some just starting out and others are forging into adulthood on their own on the other side of the world. The reasons as to why elite athletes take on such a personal toll are endless I'm sure, but it's heartening to know that the ETC can provide some of the answers. As such, I've been really chuffed since to see the people we help(ed) do so well on the big stage at events including the FIBA U19 World Championships in Prague, the Giro Rosa women’s road cycling tour of Italy and of course the Tour de France. A direct email of thanks I received from a young tennis player transitioning from junior to open ranks was also incredibly pleasing and satisfying.

Returning back to ‘normal’ life here at Alphington has been really easy, as the experience gained abroad coupled with the realisation of just how good our allied health is compared to Europe in terms of access and expertise. I will feel quite fortunate to be able to provide such a service and satisfied that it’s simply the Aussie way of doing things.

Please click on the link to learn more about the centre and surrounding programs that the AIS supports in Europe, along with some pretty impressive pics – far better than my point and shoot efforts let me assure you!



John Pompei