The Australian Institute of Sport was at the very top of my son’s bucket list when we began planning our spring holiday to Canberra. With aspirations to one day play soccer for Australia, he felt that it was the perfect time to become familiar with the grounds where he may one day play (kids!). A little research and I discovered that you can actually tour the grounds.
So on our very first morning in Canberra we headed straight for the Australian Institute of Sport Visitor Centre just in time to catch the tail of the first guided tour of the day. I was quite surprised by the sheer number of fellow adventurers who had gathered for the tour and a little worried that we were going to miss out on a view of everything as there were at least 100 people waiting. Fortunately our tour guides realised this and broke the groups into three 30-40 person groups.
Our tour guide was an Australian Institute of Sport cricketer. He grouped us together and led us to Sportex which is regarded as one of Australia’s leading interactive sports exhibits. For the next 45 minutes the kids enjoyed playing a number of sports including downhill skiing, rowing, wheelchair basketball, cycling, soccer, and rock climbing. They had the chance to stand on the media podium and collect their medals, check their reflexes and test their flexibility. Of course I had to have a go too and discovered that I’m not that bad at shooting hoops!
Just as the kids were beginning to wind down, our tour guide returned to take us on our guided tour. We headed off to the auditorium where we were introduced to the history of the Australian Institute of Sport. We learned that back in 1976 after the Montreal Olympic Games, Australia was in a state of shock as we had no earned a single gold medal. We were mortified and extremely embarrassed so our government decided to do something about it. In 1981, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser officially opened the Australian Institute of Sport with eight founding sports supported: basketball, gymnastics, netball, swimming, tennis, track and field, football, and weightlifting. The funding and support provided to our athletes as seen us increase our medal tally in each Commonwealth and Olympic Games since the AIS opening. The auditorium is the oldest building and often hosts university graduations and concerts these days.
Next stop was the Gymnastics Centre. The left side is for female gymnasts and the right side is for male gymnasts. I was certainly surprised to hear that only male gymnasts live and train on site at the Australian Institute of Sport. Male gymnasts peak at the age of 24 so they are old enough to live out of home and usually not studying. They target their training on their upper body and core strength (arms and chest). The average hold of the Iron Cross is around 10 seconds for a good gymnast.
Female gymnasts usually start training for international level gymnastics around the age of 9 and they peak by 17. The Australian Institute of Sport believes that athletes this age should live at home, engage with school and commit to their training alongside these priorities. As such, we have been unable to reach the level of other countries who have a different philosophy.
We followed our guide and moved along to the Volleyball courts where again we were surprised by the facts around the sport. For instance, did you know that any male wishing to join the Australian Volleyball team must be over 6’5″ to be even considered! Our captain, Tom Edgar is 212 cm or just shy of 7 feet tall. The Volleyball court has a Taraflex floor worth $300,000.00 which takes about 5% of the impact when the athlete lands. Pretty impressive, right?
The Strength and Conditioning gym was our next stop which our guide explained was the “heart’ of the Australian Institute of Sport and a spot where every single athlete in the Australian Institute of Sport spends time each day. Our guide then went into a lengthy explanation of the different sections and wowed us with lots of different lifting statistics about some athletes (for example, some athletes can leg press 3/4 tonne!).
Our last stop for this tour was the Testing and Training Pool. Swimming is Australia’s most successful sport when it comes to medals at Olympic, Commonwealth and World events. We are consistently in the top 5 of all countries. The Testing and Training Pool is reputed as the best in the world. It features underwater viewing windows which provides coaches with the perfect location from which to evaluate and analyse training techniques. It is 3.0m throughout and has instrumented start blocks and walls. I was super impressed but wish I had a chance to dip my toes in!
Unfortunately this then concluded our tour of the Australian Institute of Sport. We didn’t get to see the Recovery Centre, Basketball and Netball Centre, FIFA Two Star Synthetic Field (which Master R wanted to see), the Combat Centre, the Wrestling mat or the Indoor running track testing facility but I guess that just means we will need to visit again on our next trip!
We did leave the Australian Institute of Sport with Master R convinced that he would be leading tours one day when he was training at the site and that it was likely that he would one day be using the circuit in the Strength and Conditioning gym to prepare himself for matches. Don’t let anything stop you!
Tours run daily at 10:00am, 11:30am, 1:00pm and 2:30pm. Guided tours depart from the AIS Visitor Centre. A family ticket will set you back $50.00 for 2 adults and up to 3 children. The AIS is closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Good Friday.
If you are planning to see a few attractions in Canberra you might like to consider a 3infun pass – www.3infun.com.au which provided access to the Australian Institute of Sport, Cockington Green Gardens and Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre for at least 25% off the regular family price for all three attractions.
Wondering what else to do in Canberra? Check out our 20 Things To Do In Canberra coverage.
Thank you to VisitCanberra who hosted our Canberra stay. We were under no obligation to review our trip to the Australian Institute of Sport. All opinions and thoughts are our own.