The business of kicking goals

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Former Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness Scholarship holder Grant Lynch has been juggling playing futsal (indoor soccer) at a national level, studying at the Honours level at the University of Sydney and working part-time for the best part of a decade, and he’s just put another ball in the air – finishing his PhD.

After completing his schooling at Manly Selective Campus, Grant enrolled in an Exercise and Science degree at Sydney University in 2012. On finishing his undergraduate days with honours, he took time off to play futsal in Australia and overseas as a semi-professional before returning to campus in 2017 to undertake his PhD. He’s now back on campus after another 18 months off pursuing his sporting career, to complete his doctorate. And when that’s in the bag he intends to finish a medical degree and become a doctor.

Grant’s third stint on the campus stems from his Sports Scholarship days when he met Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness Projects Officer, Shane Ball who has been working to facilitate collaborative initiatives with the University of Sydney. Research and contributing to improved teaching and learning experiences for students are two examples of Shane’s work. He has also partnered with SUSF to include athletes as part of the recruitment strategy, with the aim of strengthening ties between elite sport and research at the University.

And that’s where Grant’s PhD research project came into play. He is researching how people adapt to the heat by putting them through 10 days of repeated exercise sessions in a climate controlled laboratory. The project is now in progress with Elite Athlete Program students, and it’s hoped the findings will contribute to better understandings and practices in sport.

Grant, who plays for UTS Northside in the NSW Premier League, was first called into the Australian squad, the Futsalroos, in 2016, when they contested the Asian Futsal Championships (AFC) in Uzbekistan where Australia qualified for the 2017 World Cup in Columbia. But he missed selection for the global challenge and that made him more determined to wear the green and gold.

“Clearly it’s a huge honour to play for your country and personally something I’ve always strived for,” he told Dan De Nadi for Football NSW. “I got some game time [in Uzbekistan] and had a good experience, but I was devastated to be left out of the World Cup squad and vowed to work hard for another chance.”

That chance came in October 2019 when he was called into the Futsalroo squad for the ASEAN Futsal Federation (AFF) Championships, held in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam. National selection came on the back of two standout Premier League seasons and being named in the 2019 Ultra-Football Team of the year in the NPL NSW Men’s top tier competition playing centre-back for Blacktown City.

It also justified his decision to take 18 months off studying to work part-time and play semi-professionally “It felt good to be given a new shot, especially as it was as a selection and not a replacement as I’d been in Uzbekistan,” he said.

With Covid causing chaos to all sports in 2020, including the Futsal World Cup, Lynch is now hoping for selection in the national side for the 2021 World Cup which has been rescheduled to be played in Lithuania in September. Should he make it to Lithuania, it will cap a long journey for Grant who was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. His family then moved to London before coming to Australia when he was nine.

“I played outdoor soccer until I was 16 and then took up futsal,” he said. “I played football semi-professionally right through 2018-19. Part-time football paid my income. I’m now back at university to finish my PhD which should take another 18 months. I’ll be playing football right through. My longer-term goal is to go to medical school – I’m a glutton for punishment – to become a doctor. In the meantime, I’m doing research so I can continue to play football and represent Australia.”

With that sort of commitment there’s no doubt Grant will kick his futsal and academic goals.